Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., taught us to dream of a better America-a more compassionate and just society where everyone can live with dignity.
Some of us learned from Dr. King as we marched beside him in Montgomery, in Selma, in the Birmingham jail, in Washington, D.C. Others, learned vicariously, through his enduring legacy. Speaking with both the righteous anger of our prophets and pastoral tenderness, he had to convince people that "there is a balm in Gilead" and that non-violent civic disobedience would eventually bring liberty and justice as is written in King's own words in the "magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence."
That was his dream: A dream not yet realized as the many events of this past year, Eric Garner in Staten Island, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, 12 year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, bring home to us. "Black lives matter". All lives matter.
King conveyed his powerful message through preaching about the black experience of slavery, discrimination, and poverty. The Bible was his text, and black gospel songs were his music.
I spent Friday night at Congregation Mishkan Israel's annual interfaith service in tribute to Dr. King. Four choirs, the CMI Chorale, Z'mirah Chorale, Grace and Peter's Episcopal Church Choir and Pratt & Whitney United Church helped mark CMI's 175th anniversary and commemorate the memory of Dr. King with song so harmonious, melodious and joyous that we were transfixed. This Little Light of Mine", "Let There Be Peace on Earth", "Ose Shalom", and a brilliantly conceived and performed amalgam of "Mi Chamocha" and "We Shall Overcome".
On Sunday afternoon, I went to Chester's Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, whose 100th anniversary year began with a concert by Sweet Honey in the Rock. With voices pure and smooth as honey, the 5 woman a capella ensemble had all 450 people clapping and singing to gospel, spirituals, hymns and a little Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley. Today, I attended a musical community celebration at St. Luke's Episcopal Church with a spirited and moving program by the St. Luke's steel band and Music Haven that concluded with the song, "Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring Ring with the harmonies of liberty".
I don't really sing. It's a kindness to others, but I hum, I sway, I clap. I respond more to the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel, who famously said while marching from Selma to Birmingham with Dr. King, "I felt like my feet were praying." At Mishkan Israel, Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, and St. Luke's, my heart was filled with song and I was praying.
There is still so much to be done to correct the injustices of the world. All of us share the dream of Dr. King. We are not done...yet. But, if we are so united, Jews and Christians, Moslems and Baha'is, white and black, red and yellow, old and young, as I experienced this weekend, we will get there.
In the tradition of "call and response" in the African-American churches, let us all say "amen".