In his sermon before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Rev. Raphael Warnock called for equity and inclusivity at a time when Americans may feel like “we’re living in exile.”

Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached, said Sunday the country is experiencing a difficult time and he hoped God’s words may give people courage to stand up for justice and righteousness. Warnock is set to become Georgia’s first Black US senator after winning a close runoff election earlier this month.

“This time in which we feel like we are living in exile, a land made strange by a pandemic the likes of which no one living has ever seen. A land made strange by an economic turn down. A land made strange by a kind of political speech and rhetoric that continues to reach new lows. A land made strange when we witnessed the unthinkable as the very house of the people was attacked by those who are driven by the worst impulses, stirred up by demagogues,” Warnock said in reference to the January 6 deadly riot at the US Capitol.

“This strange time of exile, this strange time of spiritual exhaustion, this strange time in which the soul of our nation hangs in the balance,” he added.

The church’s services were delivered without an in-person audience and posted online because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Warnock focused his sermon on the book of Isaiah, which centers on the Babylonian exile. He specifically cited chapter 40, in which the prophet proclaims comfort to those who were exiled.

He quoted a verse, saying “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

He went on to say, “In God’s vision for the land, not only is there equity, not only is there integrity, not only is there possibility in God’s vision for the land, there is inclusivity. In God’s economy, there’s a place for everybody — red, yellow, Brown, Black and White.”

Warnock explained that poor Black and Brown people are often “crushed in the machinery of systems that don’t care about them.”

He said Eric Garner, a Black 43-year-old who died after being put in a police chokehold in 2014 after allegedly selling loose cigarettes illegally on Staten Island, and George Floyd, a 43-year-old Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, were treated unfairly.

“Meanwhile, Wall Street bankers destroyed billions of dollars of household wealth through mortgage fraud, and almost sent the entire American economy over the cliff,” Warnock said. “George Floyd died, Eric Garner died and not one banker went to jail. Crooked places.”

Warnock’s Sunday sermon comes two days after an Atlanta synagogue said it was the target of a cyberattack during its annual MLK Shabbat service in which the US Senator-elect was participating.

“Presumably, The Temple was singled out by a racist and anti-Semitic group or individual bent on silencing our joint Temple-Ebenezer Baptist Church MLK Jr. Shabbat,” Kent Alexander, president of The Temple, wrote in a letter sent Saturday to the congregation.

The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock speaks during the Martin Luther King, Jr. annual commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. Warnock announced his campaign for the U.S. Senate on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 challenging recently appointed Republican Kelly Loeffler. (Branden Camp/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

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