“My soul magnifies the Lord.” (Luke 1:46)
Jonathan Myrick Daniels (whose life and sacrifice are remembered on August 13 in the Episcopal Church’s calendar) jumped in front of a shotgun’s discharge to shield the life of another.
He was a seminarian, an educated white man from the Northeast, who got himself to Alabama to join others fighting for civil rights in 1965. After being released from jail with four companions, he and another white man (a Roman Catholic priest) and two black women, were prevented from entering a store to buy soda on the hot August day (the 20th) by a man with a shotgun and pistol. When the shotgun was leveled at one of the women, Jonathan pushed her out of the way, receiving the bullets himself.
Jonathan gave up his comfortable life with the luxuries of class and status, using those tools of his gender and skin tone to draw attention to those who were stuck in social, geographical, and economic swamps.
Jesus came to the poor, lowly, voiceless. When Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus uses his status to pull her up out of the mire in which she’d been stuck. She accepts the living water which Jesus offers, she finds new life in God’s redemption. Jesus sees people in the shadows, people that others do not bother to notice, and he calls them into the light; Jesus gives up the riches, glory, position, and power of being the Son of God for the sake of being with us, loving us well, stepping in front of the bullets of Sin’s Death for each of us.
Part of what’s unsettling about Ferguson, I think, is that it lays bare our own situation. Our lives are overcome with violence, chaos, disorder, fear. The emotions and forces acting out on the streets of St. Louis mirror the condition of our own selves.
Ferguson, and all creation, wait in groaning and despair for their Savior. As the Samaritan woman, we have met the Savior at the well; God washes us with the waters of life in Baptism, and nourishes us through his own body and blood in the Eucharist.
We are not the saviors of this age. We are not able to do any more than to try to serve as a window, a reflection, a magnifier of God’s presence; a sign and signal of the Savior’s faithfulness.
Hear our cry, Lord; save us and heal us, for your mercy is great.
a version of a homily preached August 13th, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.