I am always fascinated by the story of Joseph and his brothers. It is like looking at an old beautiful picture once again. I feel the tension within the story whenever I read it, but I can also feel the sense of disgust the brothers had for the Dreamer - Joseph. He dreamt a lot, and in one of his dreams Joseph narrates an episode where he and his brothers were out in the field binding sheaves of grain. Suddenly, his sheave rose and stood upright while the other eleven sheaves bowed down to it. The sharp reaction was to question the meaning of the dream, and whether Joseph will reign over them. This, and others, generated strong hatred among his brothers who felt so threatened that they actually acted on their fear and sold into slavery thinking that taking care of the Dreamer in that manner will guarantee the death of the Dreamer's dream.
They were wrong!
It is in that same vein that I interpret the life and legacy of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King - the Dreamer, if you will. Reverend King also had lots of dreams and, like Joseph, he dreamt big. And his dreams were big although they weren't about power; they were, instead, about healing, restoration, and reconciliation. He dreamt about a social harmony based upon mutual respect, and a genuine affection for what we all hold to be true and good for us...our children and the community at large - the inherent dignity of all people.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is one of the historically motivating people of our time. His story is well captured by those who lived through and witnessed the Civil Rights struggle he waged in the South, as well as across the nation. I am exceptionally thankful for his towering strength, perseverance, vivaciousness, oratory, humility, and deep gentle spirit. His commitment to a nonviolent pursuit of justice finds great comfort in me because a great many people with as much following as he had could have instead resorted to violence. His accurate reading of history showed that the oppressor doesn’t offer freedom willingly, and he understood that employing violence to pursue legitimate goals only creates more violence. That was a tack he wouldn’t take, an act for which I greatly admire him.
As we approach the annual celebration of this Civil Rights icon, let us not lose sight of the dream that he cherished so much - that his four, Black children could simply be able to PLAY with White boys and girls - that wasn’t, to him, too much to ask, but was a big dream to have. Unfortunately, like Joseph, those who did not believe in his overarching dream of a society devoid of racial segregation thought that taking care of the Dreamer would effectively kill his dream. Like Joseph’s brothers, they were wrong; his dream lives on, even in death.
My beautiful children remind me of the life of the dream. All of the wonderful children of our parish remind me of the dream. In fact, the very fabric of our parish family affirm that very dream. You only have to stand at our lectern on Sunday morning to read, stand on the platform in our sanctuary, or just cast wide your eyes as you return to your seat after receiving communion to behold the beauty of our diversity, and the glory and joy of celebrating all of God’s creation in one place, in this one church building, in this piece of God’s kingdom.
As we celebrate the Dreamer’s life, I’d also like to bring to your attention all those who, for one reason or another, may not share the life of the dream with us. Although they are free, they are not really free because of the daunting circumstances of poverty, violence, income inequality, crime, and other ills too many to list here. They and their children not only desire to enjoy the blessings of the dream, they simply want to dream, too. "How can we help make that happen for them?" I ask myself daily.
What would have happened if Martin Luther King had not dreamt? What would have happened if his prophetic language had not resonated with both the powerful and the powerless? What would have happened if he had not touched the conscience of so many well-meaning people of all colors? I do not know the absolute answers to these questions. But one thing I know, and can do, is celebrate the life of the Dreamer who lives with a quote from an old Negro Spiritual: “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty we are free at last”. Yes, free at last to dream big - to behold the glory and majesty of God in each other.