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A Saint in Living Color

A Saint in Living Color

Readings for the feast day of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, seminarian, August 14, 2020:
Psalm 85:7-13
Amos 5:18-24
Luke 1:46-55

I am reminded that the feast of Jonathan Daniels is one of the major reasons I love our calendar of Saints–we are so fixed on images of the divine, that saints remind us of Jesus’ own humanity, and of our own threads of connection to the divine. Saints were real, just like us–and none remind me that of more than Jon Daniels.

It’s also why I chose the color version of the standard picture of him that is so often seen on this day. It’s no different than the tones in my own boxes of fading family photos, Christmas dinners, and vacation trips of decades past. The fading hues are an inescapable reminder of just how real he was, and just how long this process of racial equality has been going on in the window of my own lifetime. Since black and white photography was the norm at that time, it’s tempting to see Jonathan Daniels as a frame of history, something less than real. Yet it is as equally inescapable in a church as small as ours, to be disconnected to the very real, very once living, Jonathan Daniels. I’m betting over 95% of people presently in our church, can claim three or fewer degrees of separation. I personally know people who knew him, as probably do many Episcopalians.

Others have told his story far more eloquently than I can; I refer you to this story,and this story for a pair of really fine snapshot views of his life, as well is this excellent TED talk by Ruby Sales. I’d like to do something different with you this week.

What I ask you to do is study this color photo as you read today’s readings is to inject some color into them, not the dead and dying sepia tones that arise when a certain amount of time passes, but the crisp colors you see on your HD screens as you follow today’s news–colors that are not going to fade unless the pixels on your screen fades. If you don’t know how many degrees separated you are from Jonathan Daniels, do a little detective work and try and find out. Once we can make the legacy of one saint real, we can begin to make many more of the saints’ legacies real, and in the case of this particular saint, start to understand more deeply the importance of seeing in living color–all the hues and highlights and shadows and overlays.

Probably many of us have seen on far too many essays and social media posts these days, the phrase, “I don’t see color.” I’m asking us all to do something very countercultural in these strange days–to boldly say, “ I see color, and lots of it.” I’m reminded that for jobs in the laboratories I’ve served, a test for color blindness is an essential part of the training process for new techs–not to exclude someone, but to assist them in how to be able to care properly for patients when observing a color change on a test is part of the diagnostic process that leads to healing. Is it possible that challenging the grays in our own worlds can lead us to the healing of others? Do we dare to see things in living color, rather than the faded, washed out, dying grays of aging statues and the stories that created them in the first place?

Jonathan Daniels, were he alive today, would be 81. The days are fast approaching when his cohort group will be gone from us. Once the cohorts are gone, the original story is gone. Will the story that remains be faded and monotone, or will the story be colorful and vibrant?

Image: Jonathan Myrick Daniels with two young friends, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as the Interim Pastor at Christ Episcopal Church, Rolla, MO.

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Rod Gillis

Thank you so much for this lovely, poignant and in some ways tragically timely article. Remembrance is at the heart of what we do as Christians. Jonathan Daniels lives in the hearts of those whom he inspires (present tense intentional). Just a reminder that the PBS documentary, Here I am Send Me, the Story of Jonathan Daniels, is easily accessible on line.

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