“Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.”
Epiphany Sermon Video
Click below to hear The Rev. Elizabeth Colton’s Sunday sermon preview for the last Sunday after the Epiphany, February 14th, 2021.
Dear People of St. David’s,
I love this verse about walking in the way of the Lord. Following God is seen as active—a going and doing, a being sent into the world to love and serve God, even as the psalmist talks about sitting in contemplation and meditation on God’s wonderful word. “I revere your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statues,” the psalmist says later in Psalm 119, after pondering that active following of God’s laws of love.
Next week, we enter the season of Lent and I’ve been reflecting how it is both an active and contemplative season. We are invited to walk with Jesus his way of the cross. And we are invited to ponder all Christ suffered and accomplished. Starting next Friday, there will be 12 Stations of the Cross in the Arboretum, for people to wander and meditate on Jesus’ walk to the cross. We can physically crunch through the snow and let the movement prompt prayerful reflection.
I’ve been thinking about walking and meditating as this Saturday is the Feast Day of Absalom Jones, the first African American priest in the Episcopal Church and an important part of our local Episcopal history. We are all invited to watch the service at the Philadelphia Cathedral on Saturday at 10 a.m. (You can sign up to get the link here: absalomjonesvideo.com).
Rev. Absalom Jones was enslaved by a vestry member of Christ Church and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. He was eventually granted the right to buy his wife’s freedom and then his own. He was a lay minister in a Methodist Episcopal church that had both black and white parishioners. One Sunday, some of the white leaders decided to try to segregate the black members to the balcony, where before they had both been mixed in the congregation. Rev. Richard Allen, the eventual founder of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination, described what happened when they came to the rail for prayer.
“I raised my head and saw one of the trustees, H.M., having hold of the Reverend Absalom Jones, pulling him off his knees and saying, “You must get up—you must not kneel here.” Mr. Jones replied, “Wait until the prayer is over.” Mr. HM said, “No you must get up now, or I will call for aid and force you away.” Mr. Jones said, “Wait until prayer is over, and I will trouble you no more.”
The ushers attempted to remove the worshippers while at prayer, so en masse, the entire black congregation walked out.
This Philadelphia Episcopal saint gives us a way to follow Jesus—coming to kneel in prayer in community—pondering the way of love and Jesus’ example of humility and peace—and then also walking. Jones and the others walked the way of the cross with Jesus.
Jones gives us a way to follow Jesus and the psalmist—both walking and pondering, both praying and acting.
Jones is but one of many amazing examples throughout our rich Episcopal history and a model for how we can follow Christ in our own unique time and history. After he and the others walked out, they started another church, served the community, provided medical care to black and white people during the yellow fever epidemic, among many other godly deeds. I know I want to commit myself to learning our history and following the examples of all God’s saints, so we might walk in the ways of the Lord, delighting in God’s commandments to bring about God’s law of love for all people of the world.
Let us walk together this way of love with Jesus!