Message by Lonnie Mair
Racial Justice Day
Second Sunday after the Epiphany (Ordinary
This morning we have two scriptures to aid us in focusing our
attention. The first is a scripture from the Old Testament, from Samuel,
telling a story from his youth. Samuel who lived about 3,000 years ago
had quite an upbringing. His mother, Hannah, who had been childless,
dedicated the child for which she had asked, to God. She took Samuel
when still a child to Eli at the tent tabernacle that Moses had had built
at Shiloh. Eli was glad for the child because his own sons were so sinful
that God was to curse them. One night, and we know it was not too late
because the menorah (lamp of the Lord-the seven candle-stick lamp)
had not burned out, when Samuel was about 12 he heard a voice.
Samuel slept in another chamber in the tent while Eli slept in the
chamber with the ARK. Samuel naturally thought that Eli had called,
and went to see what Eli needed. After the third time, Eli realized what
was happening and told Samuel what to do. Although Eli‟s eyes were
bad, he “saw” what was happening and told Samuel what to do. The
message that the Lord gave Samuel was not an easy one to relate to his
mentor, Eli, but he did it, and Eli recognized the truth of it and accepted
it as God‟s will. Here is that scripture:
1 The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In
those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not
2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he
could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp
of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in
the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the
LORD called Samuel.
Samuel answered, "Here I am." 5 And he ran to Eli and
said, "Here I am; you called me."
But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he
went and lay down.
6 Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and
went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
"My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the
LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up
and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So
Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say,
'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' "So Samuel went
and lay down in his place.
10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other
times, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."
11 And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do
something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who
hears of it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli
everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end.
13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because
of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves
contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore, I
swore to the house of Eli, 'The guilt of Eli's house will never be
atoned for by sacrifice or offering.' "
15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors
of the house of the LORD. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16
but Eli called him and said, "Samuel, my son."
Samuel answered, "Here I am."
17 "What was it he said to you?" Eli asked. "Do not hide it
from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you
hide from me anything he told you." 18 So Samuel told him
everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, "He is the
LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes."
The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let
none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan
to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a
prophet of the LORD.
Our second scripture focus comes from the New Testament from
John, written about events that occurred approximated 1000 years after
the event related in Samuel. Although scholars argue about whether
there was a village of Nazareth before Christ‟s time. There are a
number of issues having to do with Nazareth in Christ‟s time, not the
least of which was that Jesus was not accepted there and was almost
stoned. So it is possible that the scripture is reading back into the story
a later opinion. It is also possible that the more citified disciples didn‟t
think much of a small hill town with a somewhat dubious past.
Phillip, Andrew and Peter were from Bethsaida, or perhaps
Capernaum, a city east of the Jordon River and north of the Sea of
Galilee, close to where the Jordon goes into the Sea of Galilee. Here is
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding
Philip, he said to him, "Follow me."
44Philip,like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of
Bethsaida. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have
found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom
the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of
46"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael
"Come and see," said Philip.
47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him,
"Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."
48"How do you know me?" Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the
fig tree before Philip called you."
49Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel."
50Jesus said, "You believe[a] because I told you I saw you
under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that."
51He then added, "I tell you the truth, you[c] shall see
heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending
on the Son of Man."
The day after Jesus‟ baptism in the Jordon at Jericho, as you may
remember, Jericho is south of the Sea of Galilee just before the Jordon
river empties into the Dead Sea. Jesus decided to go to Galilee. --We
have to pause here to explain that John’s narrative differs from the other
gospels, because in the other gospels the day after Jesus’ baptism he goes
into the wilderness. --However, according to John, the next day after
Jesus‟ baptism, John and two of his disciples saw Jesus, one of which
was Andrew, and John said “Behold the Lamb of God.” Andrew left
John and followed Jesus.
According to the book of John, when Jesus arrived in Galilee,
along with Andrew, Andrew sought out his brother Peter. Andrew and
Peter were from Bethsaida or possibly nearby Capernaum, which was
also the home town of Phillip. Although the record is not clear, it is
quite possible that Jesus and Andrew traveled to Bethsaida which is at
the north end of the Sea of Galilee, while Nazareth is to the south and
East of the Sea of Galilee in the hill country. Capernaum was a major
city with a Roman presence and could have been considered
metropolitan for its time. So it is understandable that the city boy,
Nathaniel, questions the judgment of his brother Phillip as to whether
anyone out of Nazareth could be worth seeing or listening to. Phillip,
knowing his brother, simply said “Come and See!” When Jesus called
out to Nathaniel, before they had even met, understandably Nathaniel
was a little surprised.
The scripture from Samuel and the scripture from John both talk
of „seeing” and understanding. Even today a popular phrase is “I see,”
meaning “I understand.”
In the scripture, John, the Baptist, sees and calls out to Jesus and
tells his disciples who Jesus is. When asked by some of his disciples if
they can follow Jesus, John encouraged them to do so.
When the disciples of John asked Jesus where he was going after
they met that day after Jesus‟ baptism, Jesus invited them to “Come
and See.” When Andrew reached Galilee he sought out his brother and
then they sought out Phillip who in turn sought out his brother. In each
case, the brother was encouraged “to come and see” for himself. In
other words, they were invited to make up their own mind. That model
became an enduring one for the disciples.
