“I Still Have a Dream” – Martin Luther King Weekend Service

Focus:  Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.      Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Threshold Moment:  Winter’s Light by Tim Janis


Opening Music: We Are Called (by David Haas)  -Michelle Currie

Call to Worship
Leader:  God of our ancestors and God of our dreams,
we gather today to remember that you have created us
all in your image and in your likeness
All: And so, we still have the courage to dream the impossible.
Leader:  We remember how you spoke into the darkness and created light
All:   And so, we still have the courage to dream the impossible.
Leader:  We remember the ways you have delivered your people
through trials and tribulations since the beginning of time,
right up until this present moment
All:  And so, we still have the courage to dream the impossible.
Leader:  You have comforted your people through the middle passage, racism, segregation, loss of identities and unjust laws
All:   And so, we still have the courage to dream the impossible.
Leader:  God you have been the guiding light along the paths of Hope and Love
leading toward a beloved community where all are equally seen and radically loved
All:  And so, we still have the courage to dream the impossible.
Leader:  We gather today remembering your presence amongst us and the call
to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you and our neighbors.

Opening Hymn: We Shall Overcome (by Charles Albert Tindley)  -Michelle Currie

God of our weary years and God of our silent tears,
thou who has brought us thus far on the way,
we invite your presence into our midst
as we pay tribute to all who have labored for justice, equality and love.
We pray that in this moment you would strengthen us
to continue to work for the fulfillment of the dream that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Help us to labor so that every valley is exalted,
every hill and mountain made low,
the rough places are plain, and the crooked places made straight
so that the glory of the Lord is revealed, and all may see it together.
Let your love guide us to see one another as fully human with diverse hues, colors, ethnicities and cultures, and respect the content of their character.
Let your spirit strengthen us for the work of today and tomorrow
until all God’s children can say with full conviction,
“Free at last. Free at last. Thank God All-Mighty, I’m free at last.” Amen.

Lord’s Prayer:

Readings:  Martin Luther King, Jr by Gwendolyn Brooks, Psalm 82, Amos 5       —Stephen Fox

Meditation:  Sweet Land of Liberty, Of Thee I Sing             Rev. Paula Norbert

Music:  Meditative Instrumental  ~  Precious Lord, Take My Hand by Thomas A. Dorsey/ Abraham, Martin and John by Dick Holler   —Michelle Currie

Musical call to Prayer:  (two times)  Hush now in quiet peace, be still your mind at ease. The Spirit brings release, so wait upon the Lord.

Prayers of the People:

Closing Hymn: America the Beautiful (by Samuel A. Ward)            —Michelle Currie

God, we stand at last where the white gleam of our star is cast.
and we see you at work still creating a just world for all.
We leave empowered by the fresh winds of change
and the dream that is before us
to be God’s hands, and feet and heart in this world
today, tomorrow and forever. Amen.

Go In Peace:


Martin Luther King, Jr by Gwendolyn Brooks

A man went forth with gifts.

He was a prose poem.
He was a tragic grace.
He was a warm music.

He tried to heal the vivid volcanoes.
His ashes are
reading the world.

His Dream still wishes to anoint
the barricades of faith and of control.

His word still burns the center of the sun
above the thousands and the
hundred thousands.

The word was Justice. It was spoken.

So it shall be spoken.
So it shall be done.

— Gwendolyn Brooks

Psalm 82: 1-6, 8 A Plea for Justice

God stands in the congregation of the mighty;
He judges among the gods.
2 How long will you judge unjustly,
And show partiality to the wicked?
3 Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
4 Deliver the poor and needy;
Free them from the hand of the wicked.

5 They do not know, nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.

6 I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.”

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for You shall inherit all nations.

Amos 82: 4-15  A Call to Repentance

4 For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel:
“Seek Me and live;
5 But do not seek Bethel,
Nor enter Gilgal,
Nor pass over to Beersheba;
For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity,
And Bethel shall come to nothing.
6 Seek the Lord and live,
Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
And devour it,
With no one to quench it in Bethel—
7 You who turn justice to wormwood,
And lay righteousness to rest in the earth!”

