Readings for Jonathan Myrick Daniels (14 August 1965)
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3: 25 – 28)
Long ago in my undergraduate studies an anthropology teacher told us that there was no such thing as race, He said further that, if all humans can reproduce with one another we are the same species. He suggested that even to use the term “race” made one a racist. It took science a long time to get to where Paul was over two thousand years ago. Jonathan Daniels, whom we remember today also, must have figured that out.
“Jonathan Myrick Daniels was born in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1939. He was shot and killed by an unemployed highway worker in Hayneville, Alabama, August 20, 1965.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 14) Daniels really lived into the words of Paul to the Galatians where it says “no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”.
Following Jesus is a sacrificial life. We give ourselves to Jesus for the sake of justice. Jonathan Daniels was just such a person. I talk about these kinds of people because they need to be known and remembered. They did what they did because they were moved by the Holy Spirit to not be afraid and to stand up for justice no matter what.
I always find it amazing when someone can identify the moment they first believed. For me it was years of conversion, not a single incident or a day. But for Daniels, “Like many young adults, from high school in Keene to graduate school at Harvard, Jonathan wrestled with vocation. Attracted to medicine, ordained ministry, law, and writing, he found himself close to a loss of faith when his discernment was clarified by a profound conversion on Easter Day 1962 at the Church of the Advent in Boston. Jonathan then entered the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 14)
In March 1965, the televised appeal of Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Selma to secure for all citizens the right to vote touched Jonathan’s passions for the well-being of others, the Christian witness of the Church, and political justice. His conviction was deepened at Evening Prayer during the singing of the Magnificat: “‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things.’ I knew that I must go to Selma. The Virgin’s song was to grow more and more dear to me in the weeks ahead.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 14) Again, following Jesus is a sacrificial life. We give ourselves to Jesus for the sake of justice.
“After a brief return to Cambridge in May to complete exams, he returned to Alabama to resume his efforts assisting those engaged in the integration struggle. Jailed on August 14 for joining a picket line, Jonathan and his companions resolved to remain together until bail could be posted for all of them, as it was six days later. Released and 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, a man with a shotgun appeared, cursing her. Jonathan pulled her to one side to shield her from the unexpected threats and was killed instantly by the 12-gauge blast. (Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 14)
Jonathan’s letters and papers bear eloquent witness to the profound effect Selma had upon him. He writes, “The doctrine of the creeds, the enacted faith of the sacraments, were the essential preconditions of the experience itself. The faith with which I went to Selma has not changed: it has grown . . . I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection . . . with them, the black men and white men, with all life, in him whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout . . . We are indelibly and unspeakably one.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 14) This testimony and witness of Jonathan Daniels should never be forgotten. We need to live into Paul’s words; we are all one in Christ Jesus. There is no such thing as race, we are all one and the same, all of us.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. John+