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Epiphany 2 Commemoration of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. January 14, 2018 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
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EPIPHANY 2  Year B
(Commemoration of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139:1-6, 12-17; I Corinthians 6:12-20;
John 1:43-52
 
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, January 14, 2019
The Rev. Janet Campbell
 
 
In the gospel readings
for the season of Epiphany,
Jesus’ identity is progressively revealed
as his ministry begins to take shape.
 
This happens in John’s gospel,
through
what is seen.
 
Today we heard
only the latter part of John’s account
which begins with
the other John,
John the Baptist,
          who baptized Jesus.
 

The very next day,
John and John’s disciples,
saw Jesus approaching,
and John cried out,
“Here is the Lamb of God . . . ”
 
When I baptized him,
“I saw the Spirit
          descending from heaven like a dove . . .”
                  
“I myself have seen and have testified
          that this is the Son of God.”                 
                                                           
 
The next day
as Jesus passed by again,
 John exclaimed,
         
Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
 
Two of John’s disciples
          hurried after Jesus,
who stopped and said to them,
 
“What are you looking for?”
 
“Rabbi, where are you staying?”
they asked.
 
And he replied,
“Come and see.”
                             [John 1:29-40]

Looking and seeing.
 
It continues
through today’s reading:
 
The newly-enlisted Philip
          telling Nathanael,
 
“We have found him about whom
Moses [and] . . . the prophets wrote,
Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
 
Nathanael’s dismissive reply,
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
 
(We’ll return to that later).
 
And Philip’s invitation,
“Come and see.”
 
Nathanael came
and was astonished  
by Jesus’ remark . . .
 
“Here is truly an Israelite
          in whom there is no deceit!”
 

“Where did you get to know me?”
          he demanded.
 
“I saw you under the fig tree
          before Philip called you,”
          replied Jesus.
 
Perhaps the words of the psalm we sang today
rose up in Nathanael’s memory:
 
“Lord, you have searched me out and known me . . .
you trace my journeys and my resting places . . .”
 
Truly one who could do those things
          must be the Lord,
“the Son of God, the King of Israel.”
 
“Do you believe,” asked Jesus,
“because I told you
that I saw you under the fig tree?
 
You will see greater things than these.”
 
“ . . . You will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending
and descending upon the Son of Man.”
 
 
Looking and seeing.
 
 

People become followers of Jesus
because they look and see
          and come to believe . . .
 
often at the invitation or example
of others
          who themselves
          have looked and seen . . .
                   believed and followed.


Looked at the one from Nazareth,
that insignificant backwater village
which, in Nathanael’s dismissive view,
          could produce nothing of worth.
         
Looked at the one who lived and died
in a land and time and culture
          so far removed from our own
as to be, in the dismissive view of today’s skeptic,
          irrelevant to our own lives and problems.
 
 
People become followers of Jesus
because they have
looked at  Jesus,
and with eyes suddenly opened,
seen in Jesus
and in his followers
something so compelling
that one might dedicate oneself
          to living by and for it.
 

Something called the gospel . . .
the good news:
 
The revelation in Jesus
of who God is:
 
the source of
all love,
all compassion,
all mercy,
 
all forgiveness,
all healing,
 
all justice,
all peace.
 
The revelation in Jesus
of God’s impartiality,
God’s spacious generosity,
 
pouring out
on all creation
and all God’s creatures,
 
this love,
compassion,
mercy,
forgiveness,
healing,
justice,
peace.
 

“Come and see,”
Jesus says to us,
“see what I see
as the Son of God and son of man . . .”
 
“Change the way you see the world
change how you see yourself
          and your neighbor.
Change how you see the stranger
          and that which is foreign to you.”
 
See and change.
Change and see.
 
God’s love in Jesus
inviting us to embrace a new vision:
the kingdom of God
as seen through Jesus’ eyes.*
                            
How clearly
Martin Luther King, Jr.
saw Jesus,
and that kingdom.
 

So completely claimed
by the gospel was he
that he saw with
          the eyes of Jesus
the world
          in all its flawed possibility . . .
 
and the kingdom of God
          in all its beautiful splendor.
                  
With the eyes of Jesus,
he saw
the glorious dignity and worth
          of every human being,
                   each made in God’s own image.
 
He saw
that glorious dignity and worth,
          God’s own image,
          defiled and despoiled
                   by ignorance and prejudice.
                            
He saw
how the powers of this world
          promote racism
                   and profit by it.
                                               
At the risk
          and the eventual cost
                   of his life
he proclaimed and enacted
          the values of the kingdom:
love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness,
healing, justice,
peace.
 
His insistence on the rights
of his own people,
and of all people,
 
his tactics
of peaceful demonstration
          and powerful proclamation;
of action in the streets
          and advocacy in the halls of power,
 
brought about change
          once thought impossible.
 
His dream of
God’s kingdom of equality and justice
has inspired not only African American people,
but also women, LGBTQ people,
American Indians,
Latinos . . .
 
has moved our country
closer to being
what we say we are . . .
a land of freedom and opportunity for all.
But . . .
the struggle continues . . .
 
and
could not be more urgent
than it is today . . .
 
 
For in this last year and a half
we have seen
that we are not who we say we are . . .
 
the persistence and nastiness
          of American racism has been revealed . . .
 
even in the highest places
          of honor and responsibility.
 
We celebrate
Dr. King on the very weekend
when the hate-filled words
of the President of our country,
the President of the United States of America,
 
          echo across our land
          echo around the world . . .
 
appalling words
denigrating people and nations of color.
 

The President who cynically asks,
“Can anything good
          come out of Africa,
          out of Haiti,
          out of Mexico,
          out of Central America
          out of Islam . . . ?”
 
While we who gather here
          are compelled to cry out,
          in lament and anger,
 
“Can anything good
          come out of this White House?”
 
 
The work is not finished.
 
Look!” we say today,
“here is Martin Luther King, Jr.,
servant of God,
lover of Jesus,
champion of the gospel.”
 
We have seen in him,
in his life and ministry,
how this work
          can be continued:
 
with faith and courage and love and steadfast hope . . .
 

this work of
shining the bright light
          of the gospel of Jesus
into the dark corners
          of the American psyche . . .
 
revealing the evil
          where it lives,
 
naming it
          and renouncing it . . .
 
for evil cannot stand
          in the light of truth.
 
We must not be silent,
we will not be silent,
 
for to be silent
is to accept,
to acquiesce,
to give our assent,
to what is defiling our nation
          and tearing us apart.
 

In the words
of our dear friend and priest
Samuel Torvend,
who, even while recovering from surgery,
posted on Facebook last night:
 
“I say:
let there be mourning and protest from the churches
          directed at the White House –
thousands upon thousands of telephone calls, emails,
          and media posts
denouncing, in the Name of the Divine Liberator,
          this infernal hate.
No Silence – No Silence! –
          from the Churches that hold the Sacred Memory
                   of the One Who Creates All in the Divine Image.”
 
No Silence.
 
Except perhaps the silence
I invite us to keep together
for the next few minutes,
a silence
in which we await God’s call,
 
the silence into which we say,
“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
 
So be it. Amen.
 
 
*Development of theme encountered in Fr. David Gerardot’s  “The Good Shepherd Bulletin” 1/14/18