Fifty years ago, on the day of this writing, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his eloquent “I Have A Dream” speech in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial. It is said that the night before, Dr. King huddled with his aides pouring over what he was going to say. Many were intent to have King deliver a speech which would be forthright and truthful but at the same time not unnecessarily burn any bridges. The final speech was the product of a committee. It was a politically calculated and well scripted document. The following day, when King stood up in front of millions of people and started to deliver this planned speech, some standing near him became aware that it was a stilted speech and that King’s heart was not really in it. After a minute or two passed, the gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, who was sitting behind King, noticed that he started to rock and look impatient. Jackson yelled, “Tell them about the dream!” She had been with King at a previous speech in Detroit days earlier when the phrase was first used. Hearing Jackson’s encouragement, King pushed the script to one side and in an extemporaneous fashion, he went into his “I Have A Dream” speech. He spoke with passion, and just let it rip. His words ignited the imagination of a nation, and 50 years later, his words have the same effect. As Congressman John Lewis noted this week, King did not give a speech 50 years ago. He delivered a sermon.
As we begin a new year together, it is my dream that people of all ages at First Congregational Church will seek to live a life where we allow ourselves to get off the script and unleash the power of love and passion in all that we say and do. We must remember that the church that goes through the motions, and never takes any risks for the Gospel to care, love, and do justice, is a dead church. What we say and do here has significance, and we must work and speak as if something is at stake. As a faith community, we want to invite people to live a rich and purposeful life. We wish to feel an urgency to worship well, to love passionately, to do justice, and to make a really powerful difference, creating a world where Martin Luther King’s dream becomes a reality, and freedom will ring.
This fall, I will be exploring with all of you, together and individually, ways in which we can embrace a fantastic and purposeful journey as Disciples of Christ. I will investigate six questions with you in a variety of settings:
How do we extend a bold welcome, rooted in the Christian practice of hospitality?
How do we worship the living God?
How can we serve well and do justice?
How can we devote ourselves to lifelong learning and spiritual growth?
How do we become wise stewards of our money and use that money for good in the world?
How do we actively participate in our democracy in church and in our nation?
The poet Mary Oliver once asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” May we as a faith community challenge each other to embrace life as Disciples of Jesus Christ? Let us not be timid but be bold, seize the day, rise to the moment, get off the script, and live the dream.
May the peace, the grace, and the power of Christ dwell in your heart and infuse you with a newfound energy and sense of purpose.