revjoaquinwillisweb.gifIn Exodus (3:2-3), “An Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed, then Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn. So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’”

God used an Angel to call Moses to His service. We could say that God picked up the phone to initiate a dialogue. Many of us walk right past a ringing phone, not stopping to consult the operator (or burning bush), unaware that God may be placing a call to us. 

Scholars discuss the character of the burning bush, dry thorny flora that ignite spontaneously in desert heat.  It was the flame, not the bush, that caught Moses’ attention. 

The flame was the glory of God’s presence, a fire that transforms but does not consume. The biblical account capitalizes “Angel,” identifying that God resided, in disguise, in that form.  

Through the flame, Moses realized that nature, in all its uniformity, was not a barrier which excluded God, but which could veil His presence.  We understand that many incoming calls are muted, not ringing loudly.   Through a flame which did not consume, Moses saw the power of God hidden within everyday life.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s final and apocalyptic message of April 3, 1968, “I See the Promised Land,” was the subject of my focus during this year’s MLK observance.  The biblical imperatives within Dr. King’s message challenge us still.    

In a re-read of Dr. King’s words, we can hear the phone ringing:  “We must always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Never forget we (black people) are individually a poor people but collectively we are richer than all nations in the world with the exception of nine.” 

Dr. King advised, “The Negro in 1968 had annual income of over 30 Billion dollars.” In today’s dollars, that number exceeds 500 billion dollars, and we remain richer than the countries originally cited in Dr. King’s analysis. 

Dr. King recommended, as does President Obama today, that we collectively work to equably redistribute wealth, to ease our collective pain.  Dr. King called for the creation of a black economic agenda.  Today, President Obama, in my opinion, correctly calls for a multi-racial economic agenda. With a “collective” united front, regardless of color, and using a morally sound, ethical, faith-based agenda, much can be done.  A multi-racial collective worked to elect President Barack Obama.

A national African American-led movement has created the Collective Banking Group.  A collective of Christian churches that has pastors working with multi-racially owned local banks, seeks to bring about economic justice by engaging all ethnicities and races of the faith community.

The phone is ringing for each of us today. The burning bush is before us–our economy is in flames.  The Angel of the Lord is reflected on the face of President Obama.  God is gathering our attention, waiting for us to turn aside, to answer the call He is initiating.   

The phone is ringing. Is the call for you? 

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email
the pastor at