Archive for the ‘Vernon Johns’ Tag

Faith and Grace   1 comment


Above:  William Lloyd Garrison

Image Source = Library of Congress


Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-10320


The Collect:

O God our redeemer, you created light that we might live,

and you illumine our world with your beloved Son.

By your Spirit comfort us in all darkness, and turn us toward the light of Jesus Christ our Savior,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 3:1-5 (January 4)

Joshua 1:1-9 (January 5)

Psalm 72 (both days)

Hebrews 11:23-31 (January 4)

Hebrews 11:32-12:2 (January 5)


Some Related Posts:

Exodus 3:

Joshua 1:

Hebrews 11-12:


Give the king your justice, O God,

and your justice to the king’s son;

that he may rule your people righteously

and the poor with justice;

that the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,

and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people

and shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

–Psalm 72:1-4, Book of Common Worship (1993)


The assigned readings for these days tell us of Biblical heroes of faith, from Moses to Joshua son of Nun to Rahab the prostitute–quite an assortment!  I perceive no need to repeat their stories today, for the Bible does that better than I can.  And I have other matters on my mind.

If I were to amend the hall of fame of faith in the Letter to the Hebrews, part of my addition would read as follows:

By faith abolitionists challenged racial chattel slavery in the United States.  By faith Harriet Tubman risked life and limb to help her people, who called her “Moses.”  By faith Sojourner Truth spoke out for the rights of women and African Americans alike, as did William Lloyd Garrison.  By faith Frederick Douglass challenged racism and slavery with his words, deeds, and very existence.

By faith members of subsequent generations challenged racial segregation.  These great men and women included A. Philip Randolph, Charles Hamilton Houston, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bayard Rustin, Vernon Johns, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  They challenged the United States to confront its hypocrisy, to live up more closely to its stated ideals, and to guarantee civil rights.  By faith Thurgood Marshall fought the good fight in courts for decades.  By faith brave students, supported by their courageous parents and communities, integrated schools with hostile student bodies and administrators.

By faith Nelson Mandela confronted Apartheid and helped to end it.  By faith he encouraged racial and national reconciliation as a man and as a President.

All of these were courageous men and women, boys and girls.  There is no room here to tell their stories adequately.  And the names of many of them will fade into obscurity with the passage of time.  Some of their names have faded from collective memory already.  But they were  righteous people–giants upon whose shoulders we stand.  They were agents of divine grace, which transformed the world, making it a better place.

May the light of God, incarnate in each of us, shine brightly in the darkness and leave the world–if only one “corner” of it at a time–a better place.  May we cooperate with God, for grace is more about what God does than what we do.  We ought to work with God, of course.  Doing so maximizes the effects of grace.  But grace will win in the end.  That is wonderful news!






Adapted from this post:


This is post #900 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.


Lazarus and Dives   1 comment

Above:  Lazarus and Dives


Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints


Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Jeremiah 17:5-11 (Revised English Bible):

These are words of the LORD:

A curse on anyone who trusts in mortals and leans for support on human kind,

while his heart is far from the LORD!

He will be like a juniper in the steppeland;

when good comes he is unaware of it.

He will live among the rocks in the wilderness, in a salt, uninhabited land.

Blessed is anyone who trusts in the LORD, and rests his confidence on him.

He will be like a tree planted by the waterside,

that sends out its roots along a stream.

When the heat comes it has nothing to fear;

its foliage stays green.

Without care in a year of drought,

it does not fail to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above any other thing, desperately sick;

who can fathom it?

I, the LORD, search the mind and test the heart,

requiting each one for his conduct and as his deeds deserve.

Like a partridge sitting on a clutch of eggs which it has not laid,

so is he who amasses wealth unjustly.

Before his days are half done it will leave him, and he will be a fool at the last.

Psalm 1 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the one who does not take the counsel of the wicked for a guide,

or follow the path that sinners tread, or take his seat in the company of scoffers.

His delight is in the law of the LORD; it is his meditation day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside water channels;

it yields its fruit in season and its foliage never fades.

So he too prospers in all he does.

The wicked are not like this; rather they are like chaff driven by the wind.

When judgment comes, therefore, they will not stand firm,

nor will sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

The LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Luke 16:19-31 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

There was once a rich man, who used to dress in purple and the finest linen, and feasted sumptuously every day.  At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, who was covered with sores.  He would have been glad to satisfy his hunger with the scraps from the rich man’s table.  Dogs used to come and lick his sores.  One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and there, far away, was Abraham with Lazarus close beside him. ‘Abraham, my father,’ he cried out, ‘take pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue, for I am in agony in this fire.’  But Abraham said, ‘My child, remember that the good things fell to you in your lifetime, and the bad to Lazarus.  Now he has his consolation here and it is you who are in agony.  But that is not all: there is a great gulf fixed between us; no one can cross it from our side to reach you, and none may pass from your side to us.’  ‘Then, father,’  he [the rich man] replied, ‘will you send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house, where I have five brothers, to warn them, so that they may not come to this place of torment?’  But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them.’  ‘No, father Abraham,’ he replied, ‘but if someone from the dead visits them, they will repent.’  Abraham answered, ‘If they do listen to Moses and the prophets, they will pay no heed even if someone should rise from the dead.’

The Collect:

O Lord, strong and mighty, Lord of hosts and King of glory: Cleanse our hearts from sin, keep our hands pure, and turn our minds from what is passing away; so that at the last we may stand in your place and receive your blessing; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Dr. Vernon Johns, Dr. Martin Luther King’s immediate predecessor at Dexter Street Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, preached to an affluent congregation of African-American professionals.  They did not want press for civil rights, and Johns disagreed with them.  The deacons fired Johns after a few years and called a the young Rev. Dr. King, whom they thought would not be an activist.  Ironically, King, as pastor at Dexter Avenue Church, became prominent nationally for his involvement in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the middle 1950s.

In a sermon at Dexter Avenue Church Vernon Johns preached on this day’s Gospel text.  Johns stated that the rich man’s fault was not his wealth, but his acceptance of segregation, in this case, along economic lines.  Then, of course, the pastor made the link to acceptance of racial segregation.  And the implications of that analogy were clear and unpopular.

Johns understood the parable correctly.  In life the rich man (Dives) knows about the presence of Lazarus at his gate, and does care about him.  Dives does not lift so much as a finger to help the desperately poor man outside his home, and he can help Lazarus, at least.  And in death Dives considers Lazarus no better than a servant.

Please, Abraham, send Dives to cool my tongue.  What?  He can’t cool my tongue?  Can he warn my family, at least?

God sees us as we are, not as others see us.  This is good news for some and bad news for others.  Fortunately, by grace, there is hope for redemption.  And our exercise of free will plays a part, too.

The parable of Dives and Lazarus is a cautionary tale.  May all of us learn its lessons and act on them.






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