January 14, 2024 ~ 2nd Sunday after Epiphany ~ Human Relations Sunday
Rev. Beckie Sweet
Do you remember the Mercedes TV commercial from 20 years ago? It showed a Mercedes crashing into a concrete wall during a safety test. An engineer in a white lab coat then walks over after the crash and kneels down to examine the damage, which, amazingly is minimal! A reporter asks the engineer about the Mercedes’ energy absorbing car body. After the engineer tells all about the unique design, the reporter asks him why Mercedes doesn’t enforce their patent on the design, a design that was evidently copied by several other car manufacturers because of its success.
The engineer then replies matter-of-factly, “Because some thing in life are too important not to share.” How true that is!! There are many things in life that fall into this “too important not to share” category. There are the stunning advances in science, in medicine, in technology. But all of these pale in comparison to the importance of sharing our faith!
Today is Human Relations Sunday in many churches. This special observance is intentionally placed on the day preceding Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This Sunday presents to us an interesting intersection between the sacred and the secular, because the national holiday is meant to foster upstanding moral values, based on the Christian faith. The offering that is received in our United Methodist Churches strengthens our Church’s outreach to communities in the United States and Puerto Rico, encouraging social justice and work with at-risk youth. As did Martin Luther King, Jr., during his ministries of advocating for civil rights and equality for persons of all races, and in his efforts to raise the standard of living for this nation’s most impoverished residents, the programs underwritten by today’s offering send church-based community developers to work in communities with racial tensions. Outreach ministries establish and maintain a multiracial network of grass-roots social justice organizations related to U.M. Voluntary Service. And, local church Youth Offender Rehabilitation projects match U.M. mentors with first-time, nonviolent young offenders.
The Rev. Dr. King is the most recent individual to have a national day set aside in his memory and he presents an important personification to us in the modern United States of a person called by God to an overwhelming task. That task cost Dr. King his life, and, as we well know, it is still incomplete in our community, in our nation, and in our world.
Like Philip and Nathaniel, Dr. King knew when he encountered Jesus, that he was put in a certain place at a special time because God had a use for him. Dr. King had wanted a quiet life as a professor. He had earned a Ph.D. at Boston University and hoped to possibly be President of Morehouse College in Atlanta someday.
Through an odd turn of events, as a young pastor, he was thrust into the forefront of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was there that his youth, inexperience, faith, and calling were tested. There was a contentious series of public meetings, in which Dr. King adamantly reminded those who were rising-up to try to end racial oppression, that our faith in Christ demands that we should settle our conflicts non-violently. He continually confronted those who desired to rule might, with the precept that our Lord reigns with love. After confronting both the white and black “establishments” with his imperative message of peaceful, respectful relationships among the human family, he came home to hear an angry voice on the telephone say, “We’re gonna’ get you, N……!”
Dr. King recalled standing in his kitchen, frozen in fear. He wanted to call Daddy King for reassurance and advice, but Daddy King was not there. Then, he said, he heard the voice. “Martin, you do what’s right. You stand up for justice. You be my drum major for righteousness. I will be with you.” He had heard his name called. He knew what God wanted. His life was forever changed ~ and through his life, so was the world.
It was more than personal courage, strong faith, and a good education that gave Martin Luther King, Jr. what he needed to rise above his fear. He was given a vision from God that was greater than his own.
The awesome good news of the Christian message is that God cares for and calls us all to discipleship. Philip and Nathaniel encountered and were called by Jesus and felt compelled to do just that. When Philip encouraged Nathaniel to “Come and see,” in other words to encounter Jesus for himself, Nathaniel may have followed out of curiosity, but then, with just a brief conversation, was convinced that Jesus, is/was/will always be the Messiah. A calling is sometimes difficult to describe. And yet, each of us, in our faith in Christ, yearn to come to a sense of calling which gives us purpose, and the opportunity to put our faith into action.
Conversely, Nathan Williams told of two men who had been business partners for over twenty years. One Sunday morning they bumped into one another as they were both leaving the diner where each had gone to have breakfast. One asked the other: “Where are you going this morning?” “I’m going to play golf,” came the reply. “What about you?” The first man responded rather apologetically, “I’m going to church.” The other man said, “Why don’t you give up that church stuff?” “What do you mean 1 why should I?” “Well, we have been partners for twenty years. We have worked together, attended board meetings together, and had lunch together, and in the last twenty years you never once asked me about going to church. You have never invited me to go with you. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that much to you!”
Some things in life are too important not to share!
Our calling, on this Human Relations Sunday, is multifaceted:
- We are each called by our Savior to witness to the amazing ability of actions motivated by Christian love to transform adversarial relationships into caring community. We should be modeling that in our Church.
- We each have the responsibility to engage in ministries which promote the building-up of the human family through harmonious and helpful co-existence within God’s creation.
- We should be encouraging one another to seize every opportunity to serve Christ in any walk of life, in any profession, in any stage of life.
Because, some things in life are too important not to share!