A Dream, a Vision, a People

Jean Nevills Part 1 of 1

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Table of contents

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Reflection

I reflected this morning on Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech from 1963.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice (Yeah), sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream (Yeah) [applause] that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.1

 

In 1998, Richard Foster published Streams of Living Water and in its final pages he wrote, “I see a people…”

This com­mu­ni­ty is break­ing forth in mul­ti­plied ways and var­ied forms. I see it hap­pen­ing, this great new gath­er­ing of the peo­ple of God. I see an obe­di­ent, dis­ci­plined, freely gath­ered peo­ple who know in our day the life and pow­ers of the king­dom of God. I see a peo­ple of cross and crown, of coura­geous action and sac­ri­fi­cial love. I see a peo­ple who are com­bin­ing evan­ge­lism with social action, the tran­scen­dent Lord­ship of Jesus with the suf­fer­ing ser­vant Messiah. I see a peo­ple who are buoyed up by the vision of Christ’s ever­last­ing rule, not only immi­nent on the hori­zon, but already burst­ing forth in our midst. I see a people…I see a people…even though it feels as if I am peer­ing through a glass darkly. I see a coun­try pas­tor from Indi­ana embrac­ing an urban priest from New Jer­sey and togeth­er pray­ing for the peace of the world. I see a people. I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Ken­tucky stand­ing along­side a Bap­tist evan­ge­list from the streets of Los Ange­les and togeth­er offer­ing up a sac­ri­fice of praise. I see a people. I see social activists from the urban cen­ters of Hong Kong join­ing with Pen­te­costal preach­ers from the bar­rios of Sao Paulo and togeth­er weep­ing over the spir­i­tu­al­ly lost and the plight of the poor. I see a people. I see labor­ers from Sowe­to and landown­ers from Pre­to­ria hon­or­ing and serv­ing each oth­er out of rev­er­ence for Christ. I see a people. I see Hutu and Tut­si, Serb and Croat, Mon­gol and Han Chi­nese, African-Amer­i­can and Anglo, Lati­no and Native Amer­i­can all shar­ing and car­ing and lov­ing one anoth­er. I see a people. I see the sophis­ti­cat­ed stand­ing with the sim­ple, the elite stand­ing with the dis­pos­sessed, the wealthy stand­ing with the poor. I see a people. I see a peo­ple, I tell you, a peo­ple from every race and nation and tongue and stra­tum of soci­ety, join­ing hearts and hands and minds and voic­es…2

 

In 2004, Desmond Tutu wrote his book, God Has a Dream, for all the families of the earth to live together as one human family, God’s family. He wrote:

God says to you, ‘I have a dream. Please help me to realize it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts. When there will be more laughter, joy, and peace, where there will be justice and goodness and compassion and love and caring and sharing. I have a dream that my children will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family, my family.3

 

I am recalling the vision of John on Patmos who in Revelations 7:9+ describes a multitude that no one could count, from every nation, every tongue and tribe and people group, gathered before the throne and the Lamb:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”…. 12 and singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.4

 

It’s fascinating to read all of these in one sitting as one whole.  It seems that in every age God’s dream arises in faithful (even fallible and fearful) human beings–such a Dream and Longing–who articulate God’s dream for a new generation.

I am praying that my life and yours might foster conversations in community that will help to birth, as Dallas Willard described, an all-inclusive loving community with God as its chief sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.5

An invitation to grow deeper

Is there a word, phrase, or quote in this essay with which you resonate? Or feel resistance? In what part of your body do you feel a reaction/response?

Follow your feelings to look more deeply into your soul. Share with God what you’re noticing.  How might God be inviting you to respond?

To what faithfulness is the Holy Spirit guiding you to see or interact with a neighbor?  to make God’s dream more real in your life?

Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.     J.R.R. Tolkien

Finding guidance in Scripture for living God’s dream.

The great formational passage of Colossians 3.1-17 offers wise counsel for manifesting God’s dream of our being “in” Christ. Here so many of our individual differences fade into a beautiful and unique-to-the-person background with the bright light of one-ness with Christ in the center and foreground.

Take a breath in, and exhale, centering in God’s loving presence. Read slowly. Pause often. Listen deeply.

Colossians 3:1-17

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your[a] life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.[b] These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.[c] But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive[d] language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal[e] there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[f] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ[g] dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.[h] 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Footnotes
  1. King, Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr; August 28, 1963.” The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/mlk01.asp.
  2. Foster, Richard. Streams of Living Water, Essential Practices from the Six Great Traditions of Christian Faith (HarperCollins Paperback Edition, 2001). Afterword, pg.273
  3. Tutu, Desmond. God Has A Dream, A Vision of Hope for Our Time (An Image Book, DoubleDay, a division of Random House, 2004). pg. 19-20
  4. The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
  5. Moon, Gary, ed. Eternal Living, Reflections on Dallas Willard’s Teaching on Faith & Formation (InterVarsity Press, 2015) pg. 39
Listen to all parts in this A Dream, a Vision, a People series