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?
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.
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?
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.