By Ken Sehested
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, oh God, 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 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 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the movement which 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.
Ignite in us again the Word that stirs insurrection against every imperial reign, against every forecloser’s claim, against every slaver’s chain, until the Faith which death could not contain, the Hope which doubt could not constrain, and the Love which 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!”
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Ken Sehested is curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action.
Inspired by 1 Sam 2:1–8; Isa 11:3–9; Joel 2:19–26; Zeph 3:19; Luke 1:51-53; Luke 4:18–19; Rev 21:1–4; Rom 8:19–24. Final line from “Life Every Voice and Sing” (also known as “The Negro National Anthem”) by James Weldon Johnson.