Rector Jerry's Reflections
Walking the Talk at St. Matthias
The Rev. Jerry Prickett’s
insights from Scripture, Tradition and Reason
St. Matthias’ Church – January 19, 2020
Isaiah 49: 1-7;1 Corinthians1: 1-9; John 1: 29-42; Psalm 40: 1-12)
August 21, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech at the Christian Action Conference at Montreat. Almost 3000 people attended. Dr. King’s presence had already been postponed once because of rioting in the Watts section of Los Angeles.
Many in the Presbyterian Church wanted to rescind his invitation to speak, but he came, even though there were no black folk in the audience and few women.Early in the speech, Dr. King said, “Whenever a crisis emerges in society, the church has a specific and a great responsibility. It has a real responsibility in the midst of this crisis because the problems involved are essentially moral issues. The church, being the moral guardian of the community, cannot overlook its moral responsibility at this hour.”
As he had been doing since 1955, Dr. King was honoring his call to lead the Civil Rights Movement and in April, 1968 he would be assassinated in Memphis because of his ministry.
All of today’s readings reflect the Sense of Call. In Isaiah we find: “The Lord called me before I was born.” All of Psalm 40 is a response to God’s call. In Corinthians, there is “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” And the first disciples are “called” in the Gospel of John.
However, the account of Jesus’ baptism in the gospel of John seems simple and straightforward. It was not scheduled in advance. There was no fanfare or significantly distinguishing element…no angels or trumpets. John is caught off guard (no mention of Jesus being his cousin)…no one else seems to notice much of anything.
On the next day Jesus returns…John identifies him as the “lamb of God.”
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, decides he wants to know more. He goes to visit Jesus where he is staying, likes what he hears, goes to get Peter, and the two are called to follow…and so are we.
Jesus’ call to Andrew and Peter and John is our call, “Follow me”. Dr. King’s call was to follow Jesus and for him that meant, ultimately, becoming the leader of the Civil Rights movement. But first, it was simply, “follow me.”
An Episcopal Priest, the Rev. James Liggett says, “When we are called, and we ARE called, each and every one of us – just look again at our Baptismal Covenant – this is primarily a call to be held by Jesus for a while, and not to go anywhere, not to do anything. It’s a call to find out where Jesus lives and to spend some time living there. By and by, this will lead us somewhere. But we won’t know where for a while, maybe not for a long while.”
To be baptized is to answer Jesus’ call to embrace his love and sacrifice for us, to discern the elements that will be part of that call, to come to the realization that above all, our call is to love God and our neighbors, and to demonstrate that love in our prayers, in our spiritual life, and in how we put our commitment into motion.
Dr. King, in his Montreat speech, in words that resonate all too clearly today, said this about prejudice. It is based on fear ”and so many stereotypes…disseminated by politicians who use them to arouse the fear of their constituents…in order to [maintain] their political power.”
But we dare not blame it all on politicians, even recognizing their lack of reason and compassion. What about “preachers” akin to Jim Bakker who make statements such as, “You Must Love Trump to Prove You’re ‘Saved’. We dare not give them a free pass for their prejudicial and misguided support of people whose ego is their faith.
How do we get past prejudice fed by half-truths and whole lies?
How do we overcome our unfounded fear?
Where will we find the courage and conviction to honor our call to love our neighbor, to in fact, live into our baptismal covenant? We do it by living into our call, living into our call. AMEN