MLK Message, 2016

{This is the prayer I delivered on Monday, January 18, 2016 at the annual Belmont community breakfast honoring Dr. King.}


Every year around this time, I tend to hear Dr. King’s voice, that beautiful, eloquent preacher’s voice–reverberating in my head and my heart. I especially tend to feel, rising up within me, fragments of that beloved, “I Have a Dream” speech delivered all those years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Every year, I feel like I hear that powerful preacher’s voice all over again with its familiar cadences and those rising waves of deep feeling as the waves flow from Dr. King’s soul through each of us, as those waves of truth wash over all of us. I hear the voice speaking difficult, painful truths that remind us of how broken we are. But I also hear the voice speaking inspiring, hopeful truths that remind us of who we once meant to be, that remind us of who we still are capable of becoming, even now.

This particular year, my heart keeps returning to the sound of Dr. King’s voice as it quotes the prophet, Amos. Standing there, on those famous steps, a modern, Baptist prophet quoted an ancient Hebrew prophet when he said: “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream (Amos 5:24).”

But here’s the thing I keep thinking. While those waters of justice may have their source in God, the stream that flows with those waters has to be a human creation. Those waters of righteousness may be born in the mysterious depths of our souls or in a place some of us call “heaven,” but the only force that can make those holy waters flow in this world, the only power that can open those floodgates in our society is human words, human actions and human choices. God creates the possibility of justice in the world and God surely calls us to righteousness. But it is left for us to make that promise real.

So, here’s my prayer to honor Dr. King’s life and legacy and teaching. Yes God, let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Help us to find the courage, the commitment, the patience, the wisdom, the humility and the faith we will need if we are ever going to move those deep waters of justice. Yes God, help us, together, to become that mighty stream. Let the waters of righteousness move through legislation we pass, through effective advocacy in our communities and our nation, through peaceful protest, and yes, also through simple conversation with our neighbors who are, far too often, still strangers to us.

Help us, God, to make those waters rush with a fierce, insistent call for justice, but let the path they carve in the world and in our hearts be redemptive and not destructive. Let the river we create together flow with a love that is strong and a strength that is loving. Help us to bring the day soon when those mighty waters wash away old walls of fear and ignorance and hatred and leave behind, instead, the rich soil in which we can plant new seeds of hope. And let us all be privileged to witness the healing power of those waters on the day when, at last, they flow into an ocean of brotherhood and sisterhood, into a sea of generosity and kindness and understanding.

So, yes God, let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream; help us, please, to stir that water of justice, to move that water of righteousness, to free that water of all constraints and guide it past every obstacle so that the river of justice will flow, once again, towards life and blessing and goodness and peace. Amen.