Let us pray: In the name of the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the passage from Exodus, 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.”
The first three chapters of Exodus describe the oppression of the Jewish people. God’s people were living in misery amidst slavery and repression. God’s children were humiliated and forced into hard labor. It is from that place that God raised Moses, a leader and liberator. The oppression of Moses’ fellow Israelites led Moses to act. He couldn’t just stand and watch injustice happen right in front of him.
Exodus chapter 3 starts with the burning bush. Moses sees a bush immersed in flames, but it is not consumed by the fire. (3:1-3) Then, God speaks to Moses from the burning bush telling him to deliver his people from Pharaoh. Moses resisted the call at first asking, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” God said, “I will be with you.” With God’s words in his heart, Moses went through a long process to liberate God’s children from Egypt.
God asked Moses to take political action. It is a political action when you try to free yourself from a situation of misery and oppression. It is a political action when you advocate for justice and strive to build a just society. What is striking about this story is that it has been repeated countless times over countless centuries when humanity rises up against forces of oppression. We’ve witnessed this in our own lifetimes through the life and ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King whose birthday we celebrate today.
Dr. King viewed humanity through a wide angle lens seeing all of us as interdependent regardless of where we live in the world. Dr. King said, “As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy even if I just got a good checkup at Mayo Clinic. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made. No individual or nation can stand out boasting of being independent. We are interdependent.”
I ask you to think for a moment as we contrast our affluence here in America with the poverty of Haiti, considered as the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Divided as we are in wealth and resources, we have a shared interdependent humanity.
The organization I represent is the Haiti Micah Project founded in 2005 to serve orphaned and at-risk children living in Mirebalais, Haiti. Sometimes referred to as “street children”, these children are among the poorest of the poor. They lack adequate food, clothing and shelter and are often unloved and uncared for.
The Haiti Micah Project’s name and mission are derived from the Old Testament book of Micah. In chapter 6 verse 8, the prophet Micah begs the question, “He has told you, O Mortal, what is good and what does the Lord require of you, to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” Our ministry in Haiti is about bringing love, justice, and healing to God’s children living in extreme poverty.
Our work is simple in concept, but hard to carry out. We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and love the unloved. Working with a dedicated staff of 25 Haitians, we run a feeding program serving hundreds; we have a home for orphans and abandoned children; we provide educational stipends in a country where there is no free public education. We see the success of our endeavors in the faces of the children.
Let me tell you about Joseph Emmanuel who is a bright, loving and compassionate Haitian man in his 20s. Joseph Emmanuel came to our orphanage at the of 9. I look at him and his life as a daily affirmation of why the work we do is so critical in providing Haitian children an opportunity – not just for life – but to reach their potential in life. I shudder when I think about what would have happened if we had not invested in his life or didn’t have the resources to do so.
I recently spoke to Joseph Emmanuel and I told him that I was going to preach on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Dr. King is one of Joseph Emmanuel’s heroes, and I vividly recall him as a twelve year old reciting in English Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. I asked him to reflect on what Dr. King means to him in light of the work of the Haiti Micah Project.
Joseph Emmanuel wrote, “We are living in an unfair society, and Martin Luther King, Jr. had tremendous courage to advocate for social justice, equality, balance and sharing. It is right that at any part in the world without prejudice the respect of human rights can be a fact, and we need to work together to make that a reality. As we pay tribute to him, let us further his legacy by building a fairer world.”
My sisters and brothers, thanks to your support we have received from churches like Epiphany, the Haiti Micah Project has helped young men and women like Joseph Emmanuel. They are Haiti’s future.
It is fitting that today we celebrate in the work of Dr. King and of the Haiti Micah Project. Both endeavor to Do justly and confront injustice as an active agitator for righteousness. Love those who are powerless to help themselves. Give them the mercy they need and cannot give themselves. Walk humbly with God. Be prepared to go where God leads. You do not serve for honor. By grace you can walk with God by peaceful waters and through turbulent waters. With God you can walk through fire and flood.
Dr. King followed the example of the prophet Micah. Dr. King was an agitator of the gospel for loving mercy, doing justly, and walking with God. Dr. King urged the church to not be a disappointment to God. He was hopeful that the church would teach the nation to never stop loving, forgiving, and teaching nonviolence. He died believing that the possession, use and sale of weapons of mass destruction can never be justified. He died challenging the church to defend the rights of millions of homeless, hungry, hurting people in the world and in America, the richest country in the world.
How do we get the power to do justly when no one is looking? How do we be right and do the right thing when ego tells us to have our own way? How can our good become better, and our better the best like the Lord Jesus Christ? The way up is by humbling ourselves. Unless we humble ourselves of our pride, arrogance and self-righteousness, we will never walk with God. The absolute power and infinite intelligence of God has made it possible for us who are limited by time and the fragility of body to love mercy, do justly, and to walk humbly with God.
God called Martin Luther King Jr. to be a voice that would inspire and unsettle not only this nation but the world. His words and the movement continue to inspire today’s generation of men, women, and children. His dream of freedom, liberation and Justice is God’s dream for humanity.
Like Moses, Martin Luther King, Jr. longed for a new day for Black Americans in this nation. He longed for the day when all of God’s children would be free. He longed to see the day when the ideals of this nation would become a reality. We still long for that day. Moses looked to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. Dr. King believed God had led him to the Promised Land. Let us together do justly, love kindness, and walk humbly with God to the promised Land. Amen.