Sermon: All are called to the feastI have a dream....
(Hebrews 13: 1-8; Luke 14: 1, 7-14)
Fifty years ago this week, Martin Luther King Jr. made his speech that changed the world – I have a dream. It was just one amongst many speeches he made over a number of years. A little over a year later in December 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; and less than four years after that, in April 1968 he was assassinated...
MLK’s dream was about a world where all are equal – gender, race, status, faith were inconsequential to him – and I wonder if he were speaking today he would also include orientation in that list?
Jesus dream, if he had made an “I have a dream” speech might have been similar: he taught again and again that God did not have favourites; that God’s concern was with justice, freedom and equality – the parable of the feast is just such a case: it teaches about behaviour both as a guest and as a host.
When you are a guest – be humble, do not presume you have a place of honourWhen you are a host, invite without any expectation of a return of the favour
Attach no conditions to what you do
And in the letter to the Hebrews, there is a simple, yet profound instruction: welcome the stranger
Remember those who are less fortunate (whether imprisoned or suffering, or troubled) remember the faithful and live by their example.
In this week just gone I have spent a great deal of time feeling quite sorry for myself! I freely admit I am a rubbish patient – I don’t like being ill and I find it very hard to be gracious about it!But in amongst that I have watched a bit more TV than I might normally – and read a bit more than usual too
I took down a book I have had for many years – “Speeches that Changed the World” and read again those words first uttered on August 28 1963:
And as I reflected on the speech and the circumstances that led to its being made I was also looking at our world – our crazy, unpredictable, dangerous and uncertain world.Syria. Syria and all that it means for our country and other world leaders
And the results of the parliamentary vote on Thursday.
One of the other themes that King frequently referred to was war – for him it was Vietnam; he was so passionate about this – and this is another aspect of his global dream.In 1963 he spoke out about war and aggression, and about the church’s response. He said this:
The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.
Harsh words; harsh, but true. It is very easy to be drawn into the politics game; but it should be our task, as Jesus reminded us time & again, to be in the world but not of the world.To put love first.
To serve others; to choose the quieter, humbler way.
King recognised this, in that same speech on the Strength to Love, he also said:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction....The chain reaction of evil--hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love, 1963.
I believe that what is happening today in Syria is wrong; wrong on so many levels; but I also believe that to take up arms; to answer violence with violence is not the answer; it is not the way to bring about peace, or unity or freedom.
God sent his Son into the world; our world; knowing that humanity would always answer the unknown with violence and challenge. That humanity once it felt threatened would resort to aggression and hostility. Yet still he sent his Son to challenge this; to challenge those who sought an unequal share of the power; who used influence for their own ends; who sought the highest place – whether it was theirs or not.... into this world he sent his Son.
So that the Son of God – made man; walking the earth as a humble carpenter, not a mighty ruler; would show a different way to be; a different way to live.
2000 years later and we still haven’t learned the lessons.
We still bumble about, making hasty decisions; making biased choices; trying to be better, bigger stronger than the next person.And yet, still God loves us
Still God calls us
Still God forgives us
Martin Luther King had a dream:I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, and 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.
I have a dream too
My dream is that the world would see potentialWould not judge by outward signs
Would choose to care about others
Would choose to fling wide the doors and welcome all to the feast – that’s everyone!!
All are welcome in God’s house
I have a dream that the world could be like Jesus saw it: because Jesus saw the potential in others; he looked not at the outside, but at the heart
And in so doing, he broke down barriersHe knew people through and through
And he loved them, and us – just as we are.
I have a dreamJesus Christ, yesterday, today, tomorrow welcoming us in and shining in the hearts and minds of the world.