Reflection April 15, 2018

"Still Dreaming Dreams!" by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth

     (The following is a modified version of the words I spoke at our very special ceremony to remember the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, April 4, 2018.)
     I stand before us this evening as an elder – so what do we, elders, do? One thing we’re called to do, as stated in the Book of Joel and repeated in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost Day is to “dream dreams.”
     This doesn’t mean we, elders, should spend all our time sleeping! But it does mean we’re called, because of our advanced age and the wisdom that ideally comes from elder-hood, to not only dream dreams but to share those dreams, especially with our young.
     And the One Dream that most matters is God’s Dream. We are, each of us, enfleshed, enmeshed, intertwined in God’s dream. Dr. King well knew this truth.
     We vividly recall Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I still listen to it on a regular basis. It touched me back on August 28, 1963. It touches me still. But here’s the thing: Dr. King’s Dream deeply echoed God’s Dream!
     So what is God’s Dream for us? God’s Dream is about racial and economic equality. God’s Dream is about justice for all peoples regardless of race, color, creed, or any of the other ways we sinfully divide ourselves from our shared humanity. God’s Dream is about peace for all creatures – where the wolf will live with the lamb and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 
     Let me share tonight what I believe lies at the center, at the very heart, of God’s Dream. At the core of the divine dream lies this famous passage from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…” At the heart of God’s Dream is found the fiery incandescence, the brilliant beauty, the overwhelming awesomeness of God’s radiant Love.
     As an elder, I wish to proclaim a piece of the dream that’s been given to me. My dream is about the God who loves us unconditionally. My dream is about the God who is ALL LOVE, the God who is NEVER cruel, the God who NEVER kills, the God who NEVER coerces anyone, the God who NEVER chooses sides in war!
     The dream I dream was touched and shaped by the address Dr. King gave at Riverside Church less than a year before his killing: the address “On Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.” Do yourself a favor and look it up if you are not familiar with it. I placed some of it in our church’s weekly newsletter for April 8, which can be found on our church web site.  
     My experience of the Living God has taught me that God is never a God of War. My experience of the Living God has taught me that God is never a God of suicide bombers. My experience of the Living God has taught me that God is never a God of bullies or any other violence-mongers.
     My experience of the Living God is the God who so loved the world. My experience of the Living God is the God who was and is most clearly, most abundantly, revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Dr. King taught me this dream and how to embrace it and for this I’m eternally grateful to Dr. King.   
     Now I know well there are many places, many instances, in the Bible where God is portrayed as a God of War, a God of divine destruction, a God of apocalyptic nightmares. But let me make this clear: the Bible does not come to us directly from the hand (or mouth) of God. The Bible comes to us, having been filtered through the woundedness, the broken humanness, of many authors over many centuries.
     And we would well remember that there is but One True Word of God: the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ. Everything in the Bible must be filtered through the Cross of Christ – which reveals to us once and for all time, that God is absolutely nonviolent. If we fail to grasp this, we fail to grasp the core of the Gospel. Dr. King saw this. Dr. King embraced this!
     My dream tonight is that we who are elders might keep dreaming dreams. My dream tonight is that our sons and daughters might embrace their common call to be prophets to our wounded world – and please understand – a prophet is not someone who foretells the future. A prophet is someone who speaks the truth. 
     Being church (as the Greek New Testament word ecclesia notes) we are “those who are called out.” And, as such, we are all ordained, we are all anointed, “called out” to bring God’s Dream into reality, to touch each other and all creation with God’s caressing, loving touch.  Almighty Love will not let us go. This is what I learned from Dr. King’s life, his legacy, his martyrdom.
     I end with a passage from Barbara Brown Taylor’s The Preaching Life: “Our job (as those “called out”) is to stand with one foot on earth and one in heaven, with the double vision that is the gift of faith and to say out of our own experience that reality is not flat but deep, not opaque but transparent, not meaningless but shot full of grace for those with the least willingness to believe it so. This is our common call.
     “This call comes to each of us in a different way, calling for the particular gifts of our particular lives. And each of us is free to respond or play deaf. But God never stops calling. Lay any life out for close inspection and the truth becomes clear: God has called us from the womb and calls us still, the tireless Shepherd who never stops calling us home.”
     This is the legacy Dr. King gave us – this is the vision he shared with us – this is the unfinished work he handed on to us. Dr. King’s dream is in our hands. Dr. King’s legacy lies deep within each of our hearts. It sits perched within each of our souls and this winged, feathered, hope will never cease singing its unending song of justice, its unending song of freedom, its unending song of peace, its unending song of love.
     God graced us with the life and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For this we should never cease thanking God Almighty for such a shining, light-cascading gift! Amen! Alleluia! 

Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor

Morgan Park

 Baptist Church

11024 S. Bell Avenue 

Chicago, IL 60643