John Lewis - Walk With the Wind

Proper 13A’20 2 August 2020

Matthew 14.13-21

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

North Little Rock, Arkansas

The Rev. Carey Stone

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is loving to everyone and his compassion is over all his works. Amen. - From Psalm 145                     

Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church or the Universal Church is comprised of many strands of the Christian Faith, most groups fall into one or more of these major traditions. For example, those groups who emphasize scripture and evangelism fall under the Evangelical tradition.  Those who’s focus is on living a holy life, are a part of the Holiness tradition. Those who focus upon spiritual gifts are under the Charismatic tradition. Those who stress the importance of prayer and meditation are within the Contemplative tradition. Those who’s focus is upon the Sacraments of the Church are in the Sacramental tradition, and lastly those who stress the importance of justice and equality for all are a part off the Social Justice tradition. If you’d like to know more about these various traditions, you can check out Richard Foster’s book: Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of the Christian Faith. 

Today I will touch on two of those traditions: Social Justice, and Sacramental.

To come to church today and to not speak about Congressman John Lewis after his death and memorial service, would be to ignore and disrespect a great man. As a young and idealistic twenty-something, he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to stand up, step up, and to speak out, against legalized racism and the inequality of segregation, and to speak up for equal rights for all Americans, especially black Americans. In 1963, as the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he was allowed a few moments to speak at the podium at the Lincoln Memorial just before Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Like Dr. King, he was committed to peaceful and nonviolent protest, as a way to bring positive change in the struggle for equality.  After the assassinations of MLK and Robert Kennedy he felt compelled to do something, he knew that hate would never change hate, that only Love could. John Lewis took up their legacy and continued to work in the Civil Rights Movement and eventually became a member of the US House of Representatives for the 5th congressional district for the state of Georgia, a post he occupied until his death. He was a man of utmost integrity, of principle, committed to the nonviolent pursuit of justice for all, and he did it with kindness. In an interview from 2017 he stated: There’s a member of Congress who comes to me on the floor almost every single day – a new member – and he says to me, “John what is the word for the day?” Some days I say to him, Kindness. Goodness. Courage.[1] John Lewis is a wonderful example of the Social Justice tradition within the Universal Church. As Anglicans and Episcopalians, we can claim many as our own who have worked for justice, and peace in the past, and who continue to do so to this day. Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, the great, great grandson of African slaves and longtime advocate for equality, tells the story of how his father came into the Episcopal Church:

“My father didn’t feel comfortable going up for communion, but when my mother went up, he watched closely. Was the priest really going to give her communion from the common cup? And if he did, was the next person really going to drink from that same cup? And would others drink too, knowing a black woman had sipped from that cup? He saw the priest offer her the cup, and she drank. Then the priest offered the cup to the next person at the rail, and that person drank. And then the next person, and the next, all down the rail. When my father told the story, he would always say: “That’s what brought me to the Episcopal Church. Any church in which black folks and white folks drink out of the same cup knows something about a gospel that I want to be a part of.” [2]

The story from Bishop Curry shared about his father’s first communion, points us to another great tradition within our faith as Episcopalians- the Great Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. As we may remember a sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”     [3]

In some churches the sacred meal is strictly a remembrance, but in our church, it is not merely a memorial of one particular Day 2000 years ago, but a living reality where the resurrected Christ becomes present not only in the elements of bread and wine, but in the body of Christ gathered. His body is literally re-membered, and our bodies become the outward and visible signs of Christ’s body walking, talking, and ministering in the world. This is why we also promise at Baptism “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.”

As we contemplate the Eucharist we see the outward signs of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and the mystery and pattern of the Christian life is unmasked -we hear this pattern in todays Gospel when Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives the five loaves and two fish of a little boys cold lunch and manages to feed thousands with 12 baskets of leftovers. This is the generous God we worship, who loves us so much that he was taken, he was blessed by the Father, his body was broken, and he was given for us and for the whole world to bridge the social distance between us and God. This is what is reenacted at each and every service of Holy Communion and it is for us to offer all that we have, no matter how miniscule it may appear to be, Christ then will take us, and all of our broken imperfections and make us into a meal to feed the world. Jesus told his disciples (who thought the 5000 needed to be sent home}, “You give them something to eat.”

John Lewis was a man taken, blessed, broken, and given by God for the common good of our nation and our souls.

So, my friends, let us never underestimate what our God can do with our cold little sack lunch, when we give it to him!

John Lewis gets the final word today from his last essay: 

"Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe… Walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace, and the power of everlasting love be your guide. 
[4]

 

 

 [1] TIME, Vol.,196, NOS.5-6, August 3-10th, 2020

[2] Curry, Michael, Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus

[3] The Book of Common Prayer, p.305

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