Sermon – January 18, 2015
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ John 1:43
Please be seated
Every week, you sit in this space and worship in the midst of this beautiful stained glass window of John, the Gospel writer. This year we’ll hear quite a bit from John’s Gospel. On Friday, we had a clergy day in Lexington. The presenter was Gail O’Day, Dean of Wake Forest Divinity School. She was in town for the ordination of one of her students, Andrew Hege, the new Associate Rector at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.
Dr. O’Day is also a New Testament scholar and has written much commentary on the Gospel of John. Also a Professor of Preaching, she was helping us look at the Gospel in new ways. She said that the Gospelwriter wanted to emphasize the extravagant love of God for us. She also said that during Jesus’ time, the religious authorities wanted to silence Jesus, because his teachings and upheaval they were creating amongst the Jewish people, were causing the Roman occupiers to take more notice. The authorities didn’t want any scrutiny from Rome. They wanted to be left alone. John is writing to say that there is a cost to remaining silent…that there is a cost to rejecting the teaching of Jesus, God incarnate.
And this weekend we remember The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who certainly embodied the point John was making. Just like Samuel, God called Dr. King’s name and set a mission for him. Just like Philip and Nathanael, Jesus called Dr. King to follow him.
In 1956, after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. King left Montgomery. He said, “History has thrust something on me which I cannot turn away.” Dr. King was well educated, graduated from high school early. He was to be a great preacher like his father, most likely at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where his father was pastor. That was the life laid out for him and the life he expected.
While I’m sure he thought he’d be part of a movement for justice, he never expected to be a major leader in that movement to the point where he was away from his family and congregation for long periods of time and in so many cities in the United States. A role that meant his home was bombed and death threats surrounded him. It seems like the prudent thing to do would have been to remain silent, but Dr. King could not turn away from his calling.
That’s not the life he planned, but it was the life God called him to and just like Samuel, Dr. King said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And just like Philip and Nathanael, he responded to Jesus’ call by following Jesus.
And he knew that following that call could mean he would die relatively young. He knew that following that call could mean being murdered.
I still remember when Dr. King was assassinated, even though I was only 10 years old, how he had seemingly foretold his death. Over and over again, the news played excerpts from his speech the night before. He said,
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.
I just want to do God’s Will. I just want to follow Jesus. I just want to serve God. That’s what we all need to be saying and figuring out.
Because not doing God’s Will…not following Jesus…not serving God, has consequences. We heard that in our reading from Samuel. Eli had not stopped his sons from disrespecting and speaking against God, so God told Samuel, Eli’s family would be destroyed.
So, there are consequences for ignoring God’s Will. We may try to ignore God’s calling to us out of fear of what will be required of us. It’s probably not in our life plan. And look what happened to Dr. King and who wants a short life and a death like his? What could be worse than the consequence of death?
But here’s the paradox: when you are doing God’s Will and when you are following Jesus and when you are serving God, death doesn’t frighten you anymore. Death has no power over you. The night before he died, Dr. King ended his speech by saying,
[God’s] allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
I’m happy…I’m not worried…I’m not fearing anyone!
Follow me, Jesus says and St. John writes. The following may not be easy. We may even lose our life, but we will know the abundant love of God. We’ll be happy. We won’t worry and we won’t be afraid.