Homily from service on July 10, 2022 – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
by The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden // The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
Please be seated.
So you may have noticed several things about our worship service that’s a little different today. As I mentioned earlier, these are signs of our COVID respite time. A two week rest that our bishops have encouraged for all parishes. Today’s worship reflects our effort to be true, to a time of greater simplicity in our common life, time of rest and refreshment for all of us. Also, in keeping with our COVID rest, for these two Sundays, we’ve decided not to research and prepare a sermon. Instead again this morning, I’ve selected a sermon to share with you. Though I can hardly live up to the oratorical skills of the man who originally spoke these words. I share with you today an excerpt from a speech by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
These remarks are drawn from a speech he delivered on April 3 1968 in Memphis, to a crowd of over 20,000 people in support of the sanitation workers strike. Taking a cue from the opening sentence of this selection, we might title this sermon speech, a dangerous unselfishness. So now in the words of Dr. King.
Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base. Now, that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question for midair and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite. And a priest pass by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help them. Finally, a man of another race came by he got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him administered first aid and help the man in need. Jesus ended up saying this was the good man, this was a great man because he had the capacity to project the eye into the bow, and to be concerned about his brother.
Now, you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times, we say that we’re busy going to a church meeting an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem, so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times, we would speculate that there was a religious law, that one who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body 24 hours before the ceremony. And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe, maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem or down to Jericho, rather, maybe they were going to organize a Jericho Road Improvement Association. That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt it was better to deal with the problem from the causal route, rather than get bogged down with an individual effect. But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem, we rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, I can see why Jesus use this as the setting for his parable. It’s a winding meandering road, it’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho 15 or 20 minutes later, you’re about 22 100 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. And the days of Jesus, it came to be known as the bloody paths. And, you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over at that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there to lure them there for a quick and easy seizure.
And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, if I stopped to help this man, what will happen to me? But then the Good Samaritan came by and he reversed the question. If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him? That’s the question before you tonight, not if I stopped to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job? Not if I stopped to help the sanitation workers? What will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor? The question is not if I stopped to help this man in need, what will happen to me? The question is, if I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them? That’s the question. So let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God once more for allowing me to be here with you.
Dr. King spoke for more than 40 minutes that evening. And in the finale to his speech, he famously concluded with these prophetic words like anybody, he said, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that. Now, I just want to do God’s will. And so I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. And as we all know, Dr. King was assassinated the following evening. A dangerous unselfishness, indeed.