On Sunday, March 21st, 1965, nearly 8,000 people gathered in Selma, Alabama and began a march to Montgomery. Leading the march was a young Baptist preacher, Martin Luther King Jr. They were marching for justice, equality, and the American dream. They couldn’t wait any longer for the right to vote. They had tried to march twice before but were stopped with tear gas and Billy clubs. But this time they made it all 53 miles to Montgomery. Touched by their suffering at the hands of his fellow southerners, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered 2,000 National Guard troops to protect the marchers, and by the time they got to Montgomery, they were joined by nearly 20,000 others, praying with every step.
Speaking from a truck parked in front of the State Capitol, Dr. King proclaimed the fierce urgency of hope: “How long will prejudice blind the visions of people, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne? How long will justice be crucified and truth bear it?” The preacher promised the crowd that oppression can’t last forever, and that people of color will be free – “truth crushed to earth will rise again…no lie can live forever…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Five months later, President Johnson signed the voting rights act. Nearly a hundred fifty years before King’s speech, New England Unitarian minister Theodore Parker proclaimed, “Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
Imagine that in our troubled world, and the troubled world of Isaiah: The moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. Isaiah would have agreed with King and Parker. After decades of national uncertainty from internal and external foes, Isaiah imagined a new age for God’s people. Peace will reign. Long before King’s famous speech, Isaiah imagined people chanting, “Free at last, free at last, God almighty we’re free at last.”
Today, in our age of uncertainty, with the future of nation and planet in doubt, we can still dream of an era in which every child has a loving home, in which the streets of our village – and every village – are filled with the laughter of children and swords are beaten into plowshares and the nations learn war no more. A world, a community like ours, where the hungry are fed, the houseless have homes, and love in all its dimensions is affirmed. Every child has a home and no child bullied or left out!
We are part of this story. The moral arc of the universe is a matter of hopeful providence and we have a role to play. God calls us to be companions in healing the world. Even a church like ours, far from the seat of power, can make a difference. We can be a tipping point toward healing, hospitality and welcome. As abolitionists, champions for fair housing and homeless persons and now open and affirming to all God’s children, we have been a place where God’s vision calls us forward. We can be a community where love abounds and strangers are welcome. We can do our part to respond to the climate crisis and ensure that every child has a future and hope. It may not seem much but services in Hyannis, BIC cards, backpacks, the nurture of children on Sundays and during the week with scouting, and care for the planet transform the world as did our church’s abolitionists of an earlier era. In their own way, they knew that all were pilgrims and none are strangers.
Today, as we make decisions regarding our congregation’s immediate future, we can become the change we want to see in the world, and with hope and commitment we can play our part of God’s new creation on Cape Cod, the United States, and planet earth…a village church with a global perspective, a place for companions in God’s pilgrimages, where strangers become friends and reach out to the world together.