God: "I Have a Dream"

For days now America has listened and relistened to the fifty year old black and white video rendition of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” impromptu homily on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As the culmination of that peaceful march on Washington in protest over the segregation and inequality that Negro Americans were suffering in this “land of the free” five decades ago, King stood to speak. But the preacher struggled with a speech that had been “drafted by too many hands late the previous night.” Mahalia Jackson, the renown Black soloist, was standing somewhere behind him and sensed King’s struggle. “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin,” she called out. And with that his reigned in spirit soared into “speaking words of American scripture, words as essential to the nation’s destiny in their way as those of Abraham Lincoln, before whose memorial King stood” (Jon Meacham, TIME, August 26, 2013). Countless bloggers and talking heads have opined over whether or not in the past half century Martin Luther King Jr’s dream in fact has come true. But I leave the celebration of racial advances and the decrial of racial division to them. Instead I wonder aloud if in the promise of God we have been claiming this summer—“I will do a new thing. . . . I will pour water on those who are thirsty and My Spirit on your descendants” (Isaiah 43:19/44:3)—there is embedded in fact a divine dream for a radical equality within the community of faith. Could it be that in our petitioning of heaven for this “new thing,” we are opening up our own hearts and schools and congregations to the Holy Spirit’s tearing down the walls that have grown up among us? Racial walls, to be sure—but gender walls, socio-economic walls, theological walls, emotional walls as well? Could it be that God Himself dreams of a people on earth so united in and by His relentless love that they actually, physically portray the “as We are one” unity of the Trinity that Jesus prayed for (John 17:22)? This I know. Joel 2:28, 29 makes it abundantly clear that before the “great day of the Lord,” there will be such an outpouring of God’s Spirit “on all flesh” that the walls of gender (“your sons and your daughters”) and age (“your old men and young men”) and class (“menservants and maidservants”) will crumble. God has prophesied the obliteration of inequality amongst His people before the return of Christ. So we must not abandon our prayers for God’s “new thing.” But beyond praying, we must also work tirelessly with the Spirit of God for the fulfillment of His dream of equality—in this nation, in this world, in this university and in this church. Praying without working to answer our own prayers ensures that the dream remains but a dream. It will only be fulfilled in the lives of those already working for it.

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