Sometimes God’s vision of a new humanity is proclaimed in the world through the life and voice of one ordinary, enlightened person. Their words are so stunning and true, we simply can’t get past this person’s message. We cannot see around the largess of the vision. We can only marvel at the relationship between this person’s imagination and the mind of God.
Jesus is the Ultimate Example of such a life. The message and leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is also an example. Reverend King’s life is a stunning illustration of how every human being might live into a portion of God’s work and imagination.
Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann puts it so well:
On this day when we remember Martin Luther King, we recall especially his “dream speech” in which he articulated a version of the kingdom of God when there would be reconciliation and solidarity across all our distinctions. King spoke out of a renovated imagination. He no longer imagined the world according to the corrupt imagination of fear and hate. He summoned his listeners into that renovated imagination through which God’s future could be seen differently… We are invited by Dr. King to engage in the new creation, apart from old ways of wounding and division.
Our hearts are elevated this day, because Divine Love within us identifies with King’s vision and King’s sacrifice.
If we are so graced today, we might empathize with the suffering of the tens of thousands of God’s children who marched and wept and prayed and suffered violence during the Civil Rights Movement in this land. If we are so graced, we might empathize with the millions upon millions of Africans who journeyed through the dark waters of the Middle Passage to this land. If we are so graced, we might agonize with the five thousand who bore the lynching tree even after the Emancipation Proclamation of this land. If we are so graced, we shall face the reality of the mass incarceration of black persons in this land today—and fight it as the plague it is.
This day let us remember the dream. Let it elevate our hearts. And let us contemplate our own true calling.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4)
Prayer for the day: God of all our births, give us in this season [Epiphany] a fresh capacity to see your hope for your world and resolve to live according to that vision. In his name. Amen. (Walter Brueggemann)