8 He made the Pleiades and Orion;
He turns the shadow of death into morning
And makes the day dark as night;
He calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the face of the earth;
The Lord is His name.
9 He rains ruin upon the strong,
So that fury comes upon the fortress.

10 They hate the one who rebukes in the gate,
And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly.
11 Therefore, because you [b]tread down the poor
And take grain taxes from him,
Though you have built houses of hewn stone,
Yet you shall not dwell in them;
You have planted pleasant vineyards,
But you shall not drink wine from them.
12 For I know your manifold transgressions
And your mighty sins:
Afflicting the just and taking bribes;
Diverting the poor from justice at the gate.
13 Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time,
For it is an evil time.

14 Seek good and not evil,
That you may live;
So the Lord God of hosts will be with you,
As you have spoken.
15 Hate evil, love good;
Establish justice in the gate.
It may be that the Lord God of hosts
Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

*This service quotes from Our God is Marching On, and Letter from Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King, Jr.  Lines in italics quote from We Shall Overcome #570 in The New Century Hymnal, and Lift Every Voice and Sing #593 in The New Century Hymnal

I Still have a Dream: Service Prayers by the Rev. Trayce Potter.

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Meditation – January 17, 2021

“Sweet Land of Liberty, Of Thee I Sing”

Rev. Paula Norbert

Each year, we remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his work for civil rights, economic justice, and peace. His birthday was January 15th and so the decision to remember him with a national holiday always falls near that date each year. It was 1986 when this date was first observed for his important work on behalf of racial and economic justice. We also remember him as a person of faith who was committed to peaceful means of protesting unjust laws that sought to keep blacks segregated in too many states. In honoring his legacy, we remember so many who joined that cause of all races and faiths, those whose names we may never know but who showed a fierce determination to move this country toward a more perfect union. Sadly, this past year, we have continued to witness the scars of the legacy of racial injustice; we have been reminded of the work that yet needs to be completed to eradicate the sin of racism from our shores. It is the work of all of us, because as Dr. King once said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Let us pray, O Holy One, we know that you command us to love one another as we love you. We ask that you continue to inspire us and grant us the courage to do the work that needs to be done so that all of our brothers and sisters may be treated with equal respect and dignity. Bless us in these very divided times and grant us a vision of a new world in which all may live in peace. Amen.

I have shared with some of you an important story I recall from when I was a chaplain at Boston College some years ago. During the Orientation Week each year for incoming students, there would be a series of invited speakers who would share important information with the new class. One of these speakers was memorable and his words still echo in my mind often. This man had served as the chief of the hate crimes division of the Boston Police Department over a number of years and he shared his story and what he had learned over that time with the students. He was a white, Irish Catholic cop who was raised in one a predominantly white neighborhood of Boston. As a young police officer, he was sent to be part of the protection unit when busing took place in south Boston, nearly entirely white neighborhood at that time. He recalls the buses of school children coming in from black neighborhoods and the crowds of people who showed up to protest. He remembered seeing the hate in their faces, the fear on the children’s faces, the acts of violence and vandalism against the buses as they drove through and that left a deep mark on his memory.
He would then speak about what led him to the hate crimes division, sharing stories with these young college students, most of whom had grown up in the suburbs, of families he visited who had been the victim of hate crimes. He talked about young black families who had dared to move into a white neighborhood who had rocks thrown through their windows in the night or a cross burned on their front lawn…or of Jewish families who woke up to see a giant swastika painted on the front of their modest home. He talked about the fear they felt; while they had not been physically injured, the injury to their psyches and to their sense of security was great. The fear they felt for the safety of their children was immense. The pain and disillusionment would stay with them and with him over many years. As he spoke, he left a deep impression as he told of how his own thinking had changed profoundly over time about racism and anti-semitism and other forms of discrimination he witnessed and the ways in which it marks people. His stories were deeply moving and I wish I could do justice to them now for all of you. He was a riveting speaker and he invited these students to speak out and speak up, to be a voice for inclusion and for justice, and to do their part to stop the spread of hatred within our society.

