While we are no longer a legally segregated society, we still are largely divided by race and class. Just look around this sanctuary if you need a concrete example. As Martin Luther King often noted 11:00 o’clock Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in America.”
One could argue, I suppose, that the lack of racial diversity in my congregation is directly tied to the lack of racial diversity on Sanibel. And that is, no doubt, true. We can’t unravel the complexities of de facto segregation in a single blog post, but perhaps we can acknowledge the reality that we are still a long way from Dr. King's vision of a world where all have a place, an equal place, at the table. Where all can share in the abundance.
In the last years of his life, Dr. King paid an increasing amount of attention to the economic ramifications of racism. And in the last days of his life he was engaged in supporting the garbage workers of Memphis, Tennessee who were out on strike, protesting poor working conditions and low wages. When he traveled there from Atlanta the plane, he was to fly on was guarded overnight to make sure no one would plant a bomb on it. When he touched down there were verbal threats against his life. It was nothing new, he he had dealt with such threats for a number of years. But still be persisted in his efforts to lift up those who were oppressed, those who had no place at the table.
On April 3, 1968, he mounted the pulpit at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal denomination.
As he wound up his address, his words rang out: “. . . I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. . . . But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he allowed me to go up the mountains. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” (A Testament of Hope, 286)
It was last sermon and it proved to be powerfully prophetic. King was assassinated the very next day.
King’s dream was a dream of a day when all of God’s children are seated at the table. A day when all of God’s children share in the abundance of life. A day when all drink freely of the waters of life.
Yes, we've made some progress, but this past year in particular has reminded us we aren’t there yet.