I HAVE A DREAM 1-15-17


January 15, 2017

     Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Did you know that he, as well as his father and grandfather, were Baptist pastors?  Or that he graduated from high school at the age of 15, attended college and seminary, and earned his doctoral degree in 1955?  Some of you might remember that he was named 'Man of the Year' by Time magazine in 1963, and that at the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr. was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize.  It was his Christian beliefs that led him to take on the role of president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization that was formed to provide new leadership for the burgeoning civil rights movement.  Over the course of eleven years, Dr. King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and still found time to write five books and numerous articles.  He is probably most famous for directing the peaceful march on Washington, D.C. of 250,000 people, to whom he delivered his address, "I Have a Dream".  

     Yes, he had a dream.  And he wasn't afraid to follow that dream.  We think we could never be like that.  To have that kind of courage to stand up for what we believe.  To have enough faith to trust in God no matter where He might lead us, or what He might ask us to do.

     But let me read you something from an article Ron McClung wrote for the Wesleyan church:  Martin Luther King, Jr. is famous for his speech, "I Have Dream", given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.  But do you know the story of a time when his life was constantly threatened, when a phone call told him that if he persisted, "in three days, we're going to blow your brains out and blow up your house?"

     He sat at a table in that house one night, thinking about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born.  He thought about the fact that she could be taken from him any minute.  He thought about his dedicated wife who was asleep, and how she could be taken from him, or he could be taken from her.  As he thought about these things, he felt weak.  His father was 175 miles away, up in Atlanta.  He couldn't call on his mother.  But he remembered the Person his father used to tell him about, the Power that can make a way when there is no way.

     Sitting at that table, he bowed over a cup of coffee and prayed a prayer.  He prayed out loud.  He said, "Lord, I'm down here trying to do what's right.  I think I am right.  I think the cause that we represent is right.  But Lord, I must confess that I'm weak now.  I'm faltering.  I'm losing my courage.  And I can't let people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage, they will begin to get weak."

     It seemed he could hear an inner voice saying, "Martin Luther King, stand up for righteousness.  Stand up for justice.  Stand up for truth.  And lo, I will be with you, even until the end of the world."

      He heard the voice of Jesus telling him to fight on, promising never to leave him alone.  He said, "Almost at once my fears began to go.  My uncertainty disappeared."

     Of course, you know he ended up paying the ultimate price.  A price many other Christians have also had to pay.  From Abel until the present attacks by ISIS, and every century in between, standing up for the true God and righteousness has met with strong resistance by the forces of evil.  Some of us have loved ones that have died defending their country, and they deserve much honor and recognition.  But have any of us had to choose between our life and our faith?  There may come a day when we are faced with that choice.  Christians in other countries already are.  Is your faith strong enought to confess Christ if you had a sword raised above you neck?  Even Dr. King had moments of weakness, but through prayer God gave him the strength to stand up for righteousness and justice and truth.  It is my dream that God would give each of us the same courage and conviction.  That we would boldly proclaim the Gospel to an unbelieving world, even if that world is our small town.  As well as to stand up against the societal evils in our present generation.  Dr. King once said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  Let's not be a silent church.  Let's make a difference.  Let's reach out to others with the love of Christ, for that is the only thing that can truly make a difference in this world.  As Dr. King said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  And you all know the story of the Good Samaritan.  Referencing this, Dr. King said, "The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?'  But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not help this man, what will happen to him?'"  That should be our mindset as well.  Instead of worrying about our own inconsequential wants, let's be more concerned with what will happen to those in need if we don't help them.

     Martin Luther King Jr.'s last words on the balcony before his assassination were spoken to musician Ben Branch, who was scheduled to perform that night at an event King was attending; "Ben, make sure you play 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' in the meeting tonight.  Play it real pretty."  And so, our closing hymn for this morning will be exactly that.  Amen.