One Morning on Dexter Avenue

The year is 1957. Montgomery is bathed in sunshine. Birds in nearby trees are singing. The street is lined with large-bodied cars. DeSotos, Plymouths, Chevys, and Studebakers. It’s Sunday morning, people are on their way to church.

The Baptist church that sits on the corner of Dexter Avenue and Decatur Street is full. People are filing into their pews.

It has been quite a year. The Soviet Union just launched Sputnik; Vietnam is heating up; Hurricane Audrey tore up the Gulf Coast; nine teenage African American students began attending the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. And just when times couldn’t get any harder, Jackie Robinson retired.

It’s hot inside this building. People are fanning themselves with church bulletins. The room is alive with the chatter of hardworking men and women, dressed in their Sunday finery.

Service begins. Everyone stands. A choir sings a few hymns. People clap in rhythm with the singing. A little boy does his best to clap along with everyone else, but he can’t quite get it.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the church building itself. The faded red bricks, the cathedral windows, the acoustic dome behind the pulpit. You get the feeling that there are lots of stories within these walls.

This building was erected in 1883 on a small lot facing the Alabama State Capitol. The elders bought the land for $270 bucks. The church took six years to construct, but a lifetime to build.

When the music ends, a preacher man takes the pulpit. He is a medium-sized man. Maybe five-seven. Visitors are always a little surprised by how short he is. People always imagine him as being 12 feet tall and made of granite.

The preacher wears a plain black robe with a skinny necktie. He has a full face, sharp eyes, a mustache.

There is nothing small about the clergyman’s voice, it travels throughout the crevices of this old building like a folk song. He speaks in the anvil tones of an ironsmith, using short sentences that hit harder than a Buick.

The crowd offers a response after each of the preacher’s phrases. Newcomers find themselves getting swept up in the excitement of it all. There are a few journalists in the back. Some scribbling on notepads, a few with microphones.

The sermon, however, is nothing like what today’s visitors expected. Many of them were thinking that the preacher would call fire down from the ceiling. But today’s homily is not like that.

The preacher grips the lectern and says in a soft melodic voice: “I want to turn your attention to the subject of loving your enemies…”

People shift in their seats. A middle-aged woman dabs sweat from her forehead with a hanky. A little boy dressed in a blue serge suit becomes fidgety.

The preacher says, “…It is a love that seeks nothing in return, it is an overflowing love, it’s what theologians would call the love of God…”

The sea of faces are nothing but earnest. A few lean forward in their seats. A baby in back begins to cry.

“LOVE!” shouts the preacher. “And when you rise to love on this level you begin to love men, not because they are likable, but because GAWD loves’em!”

More amens from the congregation.

One can’t help but notice how sincere he is. A lot of preachers flail their hands and scream. But he uses no theatrics. The five-foot-seven man is merely talking in the key of E major.

“…Look at every man and love him, because you know God loves him, though he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen…”

Everyone is uttering amens now. And the preacher is just getting warmed up. He stands behind the ornate wooden pulpit, raising his voice to hit notes not found on the musical staff. He’s not so much yelling, he’s serenading the saints.

“There are a lotta people I find difficult to like!” the preacher says. “I don’t like what they do to me! I don’t like what they say about me! I don’t like their attitudes! I don’t like some of the things they’re doing! I don’t like them. But Jesus said to LOVE them…!”

A few rise to their feet. Several are waving hands. The preacher is hitting them where they live now. He works with the same elegant mastery you’d find in a Michelangelo, in a Bach prelude, or when Willie Howard Mays Jr. catches a fly ball.

“Just keep loving people! Keep lovin’em! Even though they’re mistreating you! A person who is a neighbor, or a person who is doing something wrong to you! Just keep being friendly to that person! Keep lovin’em! Don’t do anything to embarrass them, just keep loving them…!”

“And by the power of your love, they will BREAK DOWN UNDER THE LOAD!”

A young woman is crying now. So are choir members, old men, teenagers, and even reporters. It’s not so much what the preacher is saying, it’s what the outside world has been doing lately. People are fighting, some are tearing the fabric of kindness in two.

The preacher lowers his voice. The room gets quiet, with the occasional sniffle from the crowd. Even the preacher wipes his face with his sleeve.

