Don’t let him know, but I stand in awe of a friend, Jim Stephenson, extraordinarily gifted musician and composer. He has a big heart that complements his big talent. He was so deeply moved by tragic events in Charleston several years ago that he composed a piece of music entitled There Are No Words, a piece offered in the confidence that music heals, or as Hans Christian Anderson put it: “When words fail, music speaks.”
I’m late with Monday Matters this morning. Like many clergy colleagues up late on Saturday night revising sermons in light of events in Charlottesville, I found myself wondering what to say today. I found myself with a heavy heart. I listened to a portion of Jim’s music.
I’m on retreat in the mountains of North Carolina, removed from newspapers and cable channels. Days and dates are not top of mind. This morning, I was on a walk in the woods, with a different Monday Matters message ready to be sent. Then I remembered that today is August 14. In the Episcopal Church it is a day we remember the life and ministry and witness of Jonathan Myrick Daniels.
He grew up in New Hampshire, and as a young adult had a profound conversion on Easter Day, 1962. He entered the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in March 1965, answered a call to travel to Alabama to help secure the right to vote for all citizens. He was jailed for joining a picket line. Then he and his companions were unexpectedly released. Aware that they were in danger, four of them walked to a small store. As sixteen-year-old Ruby Sales reached the top step of the entrance to the store, a man with a gun appeared, cursing her. Jonathan pulled her to one side to shield her from threats. He was killed by a blast from the 12-gauge gun.
We remember him on this day. In light of the weekend news, it may be a day in which we wonder who we are and how we got here. We may wonder what has changed since the 60’s. It may be a day when words fail.
And then there is music.
You see Mr. Daniel’s willingness to confront danger, part of his work for justice and peace, came in part from an experience of Evening Prayer when he took the words of a song, the Magnificat, to heart: “He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things.”
Pray this Monday for our nation and our world. Pray for a young woman who lost her life over the weekend, for those who mourn for her, for all who are injured in body, mind and spirit. Pray for faithful and loving leadership. Pray for all whose hearts harbor hate. Pray for those who are indifferent. (That may mean praying for ourselves.) Pray that the Spirit will show us how we can work for justice and peace and healing of our land.
And if words fail, read the words of the Magnificat below. It’s a song with the power to heal.
The prayer for the Feast of Jonathan Myrick Daniels
O God of justice and compassion, you put down the proud and mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and the afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
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