Moses is a reluctant leader. During the first few chapters of the Book of Exodus, we see Moses desperately trying to reject God’s call to him, to speak to Pharaoh and demand that Pharaoh “let my people go…” He doubted himself in last week’s parasha. His doubt continues this week in Parashat Va’era when he says to God, “I am of impeded speech; how then should Pharaoh heed me?” (Exodus 6:30)
Nevertheless, Moses cannot avoid his divinely ordained responsibility. He was destined for greatness. We venerate Moses to this day because of how, with God’s help, he freed, delivered, and redeemed his Israelite brethren from slavery in Egypt, and led them towards the Promised Land. Our tradition teaches that, after Moses’ death, “Never again did another person like Moses arise.”
However, many other great men and women have arisen to lead their people.
This weekend we celebrate the enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This April will mark 50 years since he was taken from us so violently and too soon. Unlike Moses, King had no difficulty finding his words. I cannot identify that singular “Burning Bush moment” that propelled King into leadership; however, we know that he was destined to lead with his words and his actions.
King, however, was not alone, even though his was the loudest voice associated with the Civil Rights Movement. Others led with quiet grace and dignity–think Rosa Parks. Others stood by King’s side then and carry on his legacy to this day–think Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. Some are known for stoic, non-violent protest; their images remain etched into our consciousness-think of the four college students who sat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro N.C. and simply asked to be served a meal.
Fifty years after the assassination of Dr. King, fifty three years after the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, there is still much to be done. In our day the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is one of the great religious leaders carrying the torch of justice and righteousness for our generation. Formerly the president of the North Carolina state chapter of the NAACP, today he leads the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
and is the President of Repairers of the Breach
. Jewish leaders then and now remain allies with our African-American brothers and sisters. We work together to advance national aspirations where everyone who is eligible to vote can do so unencumbered; where health care is a right not a privilege; where equal protection under the law is preserved; and where every human being is recognized as one of God’s creatures.
Tonight at TBE we will celebrate the legacy of Dr. King when we welcome our friends from the Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. However, we must do more than pray and sing together. We must act as well. We must march together, work together, repair the breach together and join in Barber’s call for a moral revival. We must reach across lines of race, class and religion in San Pedro and beyond to fight for justice and equality in our community and our nation.
Come for prayer and song at 7:30; leave inspired to do more and build more. Let’s move forward together and not one step back.