Summary: God's dream for the church is that it is made up of people of all kinds who love each other and for the church to teach the world how to live together in harmony.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are equal.”
1. With those words, Abraham Lincoln changed the course of history.
B. Fast forward 100 years to a sweltering August day in 1963, when a quarter of a million people traveled to Washington, D.C. for the largest civil rights demonstration in American history.
1. Gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the multitudes heard a 34 year-old preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr. say these words:
2. “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 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 that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together...When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men., black sisters and white sisters, Jews and Gentiles. Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty we are free at last.’” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
3. Those four words, “I have a dream” became the rallying cry of an oppressed people who would no longer be denied justice.
4. The words of Dr. King and President Lincoln hearken back to this statement from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
C. God has a dream as well, and actually, it is where the founders of our constitution, and where Abraham Lincoln, and where Martin Luther King, Jr. got their dream.
1. Jesus put that dream into these words in a prayer from John 17: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn. 17:20-23)
D. Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr Day.
1. It is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
2. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, but this year it happens to be on his birthday, January 15.
3. As you know, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
4. The campaign for a federal holiday in King's honor began soon after his assassination in 1968.
5. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later.
6. At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays.
7. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.
E. And here we are, in January of 2018, it has been about half a century since the Civil Rights Act and the 15th Amendment to the Constitution which gave voting rights to all American citizens regardless of race, color or previous condition of servitude.
1. And half a century since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, and it is a good time for us to be reminded of the Biblical truth that the gospel is for every person, regardless of race or ethnicity, or anything else, and that the church is to be the most lovingly integrated place on earth.
2. I wish I could say that the church has always led the way of racial reconciliation, but it has not.