He had observed in so many of these incidents that the folks whom he called the ‘haters and cowards’ would often start with some smaller act of graffiti or racist action and then they would wait. If there was no response, these events would escalate. But if the community spoke out and said this is not who we are; there is no place for this within our community, then things would not escalate. However, if the community did not respond, if action was not taken against them, he saw time and time again how these threats would escalate and they would spread, leaving a trail of fear and pain and damage, not just to the family who was targeted, but to everyone within that community. If our brothers and sisters are injured, then we are all injured.

I thought about his remarks over these recent weeks as I have listened to some of the accounts by police and congressional staff about what transpired at our nation’s capitol. We have all seen the racist and anti-semitic shirts and symbols that many of those in the mob proudly displayed. One black congresswoman said she kept hearing the “n” word echoing through the halls as some of these people got closer to where they were hiding. And to have someone proudly carrying a large confederate flag in the capitol was stunning.

It was the apostle Paul in Galatians 3 who offered a vision of unity to the early Christian community, who said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” How sad Martin Luther King and so many of those who worked tirelessly for change in our country must feel; how sad all of us feel as we are reminded of how much work is still left unfinished.

One of the mostly unsung heroes of the Civil Rights movement was a woman named Dorothy Height. I wonder how many of us have heard of her? In her memoir, Open Wide the Freedom Gates, Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, said, “I am the product of many whose lives have touched mine, from the famous, distinguished, and powerful to the little known and the poor.” Dorothy Height grew up outside of Pittsburg and attended integrated schools. After winning a national oratory contest in high school that provided a college scholarship, she arrived at Barnard college in 1929, only to be turned away as she was informed that the college had already admitted two black students, and that their quota was filled. Instead, she enrolled at New York University where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in educational psychology.

After college, she worked for the YWCA and joined the National Council of Negro Women, beginning a career of working for civil rights and equality for black Americans and women. Alongside the “Big Six” of the Civil Rights movement, which included MLK and John Lewis, she was called the “unheralded seventh.” For her efforts over the course of her life. She was the only woman given that distinction, although we know how many women worked hard to organize and protest and register voters and speak out for change. She was a nonpartisan adviser to presidents of both parties over the years, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and later the Congressional Medal of Freedom. She, along with other leading women in the Civil Rights Movement, worked for years to finally have a statue of the black suffragist Sojourner Truth erected in the US Capitol Building in April 2009.

We know that two important leaders in the Civil Rights movement died this past year, Dr. C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis. Historian Jon Meacham published his book, His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope last October. He had spent countless hours with Lewis before he died, interviewing him and learning about the ways in which his life experiences, his faith, and other great figures of truth and justice had inspired him for the work of his life. I hope that all of us have spent time learning about his amazing life so that we may be inspired to make trouble, “good trouble” as he often said on behalf of justice, equality, and peace. In the book, Lewis reflected, “The message of the civil rights movement was straightforward, and it was a message grounded in hope: We are one people; we are one family; we all live in the same house—the American house, the world house.”

“We truly believed that we were on God’s side, and in spite of everything—the beatings, the bombings, the burnings—God’s truth would prevail,” Lewis recalled. The anguish and the duration of the struggle was, in a way, a vindication of the premise of the struggle itself—that this was the ultimate battle to bring light to darkness no matter how often darkness prevailed.” (Jon Meacham, His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope)

I hope and pray that when we feel discouraged or disillusioned or just downright sick and tired of the hatred and division, that we may seek the inspiration and the strength from those who have come before us, so many who worked so hard for change and that we may never give up the hope that better days, days of inclusion and love are still possible and that we and those who come after us may realize the dream of ensuring that America is indeed a ‘sweet land of liberty’ for all. We shall overcome…someday.

I’d like to close with a short film that was produced by a wonderful organization called Salt, from which I often draw inspiration. They compiled some footage from the archives of the March on Washington to be shared widely as we look back and remember, seeking courage to do the work that yet needs to be done. It is our work; it is our responsibility to look around and say this is not who we are; this is not who we want to be. Our God is holding us, I do believe.