The following is excerpted from a sermon titled The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life given by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss 3rd on Sunday, Jan. 17 of Martin Luther King weekend. Reverend Moss is the senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Ill. and is a regular speaker at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs each summer. The full sermon can be viewed at

If we ever needed to engage the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in this nation, it is now. Our democracy is in crisis. This experiment we call America is fragile. We are witnessing an assault, an assault on the very heart of our civic ideals we hold dear.

But the legacy I say to you of Dr. King, I must offer at this hour, is more than a dream. If you truly want to engage and deal with the ideals that Dr. King prophesied it will take you down the road of being radical and revolutionary for he sought to redeem the soul of this nation.

It must be noted for those who want to celebrate the sanitized version of Dr. King, I’m sorry to burst your bubble but Dr. King stood for the eradication of poverty, the eradication of racism and militarism. He challenged this nation to repent from the idolatry of markets without morals and capital without conscience.

Most events across this nation during this time period, this nation will seek to lift up a sanitized version of Dr. King and will give a watered-down perspective on the expansive, complex, radical and politically disturbing vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Truth be told, if you want to witness a portion of the legacy of Dr. King I tell you today, I tell you this day, it can be seen in the creative and transformative work of a powerful Spelman College graduate by the name of Stacey Abrams. Or in the redemptive, morally rooted candidacy of Dr. Rev. Raphael G. Warnock and John Ossoff. The root of their work was birthed by the legacy of Dr. King. If you want to see the work operating in the state of Georgia, check out the New Georgia Project and the organization Fair Fight that seek to expand the electorate and register more people to participate in democracy.

Anyone who talks about voter fraud or creating laws to protect a state from voter fraud, you can be assured they feel the power of black, brown and young voters who want to create a new America where health care is a right not a privilege, private prisons for profit will become antiquated myths cast upon the trash heap of history, and clean water, whether in Flint, Ferguson, Mississippi or Troup County, Georgia are expectations for all citizens in this republic.

This legacy believes that no parent should have to give their child The Talk, when they encounter the police. This legacy believes if you leave prison, society should not place a scarlet letter on your back, forcing you to move out of housing and not be able to receive government-backed grants for higher education.

It is amazing to me that people in Georgia and Alabama and South Carolina Mississippi and Louisiana who have been excluded from democracy are the ones who are transforming those same states and letting people know, though you excluded me I did not raise the question of what will happen to me, I raised the question what will happen to us because we are interconnected as a community. This story is about the interconnectedness of humanity. And at some point we must raise the question, not what happens to me but what will happen to us.

We must raise the question, not what happens to me but what will happen to us because our destiny is intertwined together. And until we figure it out together we will either rise together or we will perish together. This is the second portion. This is the idea missing from American policy. We say what will happen to me, will I have to pay more taxes? Do you mean I’m a billionaire and I will have to pay another $100? Will I be able to build whatever business I want to build and infect all of our poor water that is destructive, the chemicals that are destructive into the wells of those who are poor? I can’t do that?

I raise the question about myself instead of a question about the community. We lack compassion and empathy. And we should allow compassion and empathy to guide our decisions.

We build community by caring for the homeless. We build community by helping those who are hungry. We build community by investing in our educational system. We do not build community by saying I want to take the country back. We do not build community by excluding other people. We do not build community by placing children in cages. We build community through compassion and empathy.

We first must have the length of life to know and love who we are. But we must also have the breadth of life to raise the question what it means to create community and have compassion and empathy as a nation.

America is in the midst of what could be a midnight or a possible morning. The question for us is how do we engage these questions. Will it be about me or will it be about us? Because what happens to you, also affects me. And what happens to me also affects you. And until we see that we are interconnected, we will always be a nation in the dark hoping to find some candle to light our way out of our darkness.