A Prayer in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Adapted by Rabbi Menachem Creditor from a prayer by Rabbi Lilly Kaufman (http://www.rabbinicalassembly.
We know Dr. King would have faced hard facts today, and he would have made sure we faced them right by his side.
He would know the number of children
going hungry in America this very minute.
He would know the number of dead,
thanks to guided missiles and misguided people
and woefully-ignored gun violence in our country.
He would have had a thing or two to say about that,
Would have called not just for a no-shots-day,
but for a mentality that tolerates no shots any day.
Dr. King, your servant,
would speak truth about the astounding costs
of financial corruption, of institutionalized inequality;
he would have forced us to see the costs of "free trade":
27 million people today still cursed to live in slavery.
He would have seen beyond the numbers,
to the faces of people.
He would be preaching now
a determined, measured, poetic, prophetic outrage.
He would be teaching by example
our civic duty of compassion,
the obligations of citizenship,
and the grave danger of cynicism.
He would challenge the damaging notion
that money equals speech in a democracy.
When he gave his life for peoplesʼ rights
of speech, and assembly, and the vote,
it was for people who had no money to pay for speech.
They knew speech as an unalienable right,
and their wealth of spirit sufficed.
Dr. King had faith in a few great things:
one was our essential American dream.
Not a middle-class American dream,
or an upper-class, a working-poor,
or an impoverished-class American dream.
But the defining American dream
which lifts up those who are bowed down.
The abiding American dream
of liberty and justice for all.
Dr. King asked of God in 1964:
... grant that we will always reach out
for that which is high,
realizing that we are made for the stars,
created for the everlasting,
born for eternity.
And he taught us in 1967:
…Power at its best is love
implementing the demands of justice,
and justice at its best is power
that stands against love.
Dr. King's story is not to be appropriated as a tool for easy comfort and self-satisfaction by the established, by the well-off. His words were honed sharp by the depth of his righteous rage at society's inequalities. And those dreams he dreamed are, and forever will be, dreams worth dreaming. We lost our teacher so many years ago. But we have not lost his challenge to not search for consensus but to mold consensus by the power of our convictions.
We gather this morning to remind each other how to dream and how to act in Dr. King's spirit. For as he taught, "We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools." And we'd like to not be fools, Lord, alone in our suffering. We've got so much to do, and the good news is there is more than enough power in our community with which to see it done.
And so we pray:
· May we learn, Dear God, to reach again for that which is high.
· May we be blessed to pursue justice.
· May we remember the power of our convictions to change the world.
· And may we be blessed to stand together - now and for eternity - with overflowing, unconditional love.