22 January 2009

Crossing Jordan?


Everyone else has commented on the inauguration. I’ll leave the political analysis for them.

I am still trying to believe this really happened, sort of like Israelites looking back across the Red Sea and asking, “Did that really happen?”

Of course, the whole Exodus story is twined around America. This past Sunday I quoted from MLK’s famous last speech, the one I hold most dear, even above the Lincoln Memorial oration. He said he had been to the mountaintop and seen the Promised Land. I read the whole speech which is very long and winds toward that climax very slowly. Only now, so many years later, did the fuller meaning of that reference become evident to me.

It refers to Moses, to the end of the Exodus story which is the end of his life. God takes Moses up to the mountaintop to see the land he will not enter. God has decreed that because Moses disobeyed at Meribah he may not cross into the Promised Land. Though the people will go forward, he will not.

Those in Memphis knew the story intimately, and so King’s reference, likening himself to Moses, was not grandiose but humbling. He knew he would not enter the Promised Land because he had disobeyed.

We will never know exactly what sin King held himself accountable for. But all leaders are human and fallible, and so they cannot ever be as strong and as good as they must be. They all fail because they are all imperfect because they are all human.

I thought of that this week, as the man some think is our Joshua took the place of leadership. No matter how good and how strong and how noble he is, he is not good enough or strong enough or noble enough. He will fail because he is human.

But the people will still go forward.

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