Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton, Senior Pastor,
Metropolitan AME Church
Sunday, January 15 2011
Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday
Scripture John 1: 43-51 MSG Bible Version (Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael): 43-44 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, “Come, follow me.” (Philip’s hometown was Bethsaida, the same as Andrew and Peter.) 45-46Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth!” Nathanael said, “Nazareth? [Can anything good come from there?]” But Philip said, “Come, see for yourself.” 47When Jesus saw him coming he said, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.” 48Nathanael said, “Where did you get that idea? You don’t know me.” Jesus answered, “One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree.” 49Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!” 50-51Jesus said, “You’ve become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven’t seen anything yet! Before this is over you’re going to see heaven open and God’s angels descending to the Son of Man and ascending again.”
Pastor Braxton shared an extended excerpt from Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Bus Story, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which described the decision-making process that Dr. King when through in weighing multiple career opportunities:
In 1954, after Dr. King had completed the course work for his Ph.D., he had job offers from colleges and churches in the North, and an offer from a church in Montgomery, Alabama, in the deeply segregated South.
The church was comparatively small, with a membership of around three hundred people, but it occupied a central place in the community. Many influential and respected citizens – professional people with substantial incomes – were among its members. Moreover, it had a long tradition of an educated ministry. Some of the nation’s best-trained Negro ministers had held pastorates there. From Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Bus Story, page 3.
He struggled with the decision, and prayed assiduously on it. While he despised “the tragic implications of segregation,” he felt that his place was in the South, where he could do more for his people. He decided to answer the call from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama…the rest is history…
The scripture text may seem to be about Nathanael, but it is more about “The Gritty Joy of Being Blessed to Bless”. There are several lessons to be learned from the scripture.
1. It’s not always easy to be a blessing. When Phillip found Nathanael to tell him that Jesus, Joseph’s son, “the one from Nazareth” had called them to follow him, without even realizing it, Nathanael made a racial and cultural slur. He said: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” You know what he is really saying: Can anything good come out of Montgomery? Can anything good come out of the South? Can anything good come out of Southeast (DC)? Can anything good come out of the African American community? Nathanael was contemptuous in his use of those words. Nazareth was an undistinguished place; not the kind of place that anything good was likely to come out of. But Jesus pierced through the unkindness of Nathanael’s words and poured into him a blessing of a lifetime. Jesus demonstrated the Gritty Joy of Being Blessed to Bless.
2. Sometimes as hard as it might be or get, don’t allow “the grittiness of being blessed to bless” rob us of the joy of being a blessing to others. Faced with a number of choices as to where he would go next – to preach, to teach, up north, or down in the segregated south – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had no idea where God would take him. But he knew that a blessing on him would be a blessing on the world. It wasn’t easy. But Dr. King chose the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama; and for him, that choice was the Gritty Joy of Being Blessed to Bless.
3. In the grittiness of human situations, we are best able to be a blessing when our witness, testimony and service are genuine and real. There is a lesson in Jesus’ response to Nathaniel’s derogatory slur, and Jesus’ choice to bless Nathanael with a compliment, despite his harsh language.
I grew up in Young’s Park in the projects in Norfolk, Virginia. Some teachers – and these were Black teachers just like me – despised the children from the projects. No matter what you try to do, you can’t succeed in being a phony. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming after having slurred “anything that came out of Nazareth”, instead of chastising him for his slur, Jesus declared: “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body!”
The real joy is in the grittiness of doing, the gritty joy of being able to bless someone else. If your testimony is fake, others will see right through you. Being a genuine, real Christian means taking off the façade, and blessing someone because God has blessed you.
You really can’t fake when Jesus is real in your life. You can’t fake when God has poured blessings, opened doors, moved mountains and stones out of your way. It will show, and others will be blessed because of you. You can tell when the preacher, the choir, the usher, the officers, the congregation have been blessed, and they know they have been blessed. There is something about a church’s witness when it is real. When the Lord has been good to you; when the Lord has answered your prayer, others can see it.
Sometimes, we would like to escape the gritty joy of being a blessing. We pray: “God just remove me from all of this work! Just let me come to church, pat my feet, put on my blinders, then go home to the comfort and security of my home. I’m tired of people asking me to do this and that!”
In verse 43, Jesus decided to go to Galilee, not to the big city of Jerusalem, not the Nile, but the sea of Galilee, and with gritty joy, to serve and be a blessing. When God can use you, go ahead and open the door and decide to go out into the streets, go out into the ghetto where people are suffering, go out there and help the people to find their way.
Richard Allen could have just chosen to stay in the Methodist Church. Rosa Parks could have just chosen to go the back of the bus. Harriet Tubman could have just decided to stay in the part of the country where she lived. But God had another gritty plan for them! And if you follow God’s gritty plan for your life, He will open doors and put joy in your heart.
- Sermon Notes: God’s Window for a Broken World
- Sermon Notes: Live a Grateful Life
- Sermon Notes: “When God Comes Crashing Into Your Life”
- Sermon Notes: Microphone Check!
- Sermon Notes: Survival Techniques When Your Well Runs Dry
Tags: Rev. Ronald E. Braxton