Isaiah 49:1-7 John 1:29-42
This week end and tomorrow on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, his famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” and other of his statements and comments will be heard on television, read in newspapers and internet articles; memes will flood people’s walls on Facebook and twitter, all to commemorate the civil rights leader who was assassinated over fifty years ago. “I Have a Dream” was first delivered at the Lincoln Memorial at the end of a long hot day on August 28th, 1963, as 250,000 people marched for jobs and freedom. The “I Have a Dream” speech has endured and lives in the American imagination, as a perennial call to action and hope, especially now at a time of great divide in our country. It is a call to discipleship. You will find a copy in your bulletin.
Our gospel lesson from John is also a call of discipleship. John sees Jesus and declares, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” John’s ability to act with such personal integrity and commitment – convinces his own disciples to check out Jesus. This was a powerful prophetic statement, for Jesus is not declared a king or a warrior by John. John calls him a lamb. A lamb isn’t a mighty figure. In fact, a lamb was sacrificed in the morning and evening in the Temple for the people’s sins. A lamb was at the center at the sacrificial Passover meal. Despite this helpless image, they were drawn to Jesus. “What do you want?” Jesus turns and asks them. Jesus asks them a loaded question: he’s asking them what they want out of their life, what do they want from him. So, Andrew shares with Simon Peter -- we have found the Messiah – the Messiah who asks who probes, who digs deeply into your psyche to encounter your truth. Lives are changed as a result. Lives will take on a new direction. Lives that will now be marked by discipleship.
Such is the power of God’s word to us, when we listen to Jesus’ words “What do you want?” What are we looking for? A decent job? A car to survive the Long Island Expressway? A great reservation at the trending restaurant in town? What do you want, Jesus asks. Really. To understand the scriptures. To embrace Good News. What do we want as a nation? Peace? Forgiveness? Equality? What do we want as a church? What vision and goals shall we claim for 2020? What do we want? What’s our answer?
As we grapple with the question, what do we want, we are shown a discipleship that is not just about learning dogma and teachings. It’s about relationship. Relationship with Jesus at the center of our life. Through discipleship we are taught to care for others. We are taught to share and sacrifice our resources when they are needed. We are taught to speak out and protect the vulnerable and poor when they are suffering. To be a lamb of God, like Jesus.
This is what Rev. King knew so well and learned so well. The nonviolent action he took with the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and later the freedom marches around the country grew out of his powerful experience of God’s life, love and divine word within him. Acting from that place of love and joined with thousands of other disciples he spoke the word. As a result, the civil rights movement took on a potency that made segregation illegal first in the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights act of 1964.
What do you want? Jesus asks us. How do we become more committed in service, in sharing the love of Jesus Christ, in proclaiming the lamb of God?
In the last years of his life, Dr. King’s prophetic word deepened, and he broadened his platform of racial integration to a Poor People’s Campaign to address the root causes of poverty for all peoples. King connected truth, to world, to being and action. He was a faithful disciple of Jesus. There is nothing more powerful than that.
The life of Rev. King and the gospel witness invites us to a similar experience of discipleship. The work of repairing and redeeming the world is carried out in the context of discipleship that declares a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus was about building and being in relationship in witness to the kingdom of God. So, Jesus spent time with his disciples. And in turn the disciples didn’t just attend a two-hour lecture or go to a service once a week. They spent as much time with Jesus as possible. They listened to Jesus. And when Jesus died, he didn’t leave behind writings, buildings or any possessions. He left behind disciples, with the living word of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide them. And that was enough.
Ultimately discipleship means our lives deepen to the point where we take a stand for others—even people we don’t even know. The gospel calls us to a place of wholeness and power—which can only be realized in the context of community.
Today, we are reminded that the power of Dr. King’s word and discipleship, are forceful because they are rooted in the witness and deeds of Jesus. We can experience the power of God’s word within us, shaping up into disciples of the beloved community. We are called to the very home of Jesus, the very heart of Jesus, who says “Come and see.” Come and see where he lives. In our hearts. In our holy acts of kindness, our promotion of the gospel in our community.
Today let us make a commitment to follow Jesus. Let us listen to our brother the Rev. King, who proclaimed “I have a dream.” I have a dream that former slaves and former slave owners will be able to sit down at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream…that little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers…I have a dream.”
What a power word from a powerful disciple. As we claim our journey, let this word bore deep in our hearts, and move our hearts and bring us closer to Jesus. And together as disciples, we discover what we want to do: let us speak the word the world desperately needs to hears, that our hearts yearn to know, that we desperately need to say that that we too, like Dr. King we can have a dream that can live in the hearts of all people. Amen