He says, “So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into all the eyes of my brothers in Alabama, and all over America, and all over the world, I say to you, ‘I love you.’

“And I would rather die than hate you.”

Yes. Dr. King sure could preach.


  1. Sharon Lawson - June 3, 2020 8:23 am

    Wow! I don’t have the right words to describe this piece. Maybe magical, powerful and needed would be a start.

  2. Lita - June 3, 2020 9:04 am

    Bless you for this x

  3. Ben - June 3, 2020 10:00 am

    Amen Dr. King, and Sean!

  4. Evelyn Mann-Wilder - June 3, 2020 10:24 am

    W0w! Timely message and excellent and powerful writing.

  5. greatgrams6 - June 3, 2020 10:30 am

    Awesome! Sean, thank you, we are crying out for this love here in Minnesota.

  6. Cynthia Harmon - June 3, 2020 10:35 am

    Thank you Sean. Demonstrating God’s love to all is the answer.

  7. Susan Faulkner - June 3, 2020 11:02 am

    Thank you, Sean. Thank you, Dr. King. Will we ever learn?

  8. Kathy - June 3, 2020 11:09 am

    This is beautiful. And timely. And unfortunately very rare.

  9. Annnnn - June 3, 2020 11:11 am


  10. flagal44 - June 3, 2020 11:14 am

    And yes, Sean Dietrich sure can write!

  11. Dianne - June 3, 2020 11:16 am

    Thank you, Sean. Reminds me of the song lyrics…”What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” The world has to stop hating and learn how to love each other again. It really isn’t very hard to do.

  12. zettybauer - June 3, 2020 11:21 am


  13. Cathi Russell - June 3, 2020 11:25 am


  14. Sonya Tuttle - June 3, 2020 11:36 am


  15. Brenda - June 3, 2020 11:47 am

    Praying all hear and remember Dr. King’s strong loving words. Thank you Sean ❤️ well done and Amen!

  16. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - June 3, 2020 11:49 am


  17. Amy - June 3, 2020 12:01 pm

    I sure wish he were here now. We could sure use someone like him in this country.

  18. Christine Washburn - June 3, 2020 12:25 pm

    Yes. We all need a daily dose of this kind of LOVE. God’s love for all mankind.

  19. Lynn Evans - June 3, 2020 12:30 pm

    Guess in 63 years he never got the message out well. Pretty poor effort and results.

  20. Shaw - June 3, 2020 12:32 pm

    Thank you, Sean. America needs this right now.

  21. Belinda Crowell - June 3, 2020 12:47 pm

    This one made the hair on my arms stand up, Sean. Such a timely message from 1957. We need a man like Dr. King with us today.

  22. David Inge - June 3, 2020 12:50 pm

    Absolutely Wonderful.

  23. Joan - June 3, 2020 12:56 pm

    Amen Brother, Amen!

  24. Becki Swindle McCallum - June 3, 2020 1:00 pm

    Especially good today Sean. Thank you.

  25. Kayren Owens - June 3, 2020 1:00 pm

    This may be the best I have read from your pen. Of course, it is timely, but it is so much more. Reading this is like applying salve to a wound. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  26. Phil S. - June 3, 2020 1:23 pm

    And the whole congregation said, “AMEN!!!”
    Man, do we ever need Dr. King today!
    Sean, it’s not too late for you to attend seminary. Naahh, you don’t need to, you’re ready now. All you need is a pulpit. Preach on, Brutha!

  27. Victoria - June 3, 2020 1:28 pm

    Just WOW!! Excellent words, excellent writing for these times.

  28. Mariam Stephens - June 3, 2020 1:31 pm

    Please send this post to Facebook…I am having trouble posting it! Too important for today! It needs to reach the public !

  29. Pete Black - June 3, 2020 1:36 pm

    Sean – loved the story about Dr. King! One of you best ever!

  30. Diann - June 3, 2020 2:00 pm

    I can hear him now- that rich resonant voice commanded an audience- we would be wise to listen again.

  31. cronkitesue - June 3, 2020 2:27 pm

    We need him now, more than ever.

  32. Helen Addison - June 3, 2020 2:30 pm

    Thank you for this. Loved that man! Lived right through that time in Alabama!

