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8/23/2009 - The Rev. Susan N. Blue - The Twelth Sunday of Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:40 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:40 PM by Terry Brady ]
August 23, 2009
The Rev. Susan N. Blue

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of God’s power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)

The letter to the Ephesians has Paul writing in chains from prison. Our epistle this morning challenges the Christians in Ephesus to continue to battle against that which is not of God; to use the armor of truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation. His final request is for prayer, that which undergirds and establishes a relationship with God, by individuals and by the community. Though the weaponry used as metaphor would have been understood as that of a Roman soldier by first century Christians, it is no less relevant for us today.
Those of you born after 1975 may never have heard of Episcopal seminarian, Jonathan Daniels. He graduated as valedictorian of his class at VMI and entered Harvard in 1961 to study English literature. A year later he felt called to the Episcopal priesthood and entered what is now the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. This Sunday has been designated Jonathan Daniels Remembrance Day in the state of Wyoming and the preacher at St. Mary’s church in Cheyenne will be the Rev. Judith Upham. She accompanied Jonathan to to Alabama to join with The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Civil Rights movement. They intended to stay only for the weekend, joining the march from Selma to Montgomery. They missed their bus, however, and stayed on. While there they integrated the local Episcopal Church, tutored children and registered black voters.
“Daniels was among a group of 29 protestors who were arrested while picketing a whites-only store in the small town of Fort Deposit, Alabama on August 13, 1965. They were released from jail a few days later. Daniels and three others walked down the street to get a cold soft drink at a grocery store, where they were met by a local resident, Tom L. Coleman, who threatened them with a shotgun. When Coleman fired at 17-year-old Ruby Sales, a black woman, Daniels pushed her out of the way and was killed instantly. Coleman was later acquitted. Upham said that: ‘Daniels death helped galvanize support for the civil rights movement within the Episcopal Church. We became serious about civil rights. The school, ETS, also became involved in the anti-war movement,’ she recalled. ‘There was a new sense of laying down your life for others. That’s what we are called to do.’” (www.episcopalchurch.org)
It is easy to forget the incredible progress this nation has made on many fronts as we confront the rampant greed and warmongering extant today. Paul writing in chains, in prison, to the Christians of Ephesus, could be a prototype for the chains that bound our black citizens in the 1960’s. Though slow to mobilize, the Christians of all denominations with other determined citizens made a huge difference during that time. It inspired an entire generation of young people who became aware that they could make a difference and influence the decisions of our nation.
From earliest time it has been incumbent upon the people of God to stand for that which we know to be true and righteous. It was true in the time of Solomon who challenged his people to give up foreign gods and to worship God, our Creator, only. It was true during the time of Jesus…who gave up everything, his entire self, that we might understand who we are called to be. As he conquered death and the powers of darkness, so shall we if we follow in his footsteps.
The Gospel from John links participation in the Eucharist with intimate relationship with Christ and with God. It goes beyond just eating the bread and drinking the wine. His life, death and resurrection are detailed in the Holy Communion, and give us a pattern for our lives as Christians.
We are to be people of prayer, for that is fundamental to our relationship with God and to our ability to take on the weapons of Paul as we deal with the enemies within ourselves and without. Our goal is peace, truth and love for all people, not just those like ourselves. Like Jonathan Daniels, we are to be mobilized until all people have the basics of life and access to the freedom and the opportunity that we enjoy. We are to live in hope, with courage, and not succumb to the numbing fear that produces inaction.
It is important that we not lose the cosmic aspect of evil and allow evil to rest in certain individuals whom we dislike or do not respect. We know from the Gospel that no one, absolutely no one, is beyond the reach of God’s redeeming love. Human beings at times do evil things, but our deepest concern must be the systemic evil around us that rewards some and denies those gifts to others. (Curtis Preston, copied.) The civil rights movement came about as a result of an evil system, one of marginalization and prejudice. That system still exists today in many different ways. We are called, as people of God, to speak the truth in love to the principalities and powers; to do so in solidarity with others and certainty that we are deeply loved and empowered by our God of limitless love. Helen Keller said: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” (Copied)
Let us embark on the daring adventure of life armed with peace, love, courage and, above all, prayer. AMEN