Imagine sitting in a sweltering classroom in the middle of a June day, listening to an instructor soothingly sharing words of knowledge. Regardless of the topic, students’ minds will start to drift away into daydreams of anything other than the lesson’s topic. I vividly recall precisely being in that setting several years ago. Yet, Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis, the Professor of Biblical Preaching and The Marbury E. Anderson Chair of Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, did not lull her doctorate preaching students asleep. Instead, students were enthralled in dissecting arguably one of the most significant rhetorical writings (that references a sleep activity). “I Have a Dream” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the focus of our attention. MLK’s masterpiece speech celebrates its 59th anniversary this Sunday.
King’s speech delivery on August 28, 1963, certainly did not put anyone in the audience to sleep that day. Having only completed his written manuscript at 3:30 AM that morning, which weaved together the themes and thoughts of his other recent sermons and speeches, along with historical cliches and references to our nation’s forefathers and Biblical prophets, his delivery rivetted the crowd. While it is now known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, an alert review reveals King’s most used word is freedom. That is what he wanted hearers to experience.
Today, the legendary speech he made at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is considered a turning point in the civil rights movement. A 1999 poll of scholars of public address ranks this speech as the top among all delivered in the 20th Century. I know Karoline, my beloved theologian, speaker, teacher, author, and preacher, shares that view.
Unquestionably, King will long be remembered and revered for calling for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States. His faithfulness, God-given gifts and talents, in addition, are still admired and serve as inspiration for those who act as today’s orators. Yes, preachers have a dream of using rhetoric to move listeners toward faith. King gave us the ultimate example. He set the bar extremely high, using both his humility and love of neighbor to offer guidance and encouragement.
This Sunday, August 28, join us for worship, and feel free to offer prayers of thanksgiving for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and all who have shared a prophetic voice. Pray about what freedom means today. Dream! We gather at 8:00 AM for half-hour outdoor worship service, 10:15 AM for a special Taizé worship liturgy, and again at 6:00 PM for Responsive Prayer.