Adapted from a sermon
Delivered January 15, 2006
Immanuel Presbyterian Church
The Rev. Dianne O'Connell
I Samuel 3:1-10
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
Where Did All the Disciples Go,
Long Time Passing
Today we observe Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy to our country, our world, and to ourselves as individuals. The national observance of King’s birthday is set for the third Monday in January, which is tomorrow. But his actual birthday is today.
Most of us here remember the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. I suppose the Movement started back before the Civil War, but for our generation, it was the 1950s.
I reflected this week on how the Movement must have come together. How Martin Luther King’s followers found one another, encouraged one another, took risks together, and lived, laughed, and died together – or died alone.
story in the Gospel of John this morning describes the time when Jesus began
gathering his disciples. In the story, Jesus calls two of his best known
disciples (Peter and Andrew) and two of his lesser known disciples (Nathanael and
Philip). Here they were – four fishermen – in on the ground floor of something
really significant. A lot lay ahead. The
miracles, the confrontations with power, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and
the ascension. What happened to these men after the events in
became the Lead Disciple. Jesus said he would build his church upon this
rock. The Catholics consider Peter as the first pope. It is certain that
Peter died in
was Peter’s brother. After
It’s probably good that our four disciples didn’t have a magic looking-glass to foretell their future prior to deciding to follow Jesus.
go back to those early days in
These were young men, in their 20s and maybe 30s. They were working men – all four fishermen. What was it really about this Jesus that made them drop their nets, take to the road, and adopt his vision and his mission as their own? Jesus would be a man one would want to be with, listen to, travel with. He had a vision of “what could be” that boggled the mind, as we might say today. Once the “miracles” started happening, the disciples were hooked. They might not have fully understood, but they knew enough that they wanted to hang out with this man – and with each other.
Have you ever been a part of a group, a group all committed to the same vision? And, lo and behold, working together, that vision becomes brighter and brighter, comes closer and closer, and, wow, you did it!! You won! You finished the project. You changed a small corner of the world. Together you made it happen.
And then the group breaks up. It’s lonely. It’s hard to keep the faith. It’s just not the same.
group, his disciples, scattered to
Most of us want to avoid that end, if we can. But commitment to a cause can result in rejection and even death.
Jump forward a couple thousand
The Prince of Peace had come, but there was no peace. The Christ in whom there is no east or west, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or freeman, had come yet there still was injustice, racial injustice, economic injustice. Humans can contrive more forms of injustice than just about anything they try their hand at.
And then another man comes to the river and meets Jesus. Nothing’s changed, the disciple laments. “Lord, show me what to do?”
Time magazine this week ran excerpts from a new book about Martin Luther King, Jr., called At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-1968, the final volume of Pulitzer prizewinner Taylor Branch’s three-part history of the civil rights movement.
a non-Black person, I was particularly interested in the part where, over the
opposition of his staff, King reaches out to leaders of other ethnic groups to
enlist them in the Poor People’s Campaign. At one point, King meets with
78 non-black minority leaders, mostly unknown to King and to each other.
They came from across the
One white woman in the group, Peggy Terry, admitted being raised in a Kentucky Klan family. After watching and listening to King, she joined the Movement. Where else, she asked, could a hillbilly housewife trade ideas or trade jail cells with a Nobel prizewinner?
were heady days. Then on a balcony in
What happened then? Where did all the disciples go?
· Andrew Young became ambassador to the United Nations and is now chairman of a consulting group called Goodworks, International;
· Jesse Jackson, former presidential candidate, is founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition;
John Lewis is a Democratic Congressman from
· Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.
· This past week, I read an Associated Press article about 78-year-old calypso singer Harry Belafonte. Described as a “close collaborator of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and now a UNICEF goodwill ambassador,” Belafonte is not letting age slow down his activism. He was visiting VENE-ZU-E-LA, not to sing -- but to call President George Bush, “the greatest terrorist in the world.” Belafonte still has the vision.
In the Time story, the aging King disciples each gave their thoughts on what King would be doing if he were alive today. Most offered that King would be involved in the issues of war and injustice facing us in today’s world. But one offered another perspective
“We can’t wait for Dr. King to come back”, said Marian Wright Edelman. “Where is The Voice today? We’re it. He did his part. Now we need to do ours.”
And Lord willing, we shall.
This will be a great
We will be the participants in making it so.
So as I leave you this evening, I say,
“Walk together, children.
Don’t you get weary.”
From the MLK speech: We Shall Overcome, June 17, 1966
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