The close of my sermon today was a contextualized version of this famous speech. I wasn’t sure if I could do it “justice” (pun intended) but I do feel like King was honored and Jesus was praised. Here is a transcript of my rendition of the speech from our 11:15 am service.
…And while today might not go down in history as the greatest demonstration of social justice in the history of Cornerstone…
Sevenscore and eleven years ago, a great American, in whose honor we celebrate a holiday next month signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. And two score and eleven years ago, another great American, in whose honor we celebrate a holiday tomorrow gave a speech at the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
But 51 years later, not everyone is free; 51 years later lives are still crippled by the manacles of injustice and the chains oppression. 51 years later we still have people living on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity; 51 years later, humans still languish in the corners of American society and find themselves in exile in their own land.
So we’ve come here to today to worship God but also to proclaim injustices in the world as we dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to church to day to cash a check. When the prophets of the Bible wrote their magnificent words in Amos and in Micah, they were signing a promissory note to which every Jew and later Christian was to fall heir. This note was the promise that all are called to do justice and walk humbly with our God.
It is obvious today that we as Christians have defaulted on this promissory note in so far as the marginalized are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, Christians have given others a bad check; a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of grace in this church. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind not just ourselves but our community of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of the gospel; now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of oppression to the sunlit path of justice for all; now is the time to lift our community from the quicksands of injustice to the solid rock of Cornerstone; now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for us to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of oppressions discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
2014 is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that people who stand up for others’ rights just need to blow off steam and will now be content, will have a rude awakening if we decide to return to (going through the motions) business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the oppressed are granted their rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our faith until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to those who stand on the threshold which leads to the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for what is right by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our quest on the high plane of dignity and discipline. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting cultural, political, or physical force with spiritual force.
The marvelous new complacency which has engulfed our society must not lead us to a apathy of all cries for help, for many of you have come to realize that the destiny of those who cry is tied up with our destiny. And have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of human rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as there victims of these unspeakable horrors. We can never be satisfied as long as children are being sold into sex slavery and transported through Atlanta. We cannot be satisfied as long as basic needs for food and water are not being attended to across the globe. We can never be satisfied as long as children are denied education in order to work as free labor. We cannot be satisfied as long as our Christian brothers and sisters are worshipping in secret and unable to read and share the gospel. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Each of us has a story of our own personal injustice. You have been the veterans of individual creative suffering and have seen or heard the suffering of others. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Summer Grove, go back to Barrington Farms, go back to Cannongate, go back to White Oak, go back to Lake Redwine, go back to the suburbs of Sharpsburg and Newnan, knowing that somehow these situations can and will be changed. Starting with us.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to Cornerstone today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, we still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in Jesus’ dream.
We have a dream that one day this church will rise up and live out the true meaning of its faith: “Love God and love your neighbor.”
We have a dream that one day on the plains of Hartsfield-Jackson, only travelers and business people with good intent will be on board.
We have a dream that one day even the country of North Korea, a country sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
We have a dream that the children in our children’s ministry will one day live in a world where they don’t have to worry about if their purchases are fair trade. Where they need not worry about the content of their consumerism but the content of their character.
We have a dream today!
We have a dream that one day in Coweta county, with as One Roof states has over 300 children living in homelessness in this area. One day perhaps we might might have the resources available so that our people will not live in poverty.
We have a dream today!
We have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and 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.”2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that we go home with today.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of people. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be make a difference one day.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace
And if Cornerstone is to be the church that it is called to be, this must become true.
And so sing thy grace from the prodigious hilltops of Buckhead.
Sing thy grace from the mighty mountains of Dahlonega.
Sing thy grace from the plains of south Georgia
Sing thy grace from the beaches of St. Simmons
But not only that:
Sing thy grace from Ashley Park.
Sing thy grace from the Square in Newnan.
Sing thy grace from Thomas Crossroads.
From every crossroads both physical and spiritual, sing thy grace.
And when this happens, when we tune our hearts, when we let God in 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 will be able to join hands and pray:
Your kingdom is here. Your will is done.
Until Everyone Hears,