“Just Let Me Dream”
Luke 4: 16-21
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
January 14, 2018
An old man, frail and sickly, lay in bed — his body a wrinkled heap. His wife tended to his needs as best she could. She fed him thimbles full of clear broth, mopped beads of sweat from his brow. She ground his pain pills into powder and mixed it into watery oatmeal and honey in hopes that he would try to swallow some of it. He ached. His pain outlasted the medicine.
“Can I do anything else for you?” his wife asked at the end of each day. The answer was always the same. “No love, go rest. You’ve already done too much. Just let me dream. Just let me . . . dream,” he repeated. Then he’d close his eyes and wait for sleep to bring him dreams — his only reliable relief. (Story found at https://umcdiscipleship.org.)
Just let me dream. When the aches of this world are extreme and pain rules supreme, sometimes we’ve just got to dream. Oh, let me dream.
In our scripture passage, Jesus shares a dream. The first-century world was fraught with unjust economic relations, oppressive political relations, biased race relations, patriarchal gender relations, hierarchical power relations. The Roman Empire was brutal and exploitive. Three out of four people died by the age of 5. Slaves were taken for granted, almost invisible like appliances. In first century Israel, women were considered second class citizens, akin to slaves. The purpose of a daughter was to delight her father and the purpose of a wife to serve her husband. Widows were at the mercy of their sons for survival. There was a large disparity between the rich and the power. Roman Empire imposed exorbitant taxes on the ordinary people. This pushed most families into poverty. If taxes could not be paid, property would be confiscated. Most people were hungry most of the time. Illness, and death ran rampant. Jesus was deeply affected and concerned about the sufferings and inequities of his day.
The ache was extreme and pain ruled supreme, so Jesus shared a dream. There in the synagogue he shared these words.
God’s Spirit is on me;
God’s anointed me to preach good news to the poor,
recovery of sight to the blind,
Healing to the brokenhearted
Liberty to the bruised
Deliverance to the captives!
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
Oh, just let me dream.
There was another who dreamed when the aches of the world were extreme and pain ruled supreme. On this weekend, we remember King’s, “I Have A Dream” speech. It was an audacious dream. To many it seemed an impossible dream. It was a dream forged in a country where blacks and whites were segregated by custom and law. The rivers of division ran deep. To suggest otherwise seemed foolish. There was mob violence, lynchings, cross burnings, dog attacks, tear gas, water hoses. But Martin said, “Just let me dream.”
The day before the historic March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrestled with what he’d say to the thousands of people would gather at the Lincoln Memorial in the summer of 1963. One advisor urged him to give a political speech. Another suggested a more scholarly lecture. Others said he ought to preach like the black Baptist preacher he was. One of his closest aides said, “Don’t use the lines about I have a dream; it’s trite, it’s cliché. You’ve used it too many times already.”
What was Dr. King to say? He wrestled with his fears. After all, President Kennedy was very nervous about the march. He wrestled with feelings of inadequacy. He was young, only 33 years old. He wrestled with potential danger. An FBI report said, “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future.”
King went to put the final touches on his speech. Telling his aides, “I am now going upstairs to my room to counsel with my Lord. I will see you all tomorrow” (William Barber, Forward Together, p. 93). It must have been a miraculous consultation. He gave voice to a vision nurtured since the days of slavery. Oh, King needed some time just to 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 color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day… 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!
Oh, just let me dream!
There are others who remember this weekend who dreamed. Harriet Tubman dreamed. She fled slavery. Communing with God as friend to friend, she heeded the dream to become a conductor, a guide on the Underground Railroad. Strengthened by faith, she risked her own life leading countless others to freedom.
Rosa Parks dreamed. Parks worked quietly with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to gain equal rights for African Americans. She was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott was led by Martin Luther King Jr., who was then a young minister.
Fannie Lou Hamer dreamed. Hamer was born to a Mississippi sharecropping family. Hamer was the 20th of 20 children. She became determined after a 1962 Civil Rights rally to register herself and others to vote. In her effort, she was severely beaten twice, jailed, and thrown off the plantation. Through faith and a dream, she traveled the country pushing for voting rights. In 1963 she founded the Mississippi Freedom Party. On her tombstone are the words, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Barak Obama dreamed. After working as a community organizer, a civil rights lawyer, and a law professor, he was elected to the Illinois State Senate. He won a U.S. Senate seat in 2004 and was elected the 44th President of the United States in 2008 – the first African American to hold that office.
Oh, just let me dream!
Last Sunday at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey shared a dream. Oprah became the first black woman to receive the Cecile B. Demille Award. She gave a most moving speech about race and the #MeToo Movement. Men and women in the audience were brought to their feet. “Their time is up…a new day is on the horizon!” she exclaimed.
Oh, just let me dream!
Last year, 5 million people dreamed. On January 21, 2017, people of all backgrounds–women and men and gender nonconforming people, a rainbow of color, young and old, of diverse faiths, differently abled, immigrants and indigenous–came together, 5 million strong, on all seven continents of the world. Grounded in the nonviolent ideology of the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s March was the largest coordinated protest in U.S. history and one of the largest in world history. They needed to tell people about the dream – the dream of radical inclusivity, diversity, equality and kindness. The dream of a different way of living! Some of you participated in the Women’s March last year and for the second year in a row some of us will participate next Saturday, too! We got to tell people about the dream!
Oh, just let me dream!
Harriet Tubman dreamed.
Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed.
Rosa Parks dreamed.
Fannie Lou Hamer dreamed.
Barack Obama dreamed.
Oprah Winfrey dreamed.
And today we bring our dreams. Trusting that sometimes, sometimes dreams come true. Especially when our dreams are God’s dreams, too!
Oh, just let me dream! Amen.