In August of 1963, at a huge demonstration for human rights in
Washington D.C., Dr. Martin Luther King gave one of the most stirring
speeches ever made. It has become known as the “I have a Dream”
speech,” in it he reminded his listeners that 100 years before, President
Lincoln pronounced the slaves free in the southern states. Dr. King
stated the obvious that 100 years later segregation laws still kept the
Negro from being free. Five years later, in Memphis, Tennessee he gave
what became known as the “I‟ve Been to the Mountain” speech, in
which he said he‟d been to the mountain and looked over and seen the
promise land, prophetically, he said that he might not get there, but he
knew his people would.
Moses did not get to go to the promised land after 40 years in the
wilderness, and as he had prophesied, Dr. King did not get to the
promised land, because the next day after he made that ”I‟ve been to
the Mountain” speech on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, he was
Forty years after Dr. King‟s death, in a way symbolic of the Negro
having reached the “promised land”, a Negro was elected president of
the United States, and will be inaugurated as president this week.
For those of us that remember with horror, the grainy black and
white images on the television of the fire hoses being used on the
marchers in Selma, Alabama, the burned churches, the lynching, the
murders in Mississippi, the images of marchers herded into jail cells,
the demonstration in Washington D.C, and the assassination of Dr.
King, the inauguration will be a celebration of the promise of the
Yes, there will be those that will be angry, just as there were
those that tried to prevent the Israelites from crossing into their
“promised land.” Because not all people believe that their compatriots
on this earth should be equal to them, there remains prejudice. What is
that much used word? Prejudice is: any unreasonable attitude that is
unusually resistant to a rational influence? So prejudice has no reason
and has nothing to do with logic, therefore it cannot be reasoned away.
Often, there is an element of fear involved, so prejudice can also involve
fear and the absence of logic. So people who are prejudiced quite often
are afraid and they don‟t even know why.
There are those today that have consciously combined prejudice
and fear with religion, and have used the religious views of an
Armageddon as a reason to fear the election of a black man as
president. There have been doomsayers for as long as man has been
around foretelling disaster if one thing or another occurs. Certainly
there were doomsayers after the Emancipation proclamation, and after
the Civil Rights laws were passed. Unfortunately, since prejudice
doesn‟t involve reason, it is very nearly impossible to reason with
irrationality! Therefore, it is incumbent on the rest of us to allow
experience to be the teacher, so that life can show that the country can
flourish with a black man as president, just as it has flourished without
slavery, and without segregation laws.
Tomorrow is the day that the government has set aside for the
recognition and honor of the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He
has become a symbol of the struggle for human rights even though he
certainly was not the first, or the last to struggle for that goal. One of
the principles in which Dr. King believed was in a non-violent pursuit of
the goal of human rights. There were certainly others that promulgated
other means of achieving the goal, but I think that one of the primary
reasons that his legacy lives on is because, although he believed just as
fervently in the goal as those who advocated violence, his non-violent
reaction to those that persecuted him, won him many friends.
In his “I have Been to the Mountain” speech in 1968, Dr. King
said he saw the promised land, and by inference he invited all to climb
the mountain and “come and see” and experience the promised land.
Dr. King was an educated man and a Christian minister, and knew the
example that Christ had set so many years ago not far from the shores
of the Jordon River, with John the Baptist‟s followers and was using
Christ‟s example .
That model could serve us well today, the invitation to “Come and
See!” The men that Jesus encountered that would become disciples
knew that their brothers would be impressed by what they saw, and as
such, were not embarrassed to make the invitation to their brothers to
“Come and See”.
Could it be, that sometimes we are embarrassed to make the
invitation that the disciples did? Could we be afraid that our friends
might think less of us, after they saw us in worship? If that is the case,
perhaps we need to look at our worship and see what changes we might
make to eliminate our embarrassment. Or perhaps, it is a natural
reluctance to open a more personal side of our lives to those with whom
we rub shoulders in the work place. If that is the case, it is incumbent
upon us to share “the good news” with whom we work. Perhaps it is
because we don‟t know the people well enough and are prejudging them
as Nathaniel did when he asked could anything good come from
Perhaps, perhaps! Whatever our reason, or perhaps whatever our
irrationality, we are called to follow Jesus‟ example and issue the
invitation, and just say “Come and See!” We know that many of our
youth have followed Christ‟s example and have invited friends to youth
night and often we have enjoyed their company the next morning. We
don‟t know what the result will be when a young person follows a
friend‟s invitation to follow him to a church social evening, just as the
disciples didn‟t know what the result would be when they invited their
brothers to “come and see” Jesus. What we do know is that the
invitation changed the lives of the brothers forever. The purpose of the
invitation had not been to gain members in an organization, because
there wasn‟t one, the purpose was for their brothers to experience
something that they themselves had experienced.
I am not a big fan of New Year‟s resolutions, perhaps because I
know I probably won‟t be very successful in keeping them! I am
however, a big believer in trying to learn from my mistakes. Carol can
assure you that I am not always successful at that either. But I think I
do try! So I‟m not going to propose a New Year‟s Resolution, I‟m going
to propose that we try to learn from our mistakes! This year let us look
for opportunities to issue Christ‟s invitation to those with whom we
come in contact in our everyday lives. Let us remember that the
purpose of the invitation is not to proselytize for members in an
organization, but to bring people into contact with Christ. If the people
chose to join us as an organization that is a welcome bonus! When
Christ was asked where he was going, he issued the invitation, “Come
and See,” when we are asked what we are going to do on the weekend,
let us respond with Christ‟s invitation, to “Come and See!”