My second visit to Wilshire was on Nov. 26, 2017 for Coffee and Conversation with George Mason. We were having the best time conversing about authors and pastors we both follow and talking public education with my husband, Jake, who is a teacher. I mentioned Reverend Barber as someone who has inspired me to move in my faith. At that moment, Heather Mustain said he was coming to an Interfaith event on Martin Luther King weekend that Wilshire was hosting with Temple Emanu-El. If I had to pinpoint the exact time I might have decided to join this church, this is probably it! Going to this event was an experience. I haven’t even written about it until now because I had no idea how to put it into words. I am attempting to do just that.
Rev. Barber inspired me early on when I lost the boat I was on. I found him through Twitter, like everyone else. Someone shared an article he wrote that floored me, so I started following Repairers of the Breach. One Sunday they shared a sermon he preached when I was home on Sabbatical deciding what to do about my faith and our church. After listening to Reverend Barber’s sermon, I wanted to stand on my chair to praise we have a leader who can lead us through this mess we are in right now. I immediately bought his book, “The Third Reconstruction,” and learned so much. I recommend this book to everyone. Interfaith efforts (or the collaboration between different religious groups) is one thing I was inspired by in his book, so when Heather said there was an Interfaith event planned, I knew the Spirit had lead me home.
Reverend Barber opened the Interfaith event with a Gospel song that let me know, in my bones, that we are part of a movement happening now. The song repeated in multiple stanzas of pray on, fight on, stand on, march on a little longer, everything’s gonna be alright. It was a moment.
Rev. Barber started the sermon with Jeremiah’s lament in Jeremiah 20 of being called by God and then being ridiculed for sharing what was revealed to him. Jeremiah said he could refuse to continue to share and keep the word of the Lord to himself, but the word would continue as a fire in his belly. I relate to this on so many levels. It is hard (and I know Wilshire knows this too) when something is revealed as such good news but others don’t see it the same way. I have really had a hard time accepting so much loss in my life, but I look at what I gained and then I can’t stop feeling gratitude.
Rev. Barber went on with the story of Marin Luther King, Jr., who is similar to the prophet Jeremiah. Barber said, “We who have great hopes for this nation, cannot afford to be schizophrenic in our understanding about who Dr. King was.” He did not want this call. He had a PHD and could have lived a comfortable life anywhere. He had conflicting opinions about who he was. He did not always know. There was fear and trepidation. But one night he heard God say, “Martin, let me tell you who you are. Stand up for freedom; stand up for justice, and I will be with you.” God never said you won’t be killed. Martin Luther King went after the sickness of the whole system. He was declared an enemy of the state once he opposed the war. He even lost the NAACP when he challenged the Vietnam War, because this administration had passed the Voting Rights Act. Martin Luther King lead a life that called for action, and he challenged the oppressive system that profited off of racism and poverty.
There was so much more Rev. Barber said. I cannot document all of it. But let me say the black prophetic witness is strong. They know how to suffer. Rev. Barber is bringing back the Poor People’s Campaign Martin Luther King started. His work is not done. Rev. Freddy Haynes said we tried to freeze Dr. King in time as a dreamer, but he was more than a dreamer – he was a Drum Major leading the revolution. We want the dreaming King, not the revolutionary King.
At the end of the event, Rev. Barber had us hold hands together as one body of believers in a God that hears the cry of the oppressed. We were holding hands with people of all faiths, and hearing Rev.Barber yell “Glory”! My friend Heather, who attended the event with me, looked at me when it was over and said, “I have never experienced anything like that.” I hadn’t either. The Spirit is uniting those of us we treat as “other” at the same time our government is trying to divide us along those same lines. It usually takes our backs against the wall to seek help from those of different faiths, and even different denominations. The Spirit works to unite. The Spirit leads us into the chaos to find the truth. People of faith are rising up! Hope is here.