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:
9 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.
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.[b] 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.[c] 8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive[d] language from your mouth. 9 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.
- 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.
- Foster, Richard. Streams of Living Water, Essential Practices from the Six Great Traditions of Christian Faith (HarperCollins Paperback Edition, 2001). Afterword, pg.273
- 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
- The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
- Moon, Gary, ed. Eternal Living, Reflections on Dallas Willard’s Teaching on Faith & Formation (InterVarsity Press, 2015) pg. 39