Note: A personal and biblical reflection on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day originally posted on Monday, January 18, 2016 and, here, revised.
The angel of the Lord appeared to (Moses) in a flame of fire from a bush that was blazing, yet not consumed. God called, “Moses, Moses!” He said, “Here I am.” (God) said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings and I have come down to deliver them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3.2, 4, 6a, 7-8a, 10; abridged and paraphrased).
Martin stood in the line and light of Moses, taking up the mantle of the ministry of leading people (some might say black – but, I believe, all – Americans) out of the bondage of discrimination. Today, Martin, assassinated on April 4, 1968, has been gone for more than a half-century. Moses, far longer. Yet their labors, the labor of lifting up the oppressed remains, in this day and time, surely and, therefore, sadly necessary.
In reflecting on the lives and legacies of Moses and Martin, believing their labors to be fitting for all good-willed folk, I speak for myself within the character of my chosen Christian identity and within the context of my community, the church.
The church is no sentimental memorial society commemorating a dear, dead leader. The church, called into being in response to Jesus’ command, “Do this in remembrance of me,” exists to remember his sacrifice; his body broken and his blood shed on the cross of his crucifixion.
And to remember that God sent Jesus to be the last sacrifice, the last victim.
And to remember that the breaking of the bread and sharing the cup is “not for solace only, but for strength.”
And to remember that in the strength derived from partaking of spiritual food, Christians are to go down to Egypt – a metaphor for anywhere and everywhere in a world that, failing to understand the meaning of the cross, continues to seek and make sacrificial victims – and to labor so that no one of any class or color, tribe or clan, sex or gendered identity, social group or political party will be victimized and crucified on the twin Calvary crosses of phobia and prejudice.
This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and every day, I hear the vox Dei, the voice of God, saying, singing, “Paul, go down and (your name here) go down. ‘Way down in Egypt land. Tell ole Pharaoh, ‘Let my people go!’”
© 2021 PRA
“…not for solace only, but for strength” from Eucharistic Prayer C, The Book of Common Prayer, page 372.
Go Down, Moses, Negro spiritual, author unknown; c. early-19th century.
Illustration: Moses and the Burning Bush, Sébastien Bourdon (1616-1671)
Photograph: Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, Washington, DC (January 14, 2012)
5 thoughts on “(Your Name Here), go down to Egypt”
Thank you so much for these thoughts today. “(Your name here)” is a powerful way to bring the message to those of us for whom it is always so tempting merely to listen to rather than to live out the story and the calling of the liberation of ourselves and of our sisters and brothers. Especially this week in our fraught land, we must be reminded that each of us stands in Moses’ shoes as God is still speaking.
I received a short poem today from Kirkridge, which is a peace-and-justice conference center in Pennsylvania where I have been fortunate enough to attend several retreats. (It was for many years a favorite spot for Fr. Daniel Berrigan.) I found the poem so fitting in its resonance for today, for this week, and for these times:
the small place
between yesterday and tomorrow
where people who can see futures
whisper to each other
the words to the songs they must sing
to lead the way
the narrow corridor
creaks with every step
people think they can run the path like bulls
but the only way forward is at the pace
of our collective heartbeat
altogether, imperfect, together
the past is turning to dust behind us
we must remember
the future is waiting beyond our anxiety
we must dream
the present is so small
we must fill it with our transformation
(dedicated to michelle, kali, ananda, sha and guppi)
– adrienne maree brown
an American author, doula, women’s rights activist
and black feminist living in Detroit, Michigan.
Thank you, Paul. May we today attend to the voice calling us forward from this small place we occupy together.
Thank you, Karen, especially for sharing adrienne maree brown’s poem. It, for me, in and through her austere and lucid prose, is most evocative.
Again, my thanks and my love,
Dear Karen and Paul, this was amazing!!
As Karen stated, the title of this post was powerful (and perfect!)! I’ve been working all day on very little sleep, YET I was looking for the place to (put my name here) in response to this post. And the poem Karen added made this post even better. I’m ready to fill the present with our transformation and to go down to Egypt Land to say “Let my people go”! Thank you for this very thought-provoking post today!
Love to you both!
And likewise, dear Loretta, much love to you on this day and for all the days of the journey to come!
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Thank you, dear Loretta, and with you and Karen, love all-round!