50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr gave one of the grestest speeches in modern-day history. On 28 August a crowd of up to 250,000 marched on Washington as a mass demonstration for freedom. He was introduced as “the moral leader of our nation,” and the next 15 minutes were political dynamite, a clarion call for complete racial equality. “Now is the time”, he said, “to make justice a reality for all of God’s children … We will not be satisfied until justice rolls like rivers … and righteousness like a never failing stream.” And then he uttered those famous words … 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 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 their character. I have a dream today. … I have a dream that one day right down 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 engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains 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. … 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 climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. … So let freedom ring … from every hill and molehill … and every mountainside. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement 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 spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."
What makes this speech so compelling? Why are we remembering this speech, above all others made during the long civil rights campaign for racial equality? I believe it’s because of that elusive and powerful sentiment – hope.
Hope is so powerful - as Andy Dufresne expresses so eloquently in one of my favourite films, the Shawshank Redemption, "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." Without hope, life loses all its colour, and even its purpose. Hope compels us. Itdrives us and motivates us - we long that things will be better. We all need hope, especially in a world where so much seems to go wrong, where there’s poverty, war, famine, and corruption everywhere you look. We need hope. We've been made to hope.
I believe that hope is so compelling, because we've been made for more. We've been made for day. We've been made for a world where everything will be just and fair and where everyone will be "free at last". That longing hardwired inside each of us, because we all have heaven in our hearts. As the writer of Ecclesiastes puts it, God has set eternity in our hearts (3:11)., or, as Augustine puts it, "You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you." We've been made for more, so much more, and so much better than the world around us. We've been made for this ...
“God has moved into the neighbourhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good – tears gone, crying gone, pain gone – all the first order of things gone.” (Revelation 21, MSG).
The world will be given an amazing upgrade. It will be an awesome place to live. I know some of you are thinking this is all pie in the sky when you die, but it’s not – this is a hope based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who brought hope to so many through his words and works of power - and then destroyed the power of death by rising from the grave. The tomb is empty.
Even today, Jesus is bringing hope to people. People are finding healing and wholeness through his power. All over the world, Spirit-filled people are carrying on his work. Great acts of selfless love and mercy are being carried out on an hourly basis – the sick and dying are cared for, the poor are given food, clothing and medicine without which they would die, orphans are given families, lives are being transformed – often by people who do so in the name and power of Jesus. They do it because that’s what Jesus would do, because that’s what being his follower is all about. Jesus brought hope to so many people when he walked this earth and he still does today. He can bring hope to you.
We are made to hope, because God has given us cause for hope. Our hope is sure and certain. Martin Luther King's dream may never be fulfilled in my lifetime, but there will indeed come a day when freedom will ring out from every hill and mountain top, and thank God, we will be free at last.