  33. aleathia nicholson - June 3, 2020 2:33 pm


  34. Karen - June 3, 2020 2:38 pm

    But it’s so sad that he was killed.

  35. Lynn -Reese - June 3, 2020 3:12 pm

    Thank you for bringing afresh Dr. King’s message at a time when we still desperately need it.

  36. Lynn Reese - June 3, 2020 3:14 pm

    Thank you for bringing afresh Dr. King’s message when we need it so desperately.

  37. D. - June 3, 2020 3:19 pm

    Excellent superbly timed reminder message.

  38. Tess Enterline - June 3, 2020 3:39 pm

    I truly believe that all writers have the capacity to be healers. You’re that kind of writer, Sean. God bless!

  39. Linda Moon - June 3, 2020 4:54 pm

    I hear that E-major voice as you remind me of times from long ago, Sean. Scripture teaches that God loves us, like Dr. King said, “though he {me, you} might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.” Even Clint Eastwood knew that in ‘Unforgiven’: “We all have it coming, Kid,” he said. “Where there is hatred, let me sow love”, St. Francis of Assisi. Thank you, Sean, for telling that very much needed message today. Preach on, Writer! Can I get an Amen?

  40. Sharon Allemang - June 3, 2020 5:29 pm

    A sermon for all times!! Especially in this troubled & scary times right now!! Thank you Sean for your lesson today!!

  41. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - June 3, 2020 5:48 pm

    Amen, brother. Amen!

  42. Robert Chiles - June 3, 2020 6:05 pm


  43. Shirley - June 3, 2020 7:04 pm

    I remember that sermon. It was three days before my seventeenth birthday when Dr. King delivered it, and I thought, “This is what the world needs to hear”! And I believed that the world, or at least America, was going to listen and change…..but it did not and it has not. Thank you for posting this so beautifully, Sean. You are an amazing man and an amazing writer. I hope and pray that there still is a chance for the change that Dr. King envisioned.

  44. catladymac - June 3, 2020 7:41 pm

    And by God, he did.

  45. Patsy Bizilia - June 3, 2020 7:58 pm

    Outstanding!!!!! If only this could be read by all..
    People—Black and White lives matter!!

  46. Ssl - June 3, 2020 8:35 pm

    Terrific reflection. Timely and so true.

  47. Susan Parker - June 3, 2020 9:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! We need this today. I just shared it on my Facebook page. I put a note that said that I don’t know how to do this either, but that I know Who does. May we all ask Him to lead us. And hold onto each other. And don’t be divided.

  48. Laura - June 3, 2020 10:34 pm

    But his message lives on forever. You can’t kill the kind of love Dr King tried to teach us.

  49. Marcia wdmundson - June 4, 2020 12:13 am

    This is a message is appropriate for 2020 although it was delivered in 1957 ! Important truths ! And note the preacher . . . A lesson on love.

  50. Susan Kennedy - June 4, 2020 12:57 am


  51. Harriet from Atlanta - June 4, 2020 1:24 am

    Love people. I could hear Dr. Martin Luther King’s voice in your story.

  52. Christina - June 4, 2020 5:52 am

    WE SHALL OVERCOME with LOVE! Thanks Sean for speaking up with your writing!

  53. Susan Smith - June 4, 2020 1:45 pm

    Love is not a warm fuzzy feeling all the time. Love means “willing the good of another” as I hear Bishop Robert Barron say often. You don’t have to like everyone but you can love them in the name of Jesus and wish the best for them.

  54. Suzanne Cahill - June 4, 2020 2:02 pm

    Thank you, Sean.

  55. Chasity Davis Ritter - June 6, 2020 3:42 pm

    At church on Sunday mornings when the preacher is getting it right you can hear the congregation agreeing “Yes!!” And “Amen” or clapping… that’s all I could do and feel when reading this!! Yes, a thousand times yes!! Amen!! I share a lot of your blogs to my Facebook. I hope those that read it today agree too. (And I’m gonna tag my preacher!). Yes!!

  56. Joe Patterson - July 12, 2020 2:11 pm

    Wish he was still here He could be a voice of reason among the chaos. Thanks

  57. Nancy - July 12, 2020 5:02 pm

    If only more people read it and heeded it. Have a blessed day.


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