In the Name of God…
Many among his disciples heard this and said, “This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow.” After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: “Do you also want to leave?” Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go?”
For us gathered here, this is the question of why we come here. There are others places to get food or to hang out. But here, right here, Jesus is with us. He calls to each of us. To whom would we go? But his teaching, his life, his love, are not always easy to emulate. He challenges us. Calls to our very souls.
This year we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Jonathan Myrick Daniels. He was born in New Hampshire in 1939, studied at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) & Harvard University. He enrolled at Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, in the fall of 1963.
In March 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, gave his famous call to students, clergy and others to join him in Selma, Alabama, for a march to the state capital in Montgomery. During Evening Prayer at the chapel at ETS, Jon Daniels decided that he ought to go. He wrote:
"My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." I had come to Evening Prayer as usual that evening, and as usual I was singing the Magnificat with the special love and reverence I have always felt for Mary's glad song. "He hath showed strength with his arm." As the lovely hymn of the God-bearer continued, I found myself peculiarly alert, suddenly straining toward the decisive, luminous, Spirit-filled "moment"… Then it came. "He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things." I knew then that I must go to Selma. The Virgin's song was to grow more and more dear in the weeks ahead.”He traveled with others to Selma; but after the march, he and a friend decided that they must stay longer. Jon devoted many of his Sundays in Selma in an effort to integrate the local Episcopal church. He spent much of his time helping African Americans sign up to vote and to find the resources available to them.
On August 13, Jon and others went to the town of Fort Deposit to join in picketing three local businesses. They were arrested and held in the county jail in Hayneville for six days until they were released. Stokey Carmichael was one of Jon’s cellmates. After their release on August 20, four of them walked over to a local store to purchase a soda, and were met at the door by a deputy sheriff with a shotgun who told them to leave or be shot (in much more colorful language). When he aimed the gun at Ruby Sales, Jon pushed her out of the way and took the blast of the shotgun himself. He was killed instantly. Not long before he died, he wrote this:
“I lost fear when I began to know in my Bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord's death and Resurrection, that in the only sense that really matters I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God.”Jonathan heard the call, and he gave his life for that call. It is Jesus who calls you and me, in the same way, to live into his life and words, and there we will find real life, eternal life. He is the Holy One of God. May we hear the words of Jesus for each of us today & live out his call, his love in our lives. Amen.