Monday, January 17, 2005

The dream is still alive - and unfulfilled

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:9-12, NIV)

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What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died
That we cry out, "They've not died in vain"?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail -
Now this is the burden, and this is the promise,
And this is why we will not fail!

(Peter Paul & Mary, "Light One Candle," from the CD "No Easy Walk to Freedom")
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It was in the first year of my studies that I read "Stride Toward Freedom," the story of the Montgomery bus boycott by Martin Luther King. This weekend, I set aside the other books on my reading list, and picked it up again. Every time I read the history, every time I hear the "I Have A Dream" speech, I hear the power of God's Holy Spirit speaking through King's voice and his pen - and once again I am humbled and awed. "All gave some," the country music song says, "but some gave all."

Sitting safely in a suburban office or home, hardly anyone reading this can imagine the kinds of hell people of color experience today - let alone the level of hatred and suffering they experienced back in the 50's and 60's. As I read again the story of how the King family home was fire-bombed, I wondered if I would have been half as willing as Dr. King to step back out on the streets and take a stand for the cause of right. I wonder if I would have done as Jesus said, and turned the other cheek - or if I would have answered violence with violence. Sadly, it's not a happy answer, most of the time...

So today, as much of the business and educational world takes a day off, I'd encourage you to join me in taking some time to reflect on the gift of service and ministry of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Read Dr. King's life story; listen to the "I Have A Dream" speech at one of the many websites that have the recording and text online; even attend a King Day remembrance service in your community, and reflect on the ways in which God came near in the life of Martin Luther King.

And then ask yourself: "What can I do, this day, to see that the dream does not die - that the work began by Dr. King continues on, and does not falter - and that the lights that were lit forty years ago continue to illuminate our world in *this* time and *this* place?"

Thank you, God, for giving us Martin Luther King. Help us to live worthy of the callings he pointed us toward - equality, liberty, and freedom for all. Let Dr. King's dream become a reality for us, as well. Amen!

1 comment:

Poor Mad Peter said...

Thanks, Steve.

I read this in the New York Times today, and shuddered--not because of the words, which are a fine tribute to King, but at who uttered them and their double, unwitting meaning:
"He believed and he knew that the image of God we share is a source of our dignity and human beings and the basis for our equality," Mr. Bush said. "He believed and he knew that the teachings of Jesus stand in eternal judgment of oppression. He believed and he knew that the God who made us for freedom will bring us to freedom."

--George W. Bush, on Martin Luther King Jr