A Reflection on Martin Luther King Day

Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi

1/16/2022

 

For a 2022 worship service honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi read verses from Genesis 37 about Joseph's dream and his brothers' plotting to kill him after he told them about it. Following is her message:

I imagine that 54 years ago Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassin, James Earl Ray, said to himself, Here comes that dreamer.  Come now, let me kill him.  Then the world will see what has come of his dreams. 

What has come of Rev. King’s dreams?  Did any of his dreams ever come to fruition?  Are any of his dreams being fulfilled today?  Do any of us even remember his dreams?
 
While he was delivering his speech on the National Mall during the March on Washington, Mahalia Jackson was sitting just behind Martin Luther King.  And on that day she remembered Martin’s dreams.  She remembered that she had heard him preach about those dreams  and so while he was speaking, she called out to him, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.  Tell them about the dream.”  And so in a little twist to the African American church tradition of call and response, Martin responded to the call that had come from Mahalia and he shared his dream. 
 
This is the day when all Americans are called to remember his dream.   So, I am going to share his dreams with you.  And as you hear these words of his dreams I invite you to ask yourself, what has become of Martin’s dreams? 
Hear his words.
 

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.
It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal."
 
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
 
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
 
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
 
I have a dream today!
 
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
 
I have a dream today!
 
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

  
Siblings, what has become of Rev. King’s dreams? 

Over the past few years we have seen a rise in the popularity of organizations that do not believe that it is self-evident that all men - all persons - are created equal.  These group espouse the belief that white people are superior to people of color.  And the perverse absurdity of it all is that most of these groups say that they are Christian and trying to preserve American values. 

Nothing could be more antithetical to being a follower of Jesus Christ and to the written ideals of those who founded this country than White supremacy. 

And today my heart is weighed down by the grief that there are even some members of the United Methodist Church who also are members of White supremacy groups.  What has come of Rev. King’s dreams?
 
With the election of its first black senator, Georgia has made some progress on Rev. King’s  dream.  But Martin Luther King, III has said not enough progress has been made.  In fact, he asked that Americans consider not celebrating his father’s birthday until congress passed Voting Rights legislation. 
What has become of Rev. King’s dream?

Mississippi, like other southern and northern states, continues to struggle with issues of justice.  What has become of Rev. King’s dream?

Data from our criminal justice and educational systems bear witness to the fact that children are still judged by the color of their skin.  Analysis of hiring practices in this country bears witness to the fact that in our economic system children continue to be judged by the color of their skin, not the content of their character.

What has become of Rev. King’s dream?
      Despite integration laws, schools in Alabama and urban centers across our land remain segregated as the gaps in dollars spent per pupil continue to widen all across the country. What has become of Rev. King’s dream?

Dream Deferred

Taking inspiration from Proverbs 13:12 which states, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life", Langston Hughes wrote the poem Dream Deferred in 1951.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

 

From the destructive behavior of looting and burning retail establishments to the disproportionate manifestation of  stress related illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure in communities of color to the involvement of some in the culture of drug trafficking and other self defeating behaviors, communities of color have experienced all of these consequences of dreams being deferred. 
 
      Siblings, the proverb and the poem reveal what can become of a dream. 
 
But we have the power through Jesus the Christ to determine what will become of our dreams.  We have the power to determine who and what will win.  Will James Earl Ray, will White supremacists,  will the spiritual forces of wickedness, will evil win?  I submit to you that the answer to the question of what has become of our dreams will be revealed in the answer to the question of what has become of our faith.
 
 In this season of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s revelation of God’s incarnation  in the form of Jesus Christ, we are all invited to answer the question, do we really believe that God is with us? 
In the coming months as we go into the season of Lent - a season of reflection, confession, and repentance we are all invited to answer the question, do we really believe that Christ died for the redemption of the sins of the world?  And as we celebrate on Easter Sunday morning, we are all invited to answer the question, do we really believe that on the third day Jesus rose from the dead? 

 The Power to Resist Evil

There are ferocious animals waiting to devour the dreamers among us.  And assassins lie in wait for the dreamers to walk by.  Because of our sinful nature, Evil may, in fact, kill the dreamer,
but the resurrection story affirms that evil doesn’t have the power to kill the dream.  God has given us the power to resist evil and to fulfill the dream.

The answer to the question what has become of our dreams will be revealed in the answer to the question, are we really anchored in Christ - are we really committed to being disciples of Jesus Christ?  If we are anchored in Christ we will never give up on our God given dreams even if those dreams land us in the bottom of a pit. 

We will never give up on our dreams even in the face of the discouragement of the difficulties of today and tomorrow.  We will never give up on our dreams in the face of overwhelming data.  We will never give up on our dreams in spite of the laws of the land or the power of the systems that perpetuate evil. Even when others deny its existence or their role in perpetuating it. 

If we are anchored in Christ we will never give up on our dreams because we have faith that one day justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.  We have that faith because this is God’s plan and all the best and worst of man can’t change the master plan. 
It’s God’s and God’s alone.  
 
We will never give up on our dreams because we are not condemned to the inevitability of what the proverb and the poem promise because when the storms of life are raging, God stands by us.  When you get discouraged, when you are tempted to give up, remember the words of Charles Albert Tinley,

When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the see, thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me. 


Remember those words and keep dreaming.  But don’t just dream, turn your dreams into action.  Your actions will help plant a tree of life for someone. Your actions will keep someone else’s hope alive and help them to keep dreaming.  If you are not sure how to turn your dreams into action, visit the WPAUMC.org website and click on the resources tab and then the responding to racism tab.  If your want some other ideas about how to turn your dreams into action, visit the GCORR.org website and click on resources. 

I have a dream, today.  Evil may kill the dreamer, but it doesn’t have the power to kill our dreams. 

 


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