Admiring Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is not the same as being captured by it.
Too many find it possible to respect the man but relinquish the mission. It has become too easy to revere the dreamer but renege on the dream.
So, let us now recall the deep roots of that vision as spoken in ages past.
We remember when Hannah praised God by saying: The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.
We dream of the day when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb. For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord.
We long for the day when all shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord.
We eagerly await the day when the lame shall be restored, the outcast gathered and the Blessed One will change their shame into praise.
On that coming day, says Mother Mary, God will pull down the mighty from their thrones and exalt those of low degree.
Our hearts ache for the time when the people of God will again be anointed with the power to preach good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
We confess that the dream, once unfurled with unmatched eloquence on our nation’s lawn, has been tamed by pious sentiment and framed for commercial interests.
The oratory that once sent shivers through the White House and big house and church house alike has been reduced to polite platitude, “race relations” Sundays and gushy, mushy reverie.
Hear this, O people of the Dream: It is good and right that you recall the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and the movement that mobilized him. The journey to the Beloved Community is sometimes dark and desperate and dangerous, and we need constellating light to orient our hearts and direct our feet.
We still have a dream: of a new heaven and a new earth, when the Beloved will dry every tear and death itself will come undone.
For we know that creation itself, now groaning in travail, will be set free from its bondage to decay.
May the Word that stirs insurrection against every imperial reign, against every forecloser’s claim, against every slaver’s chain be ignited within us again until the faith that death could not contain, the hope that doubt could not constrain and the love that fear could not arraign lifts every voice to sing ’til earth and heaven ring!
“Let our rejoicing rise / High as the list’ning skies / Let it resound loud as the rolling sea!”
Author’s note: This reflection is inspired by 1 Samuel 2:1-8; Isaiah 11:3-9; Joel 2:19-26; Zephaniah 3:19; Luke 1:51-53; Luke 4:18-19; Revelation 21:1-4; Romans 8:19-24. Final line from “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021 (Jan. 18). The previous articles in the series are:
King, Heschel: Fast Friends and Activists | Jack Moline
Another King Holiday: We’re Still Not Listening | Starlette Thomas
The Other Dream of Martin Luther King Jr. | Rob Sellers
King’s Nonviolent Resistance Was Way of Life | Maria Power
Curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action, and author of, most recently, In the Land of the Willing: Litanies, Prayers, Poems, and Benedictions. He was the founding director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and founding co-pastor of Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, North Carolina.