United Church of Christ

Martin Luther King Weekend Service - January 20

I Still Have A Dream:
Service for Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend 2020

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Call to Worship

Leader: God of our ancestors and God of our dreams,
we gather today to remember
that you have created us all in your image and in your likeness
All: And so, we still have the courage to dream the impossible.

We remember how you spoke into the darkness and created light
     And so, we still have the courage to dream the impossible.

We remember the ways you have delivered your people
through trials and tribulations since the beginning of time,
right up until this present moment
And so, we still have the courage to dream the impossible.

You have comforted us
through the middle passage, racism, segregation,
stripped identities and unjust laws
And so, we still have the courage to dream the impossible.

God you have been the guiding light along the paths of Hope and Love
leading toward a beloved community
where all are equally seen and radically loved
And so, we still have the courage to dream the impossible.

We gather today remembering your presence amongst us and the call
to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you and our neighbors.

Invocation
God of our weary years and God of our silent tears,
thou who has brought us thus far on the way,
we invite your presence into our midst
as we pay tribute the all who have labored for justice, equality and love.
We pray that in this moment you would strengthen us
to continue to fight for the fulfillment of the dream that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
so eloquently laid out on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Help us to labor so that every valley is exalted,
every hill and mountain made low,
the rough places are plain, and the crooked places made straight
so that the glory of the Lord is revealed,
and all flesh see it together.
Let your love guide us to see one another as fully human with diverse hues, colors, ethnicities and cultures,
and respect the content of their character.
Let your spirit strengthen us for the fight of today and tomorrow
until all God’s children can say with full conviction,
“Free at last. Free at last. Thank God All-Mighty, I’m free at last.” Amen.

Prayer of Confession
O God, we as broken creatures have fallen short of all that has been required of us.
Whereas you looked at your beloved creation and said “it is good”,
we have at times looked at that same creation
and rejected its beauty and inherent goodness.
We have looked at the color of one another’s skin
and assigned beauty and worth based on its hue.
We have felt the texture of one another’s hair
and determined what is good and what is damaged.
We have examined one another’s frame and labeled it as human or “other”.
We have fallen short of being family and each other’s keeper but,
Deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome some day.

We have ignored the cries of others as they seek justice from the oppressor
and we told them to wait a little while longer.
We have hidden the wounds of the ghettos of our society
in an attempt to showcase society’s beauty to the world.
We have not fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, or shelter to the stranger because of how they looked or the inconvenience of their need, but
Deep in my heart, I do believe the truth shall make us free some day.

But today is a new day full of opportunities to try again.
What was left undone yesterday can be completed today.
We can turn from the sins of neglect and dishonesty,
and prayerfully move towards reconciliation and mutual respect.
The realization that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,
tied in a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”, *
forces me to be concerned about what happens to my neighbor. And so,
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe we shall live in peace some day.

 

Assurance of Pardon
Today we proclaim “to the people of the United States of America and the nations of the world,
that we are not about to turn around.
We are on the move now.
Yes, we are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us.
We are on the move now.
The burning of our churches will not deter us.
The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us.
We are on the move now.
Like an idea whose time has come, 
not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us.

We are on the move now.” *
And we are on the move because The Spirit of the Lord God is upon us…
to preach good tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted,
proclaim liberty to the captives, 
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. 
We are on the move and we thank you God for going with us.

Offering Invitation
Beloved children of God, too often we see the world through a lens of scarcity.
We look at all the things we do not have
or wish for something bigger and better.
And yet, our stories of faith tell us
that the smallest things often become enormous when placed in God’s hands.
And so, you are invited to bring your “little” 
and watch how God can do great things to bless the entire community.

Dedication
God, we have acknowledged our weaknesses and our failed attempts
at creating a just world for all, even with the best of intentions.
We are ever cognizant of our limitations
but continue to dream the impossible because of our faith in your power.
And so, we dedicate our lives to changing
the “normalcy” that continues to plague our communities and society.
The only normalcy that we will settle for
is the normalcy that recognizes the dignity and worth of all of God's children. The only normalcy that we will settle for
is the normalcy that allows judgment to run down like waters,
and righteousness like a mighty stream.
The only normalcy that we will settle for
is the normalcy of brotherhood [and sisterhood],
the normalcy of true peace, the normalcy of justice.*

Benediction
God we know we have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last

where the white gleam of our star is cast.
and we see you at work still creating a just world for all.
We leave empowered by the fresh winds of change
and the dream that is before us
to be God’s hands, and feet and heart in this world
today, tomorrow and forever. Amen.

*This service quotes from Our God is Marching On, and Letter from Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King, Jr.  Lines in italics quote from We Shall Overcome #570 in The New Century Hymnal, and Lift Every Voice and Sing #593 in The New Century Hymnal

I Still have a Dream: Service Prayers for Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend 2020, was written by the Rev. Trayce Potter, Minister for Youth and Young Adult Engagement, Faith Education, Innovation and Formation Team (Faith INFO) UCC.

Copyright 2019 Justice Local Church Ministries, Faith INFO Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH  44115-1100.  Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education.  All publishing rights reserved.

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