When on this day in 1963, Martin Luther King delivered his iconic plea for racial justice, he was dreaming of a time when his children would be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
Amazing then to think that Barack Obama, America's first black president was just two years old when the speech was made. There's no doubt that in electing him, the arc of American history bent further than ever towards a racially inclusive society but the dream of Martin Luther King always went further than who lived in the Whitehouse.
He spoke often about shalom, the biblical idea of bringing heaven’s peace and equity to earth. Picking up the words of the Hebrew prophet Amos, Dr King proclaimed that no-one should be satisfied until justice for all rolled down like waters and mercy flowed like a mighty stream. Echoing John the Baptist he claimed that such a society would see the rough places being made smooth and the crooked places made straight … for only then… with freedom and peace and justice for all would the glory of God be revealed.
It's worth remembering that Martin Luther King was as outspoken about poverty and violence as he was about ethnicity. In these days of austerity it's the poor who often bear the greatest burden and in a world bristling with weaponry it is typically the innocents who suffer first. And for each of us today there will be the choice to welcome or reject someone who is different to us, there will be the option of putting ourselves first or choosing costly sacrifice for others. There will be the chance to respond to someone with violence or with love. Every day we must choose which dream we'll live by and what world we leave for our children.
God of justice and mercy
bring freedom for all of us today
freedom from poverty, violence and prejudice
freedom to share, to heal and embrace. Amen