Reflections to start the week
Monday, January 20, 2014
Here am I. > Who am I?
As we remember today the life and witness and ministry of Martin Luther King, Jr, a question to consider in free time afforded by a federal holiday: How does his call inform your call and mine?
Our church views this contemporary saint as a modern-day Moses. So we read the story from Exodus about the call of Moses, that whole burning bush episode. (A portion of the story is printed in the side column.) It begins with Moses in the wilderness, noticing this unusual sight: a bush that burns but is not consumed with, oh by the way, a voice coming out of it. I imagine that voice sounds like James Earl Jones, or the guy on the Allstate commercials. Moses turns aside to look at the sight (What would have happened if he had kept going? Topic for another column) and says: Here am I.
Those are three dangerous words. As Moses opens himself to the call of God, he learns that God is paying attention to the suffering of the world and God expects Moses to do something about it.
Suddenly the words, “Here am I”, become “Who am I”, a response that often comes to God’s call. The call just must be a wrong number. God has made a cosmic recruiting error, a bad hire. Moses does not imagine himself up to the task. I don’t blame him. The suffering of the world was too great. The oppressors too powerful. The memories of Egypt and his past life too loaded.
How does God answer Moses? He doesn’t tell Moses how great he is. For that matter, God doesn’t remind him of the many ways Moses has fallen short. Guess what, Prince of Egypt turned shepherd: it’s not about you. What is the divine answer to the question: Who am I? God says: I will be with you. Apparently, that’s all Moses needs to know.
This is a day to give thanks for the Martin Luther King. It’s also a day to recall that the work to which he was so deeply committed is unfinished. It’s work to which we are called in our baptismal covenant, work for justice and peace, respect for the dignity of every human being. Our big and beautiful world remains broken in so many ways, with insurmountable problems around the corner and across the ocean. Racism, bigotry, discrimination, poverty, inequality, violent conflict persist. God knows about those problems, those injustices. And amazingly, God calls us, uses us to respond, to heal a hurting world.
Today, how will you say “Here am I”, making yourself available to the pain of the world in some way. Maybe you’ll wonder: “Who am I?” because the problems are too big, too intractable, too hard to solve. If you feel that way, and I bet we all do at some point, hear the voice that Moses heard, that Martin Luther King Jr. heard, the voice of God’s compassionate, justice driven heart that says: “I will be with you.”
– Jay Sidebotham
|The Collect for the Feast of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last; Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The LORD said to Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
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