Sermon – Year B Proper 15/Feast Day of Jonathan Myrick Daniels
Propers: 15 B – 1Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
For Jonathan Daniels Proverbs 4: 20-27; Psalm 85: 7-13; Galatians 3:22-28 & Luke 1:46-55
Were we to follow today’s proper lectionary scripture selections, we would find that in our reading from Kings, our Psalm and our Epistle, “one word” (as our own Martha Bourlakas would invite us to ponder) would be wisdom.
And, as we are following the feast day of Jonathan Myrick Daniels today, we would hear from the book of Proverbs that essentially to listen for God’s wisdom and then do not turn to the right or to the left … to continue on that path that God has chosen for us. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put all devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward and your gaze be straight before you.” (Proverbs 2: 23-25).#
For Jonathan Myrick Daniels Feast Day the Epistle is Galatians 3: 28 and 29. “There is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
And the Gospel for his feast day is the Magnificat as cited in the Gospel of Luke.
Who is this Jonathan Myrick Daniels? And why has the Episcopal Church given him a feast day?
One might simply say that he is a modern-day martyr … a person of strong beliefs … one who walked his talk. And walk he did.
His life actually began in 1939 in Keene, New Hampshire. Ultimately he graduated from Harvard. His life, to that point, was a constant searching for the meaning of life, death and vocation. It was a struggle for him to choose between medicine, ordination, law and writing. He actually came to Lexington, Virginia and graduated from VMI (Virginia Military Institute) prior to enrolling at Harvard to study English Literature. At one point he was on the edge of losing faith when he was touched by God. The day was Easter, 1962. Place: Church of the Advent in Boston. He immediately became a seminarian at ETS (Episcopal Theological School) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His soul was moved yet again by a television appeal from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, to come to Selma to secure the right to vote for all citizens. (Interestingly, a day of remembrance for all again this past week.) Jonathan then took a leave from seminary to go to Selma, under the sponsorship of the then Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity, along with several of his classmates and others. As the words of the Magnificat instilled in him new insights he said “I knew that I must go to Selma. The Virgin’s song was to grow more and more dear to me in the weeks ahead.”1
On August 14, he, along with his companions were jailed. Unexpectedly they were released on that same day. Four of them left the jail and walked over to a small store. Sixteen year old Ruby Sales reached the top step of the entrance to the store, where a man with a gun appeared, cursing at her. Jonathan then pulled her to one side to shield her from the threats.
Jonathan was killed by a blast from the 12-gauge gun.
He gave his life to protect another.
The profound effects of Selma left their mark in his writings. He says, “The doctrine of the creeds, the enacted faith of the sacraments, were the essential preconditions of the experience itself. The faith with which I went to Selma has not changed: it has grown … I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection … with them, the black men and the white men, with all of life, in him whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout … We are indelibly and unspeakably one.”2
Jonathan never made it to priesthood…but clearly heard God’s call and was where he was supposed to be doing God’s work. Ruby Sales, the teen whose life he saved, completed that task for him. She went on to seminary. Yes, she went on to attend Episcopal Theological School (now Episcopal Divinity School). She works as a human rights advocate in Washington, D.C. and founded an inner-city mission dedicated to Daniels. 3
Also, in his memory, several of his classmates from VMI meet annually on this day and march to follow his footsteps in Haynesville, Alabama, where he was brutally shot.#
How very poignant his story as we experience a resurgence of the very things for which he fought.#
Wisdom … the body of Christ … loving our neighbor … knowing that we are all part of the same human family and are equally loved by the one who loves us all. Knowing God, through the example of the presence … the bread and wine … that we, too, are to stand for righteousness, no matter what.
How do we … can we … will we … go forth this morning, embodying that which we have heard in our heads, felt it in our hearts and then use head, heart, hands and feet to serve, like Jonathan … and as Christ has taught us?
The seed is planted … God invites and God will be with us and, God willing, we, too, can achieve Kingdom living here on earth.
Let us pray:
O God of justice and compassion, you put down the proud and mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and the afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.4
1 Compilation of authors; Holy Women, Holy Men – Celebrating the Saints, Chuch Publishing, Inc., NY, NY, 2010, p. 526.
2 Ibid, p. 526.
4 Compilation of authors; Holy Women, Holy Men – Celebrating the Saints, Church Publishing, Inc., NY, NY, 2010, p. 527.