Archives for the month of: August, 2013

On the anniversary of this historic day, I have nothing to add. Dr. King’s words are still beautifully powerful today.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America 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 democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into 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 freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

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 civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends — so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

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, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

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 today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I 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.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. 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 nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi — from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow 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, 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!”



Read more:


Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.

I’m late to the party – I’m quoting a U2 lyrics that’s now seven or eight years old, but man if it didn’t wreck me this morning. I’m an American, a Texan, a white male, a Christian. The total blessed package. I’ve never wanted for food. I’ve never wanted for shelter. I’ve never wanted for clothing.

The things I’ve always wanted for are things that I don’t need.

This is all of us though, right? If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not homeless on the street, and this is why the song brought me to tears. There are an estimated 143 to 210 MILLION orphans in the world and everyday 5,760 MORE children become orphans. Let that settle in for a moment. This is just orphans. This does not include the millions and billions born into extreme poverty. The millions and billions that will never be given the same chance you and I have.

What’s worse is that in our own country, in our neighborhoods are children and families suffering. Children born to illegal immigrants, children born to teenage mothers. There is pain, there is suffering here in America. This isn’t just the plight of Africa, or India. This is plight of all mankind. This is the plight of a country that feeds on its young through commercialism. We cannot sit, I cannot sit, and watch the world turn its back on people because of how they look or where they’re born.

We are not beholden to who we were and we cannot hold people to who they were. Christ demands love through all. Christ demands we treat all as we want to be treated. We must take hold of the underprivileged. This is not politics. This is not socialism. This is doing the gospel. This is the gospel – that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Christ saw us as his own, as people in need of redemption. So why do we find it so hard to offer the same to those around us?

Why am I more concerned with my cracked cell phone screen than the hurting kids at my son’s elementary school? We’re all guilty of wrapping ourselves in the American flag and ideals that say – more is better, more is good. We cannot allow this perverse thought to permeate how we live and affect our souls. We must view people as Christ. We must do more for each other or we lose ourselves in the end.

This week is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and I cannot help but think Dr. Martin Luther King understood this aspect of the gospel. He knew that just because he was a black man in the South did not mean he deserved the treatment given to him by the government and fellow men. The Million Man March was a clear and beautiful picture of people demanding equality for all, not the few, not the privileged, all.. This same hope, this same power must translate to all of us so that we give a voice to all. A hope to all. A life to all.

One of the great dangers of our society is its rampant individualism. This does not necessarily mean we are all alone all the time. Instead, it means everything we do is couched in individual concern. The great communal experiment that is Facebook is a perfect reminder of the way community is formed in our society. We collect friends, hold them in our virtual list, and follow their activity at our discretion. If you use Facebook like me, those who agree most with you find their way to your newsfeed while everyone else takes a minority spot or is hidden all together.

The way we engage relationships in our society is instrumental. To rise to the surface of friend is to be like me or to be someone that can benefit me. The downfall of this way of engaging the world is it keeps us locked into the status quo of our truth claims. Luke Timothy Johnson describes as us being stuck in our own project. Everyone is pulled into our self-centered program or agenda.

The way of Jesus is a different way. Jurgen Moltmann urges us to relate to people beyond our comfort zone. “The friendship of Jesus breaks the modern model of friendship. The friend of “tax collectors and sinners” and the community that emerged in his Spirit presuppose a divine and cosmic friendship by which God invites all of creation to an open friendship not based on defensiveness and divisiveness.” Hospitality can help break down the walls within our community as well as outside. The will to embrace someone who is unlike you is an intentional practice. This kind of openness must be grafted into our fabric.

A life open to the stranger is a journey where others have a chance to speak up. It is an intentional practice of awarding everyone a voice, even those who might disagree with you. This embrace of diversity moves well beyond the practice of tolerance because it assumes there is more to life than existing in shared space. It demands a posture of listening that outweighs the pursuit of personal concern.

A commitment to welcome the stranger or accept the “other” is a way of life, open to change, because something happens as you interact with the other. Over the last few years, Jill and I have worked hard to turn our ears to strangers among us, and we have received great wisdom along the way.

This morning Larry James, President of CitySquare, posted a sermon on his blog (You can listen to his excellent sermon here). Throughout the sermon Larry offers a peak into the wisdom of CitySquare’s neighbors. He tells stories of learning generosity, faith, courage, and much more as a friend to the poor and homeless in downtown Dallas. (Larry’s book The Wealth of the Poor works with this theme and I will review the book as a part of the series.)

Tony Kriz is no different. I have mentioned Tony’s book Neighbors and Wisemen a few times on my blog and my twitter account. The book is a memoir of sorts tracing the way strangers became neighbors. People of different faiths, cultures, and ideologies were the gracious embrace of God. They were the gentle voices calling Tony deep into the story of God.

The practice of welcoming the stranger is the missing link in our cult of individuality. I am starting a series to tell stories of how welcoming the stranger has changed me. Some posts will be about those who continue to teach me about hospitably and others will be stories of the strangers turned wisemen (to steal Tony’s term) in my life. Please join me on this journey and feel free to share your stories in the comments or send me a guest post of your own.

Last week, Rachel Held Evans wrote an article about the millennials and the church. Her post has created a number of subsequent posts that triggered even more posts (Rachel has collected many of the posts here). This is a hot topic for a number of reasons. The millennial generation is the largest generation in the United States, and it is coming of age as we speak. The oldest millennials hit the work force a little under a decade ago and they are the back end of the generation moving towards employment and influence. 

It is in vogue to talk about millennials and the research is starting to stack up. Researchers are taking notice of a number of differences as this group emerges. They are putting off marriage and families, leaving churches, tweeting, and joining urban tribes. All of these things have the older generations confused. For some, the differences amount to millennials being nicknamed as the “me generation.”

One huge statement Rachel makes is millennials want substance. Millennials are the most marketed to people alive and we have strong BS meters. This group has come to age in an era where motives have come into question. I wonder why congregations are so concerned with the emerging generation. Is it the concern over millennials related to upholding the institution or is the concern related to a genuine care for the millennials? If the care is genuine, I believe it will be shown in the ability to really listen. It will not work to send around a set of survey questions and create a ministry related to the data. This kind of universal packaging does not evoke genuine concern.

Congregations will go a long way to drawing millennials back when they learn that authenticity is not a slogan or a program. It is a commitment to the hard work of relationships. The mystery of the church is that it is the active body of Christ. The hands and the feet and the knees and the elbows. This reality comes to life as people draw together. 

This does not occur when we are manipulated into a one-size-fits-all pattern. The mystery of the church is each person, millennial or baby boomer, is brought into the life of God with their brilliance and personality enacted.

This demands a personhood far removed from our bounded set of individuality, but this kind of community is the church I dream of and talk about with my friends. A place where the voice of my wife is listened to just a clearly as mine. A place where my homeless friends are made welcome and equal.

I know we in the “me generation” have our issues. We are over confident and prone to over sharing, but one thing we can bring to the church is a passion for substance. Scripture is clear the church is at its best when together we are helping each other more deeply experience the body of Christ.

So what does the church need to do to draw millennials? It needs to do the same thing it should do for all people. It should be a place where every person is welcomed to the table of the Lord. This table where all are committed to communal discernment and the expression of the body of Christ in its particular location.