“I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” – Joel 2:28
Among the volumes of influential writings and scores of eloquent speeches and sermons by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., none perhaps is more memorable nor more often quoted than his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, as it is now referred to, given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963. Some scholars argue it may have been the greatest speech of the twentieth century; for it was in that passionate address that Dr. King beautifully summarized his own life’s mission and purpose, and the meaning behind his many courageous acts, brilliant writings and inspiring speeches – his dream.
Like Moses, though, who never made it to the promise land, Dr. King’s own life was tragically cut short before he could experience the fulfillment of his dream. But even if he were still alive today would he have seen his mission completed? The answer, of course, is no. While much progress has been made – and hopefully Dr. King would be pleased about that – we are still far from the peaceful, civil, racially unbiased society of his dream. His was a big dream, though, a massive one, and big dreams take years, indeed generations to fulfill.
Dr. King dreamed of a society where people are judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”, and Moses dreamed of leading his people into the long-awaited promise land, a land flowing with milk and honey. But don’t we dream the same dreams they did, though perhaps in a lesser context, dreams of a future for our children whereby they have an opportunity to live safe, healthy and prosperous lives?
I have often felt bad for Moses and Dr. King, who dedicated their lives in pursuit of their dreams, faithful to the missions for which they had been called by God. It seemed unfair they did not live to see them into fruition. But maybe they knew that, that their dreams were too massive, and life inherently too short to see them through to the end. Perhaps it was not their jobs to see them through, but to inspire the future generations. Maybe that’s what we’re all called to do in our own time. It is why we honor Dr. King on this day; for as the prophet Joel proclaimed centuries ago, “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”