Image by BL1961 via FlickrWhat a moment in time today is. We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the eve of the inauguration of our nation's first black president. How can we not be excited?! I woke up this morning with a heightened sense of anticipation. It's not that the struggles of the present moment have gone away. They are as real as ever. However, in the midst of personal struggle, we gather as a nation to celebrate hope, to believe together that there is something greater at play in our world than the day-to-day toils of life. What better time to reflect on the larger picture of hope than today.
As I so often do, I started the day by watching King's "I Have a Dream" speech. I've watched it so many times over the years that I've lost count. I have never watched it without being moved to tears at King's soaring expression of hope. His was a moment in time that will never be repeated. It was one of those "thin places" spoken of by spiritual leaders to describe the times when the line between heaven and earth seems to fade away and we catch a glimpse of the divine. My priest said in his sermon yesterday that the reason that King's speech had and continues to have such power is that it is not only an expression of King's dream, but of God's dream. King had the privilege of articulating that dream for all of us - but ultimately, it is God's dream that we live according to the conviction that all people are created equal.
King spoke of the promissory note given by the architects of our republic - a note that has been returned for "insufficient funds." He said, however, that he refused to believe that "the bank of justice is bankrupt." His dream was of a bank with sufficient capital to make good on its promises. He understood, however, that it was going to take a long time to get to the promised land where that note would be honored. In his final speech in Memphis on April 3, 1968, King spoke of seeing the promised land. He said that he might not get there, but he knew that the people would eventually make it.
And that brings us to tomorrow and the inauguration of our first black president. Perhaps King's speech and Barack Obama's inauguration form bookends on one chapter of our nation's history. The dream reaches its highest expression of fulfillment as Obama takes the ultimate mantle of leadership. What better sign of progress could exist?!
Hopes and expectations are sky high as we move into the Obama presidency. In part, this is dues to the abject failure of the Bush years and the longing of the American people for something better. However, it is about so much more than that. Perhaps this is another "thin place," another moment in our nation's history where we take a leap forward towards the ideals of our founding identity.
Some have said that expectations are too high, that we have set up Obama for failure because we expect so much of him. That would be true if we saw the task as being his alone. However, the challenge of moving towards freedom does not rest only on Obama's shoulders. It rests on the collective shoulders of everyone of us who believes in the dream articulated by King 45 years ago. Now is the time for everyone of us to stand up and, with Obama, say "yes we can." Now is the time to say that America is better than ponzi schemes, corporate corruption, illegal detainment, war under false pretense, etc. America is about freedom.
King said that we need to meet "physical force with soul force." It is time that the soul of America is strengthened such that it (we) become a light to the nations, that we become agents of transformation, not by the strength of our army but by the strength of our collective soul. The mantra "Yes We Can" means more that that we can defeat our enemy. It means that one day we can meet our enemies, whoever they may be, and through soul force, find common ground that will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for all people - not only here in America but for people throughout the world. YES WE CAN!