On August 28, 1973, Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech. Hear part of that speech today.
“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
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, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, 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.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
You see King knew that in living a Christian life that one had to have a “dream?” I think another word he could have used here was vision. In our spiritual journey, there is a sense that we must have a vision of what the future is to hold, of how we are called to be actioners for God in the future, and where God is calling us to serve. King’s dream in this prophetic speech is a vision of an America that more embodies the Gospel, and while the journey to King’s proclaimed dream is far yet reached we still continue, hopefully, to work towards that dream.
This month we are talking about vision, and what it means to have a vision. Visioning gives us a dream, it focuses our minds and hearts on the future, and it focuses us on God. Here at Wood’s, we are starting that visioning process. The Administrative Board has approved a vision team to help to lead us in that process and to help us discern God’s call, but this is also a congregational approach and throughout the process, we will look to the congregation to help guide us along. Therefore, today we are going to take a preliminary look at what vision is and why it is important.
Our scripture today brings us to the prophet Habakkuk. If you are not familiar with Habakkuk that is forgiven, as it is one of the minor prophets in the Old Testament and probably not a place we go often in our Bibles. Habakkuk is in the minor prophets section of the Old Testament. You want to look between Nahum and Zephaniah (I know big help right?). Habakkuk was believed to have been written between 626-605 BC a little more than a decade before the Babylonian Exile. While worse days are coming in the exile we hear from Habakkuk in the first chapter, that we didn’t read today, that the situation in Israel is not looking very good. We read in chapter 1 verses 2, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?” (Hab. 1:2). The bottom line is that things in Israel are not good, and Habakkuk is pressing God for an answer as to why. Any other time I might preach this text I may try to answer the question of evil addressed in this text, but as we read from our context today we can pick out a bit of help when it comes to what is the vision for God.
In answering Habakkuk’s concerns about the despair and destruction God responds. We read, “Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” (Hab. 2:2-3)
It is that vision God is calling Habakkuk to write down that we focus on today, because in the midst of all this despair and injustice that Habakkuk is recalling we hear God calls him to write the vision. This vision that God apparently has for what Israel is to look like and God calls Habakkuk to have patience in it.
This look into the struggles in the mind of Habakkuk shows us what it means to create and have a vision. When God tells Habakkuk to write the vision he wants him to take all that he has experienced and to focus instead on that which God has called him, and humanity for that matter, towards. We learn a few things about vision making from Habakkuk here, and many of these ideals are visible in Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech.
The first thing we need to do is to make it known. We read, “make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.” (Hab. 2:2b) It is customary during a running race to post messages on signs, such as splits or encouragements. In doing this you must write it big and bold for them to see as they are passing by. In God calling Habakkuk to write his vision in such a way calls him to write it in such a way that everyone knows the vision. Our vision must be known, we must proclaim it others so they know what it is.
Our Bishop, Sharma Lewis, has given this Virginia Conference a vision that we here at Wood’s are using to guide our work. She is calling us to be
In this, she has made the vision known and as we create our vision in working with that we too make it known so all may know what it is. Our Bishop has set a noble example of vision setting and in that, we will use the Conference vision to help guide us as we explore how God is calling us to live out this vision here at Wood’s UMC.
Next, we need to have patience, or in better words faith. We need to trust the work that God is going to do through his vision. Enacting a vision takes time. We are still fighting the evils and injustices that Martin Luther King Jr., and even Habakkuk, are addressing as they are creating their visions.We have to trust in what is being proclaimed as the vision and not lose sight of what that means. This is why we still here in the fight for justice among African Americans because despite the colorblindness of society the evil and injustice of racism still exist. Therefore, it is important as the fight for racial justice continues the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. remains prevalent in our contemporary time.
So too must we remain focused on whatever vision God calls us to as well. Whatever vision is created through our work together, we must be bold to take on that vision as our ultimate task and not to lose sight of following God’s call in that vision. We are reminded from Habakkuk that visions, or dreams, are not always easy, but we are meant to continue to follow them. We are meant to have faith in that which God is calling us to do.
As a final note, I want us to note why we make a vision. We make a vision because we note we could be better than we are currently. For Habakkuk God is urging him to write the vision to be reminded of what he is to do despite the despair and injustice. Martin Luther King Jr. also notices injustices during his time and the dream, or vision, he has is born out of that injustice. Now our vision process is not created out of injustice, but it still would behoove us to recognize how what we have done in the past no longer seems to be working as it once did, or even the basic premise that we could be doing better than we are right now. A vision helps us to move into the future and to focus on how we can become better in the image God has created us to be. In the spirit of our understanding of sanctifying grace we must recognize the nature in which we are journeying toward Christian Perfection, and in that spirit, we must continue to venture towards the persons we are called to be in God.
Vision helps us to move forward, it helps us to keep our eyes set on God’s sanctifying work in our lives, and it helps to not become complacent in our faith.
Therefore, may we learn from Habakkuk, may we learn what it means to not only have a vision but to live into that vision. With vision may we grow and mature as individuals, and as a Christian community ever in tune with God’s providence for our lives.