Life’s most persistent question

John 1:29-42

2nd Sunday after Epiphany – 1/17/17

St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School

The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales


“What are you looking for?” Those are the first words Jesus speaks in the gospel of John. Now in my family, when someone asks, “What are you looking for?” the answer is usually simple. “My other glove….my keys…..where I parked my car.”


In today’s gospel, though, Andrew and another disciple are looking for something much more important. When Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?” their answer probably warmed his heart. They said, “Rabbi…” which means “Teacher.” That meant that they were ready to learn what Jesus wanted to teach them, to live in the way he wanted to show them.


In looking for a teacher, a leader, these two early disciples were looking for a way of life ¾ a way of justice, mercy and love. All those qualities begin with EMPATHY. Empathy means understanding how another person feels, sharing their experiences and emotions. If you feel the pain of someone who is treated unfairly, for instance, you will want to work for fairness, or justice.


Today we remember a man who worked for justice, mercy and love because he understood how other people felt. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King knew what it was like to be treated unfairly, harshly, and unlovingly. But he also felt the pain of knowing that many other people were also suffering from injustice. Dr. King didn’t just FEEL their pain, he ACTED to relieve it.


We remember him today for the many actions he took to make people’s lives better. He led a bus boycott that won justice for the people of Montgomery, Alabama. He stood up for sanitation workers who were treated unfairly in Memphis. He led marches and protests and worked for peace, because he felt empathy for the people whose lives were limited by the color of their skin.


Above all, Martin Luther King spoke. Because he was not just a leader, but also a follower of the Teacher who taught the way of justice, mercy and love, he preached the way of Jesus. He used words to give people hope, to move hearts and change minds. In his sermons, Dr. King said many things that people remember and recite today. He said:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is,

“What are you doing for others?”


Dr. King also warned his listeners not to put Jesus on a pedestal, as someone only to be worshiped, admired and respected. Instead, he reminded us, Jesus wants to be followed, by people who will live his way of justice, mercy and love.


These days, it is tempting to put Dr. King on a pedestal as someone from long ago to be admired and respected. We will not do that today. Instead, all over our school, we will be thinking and talking about how we can follow the example of Martin Luther King, who followed the example of Jesus.


We will be asking life’s most persistent and urgent question:

What are you doing for others?



About threegreatdays

The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales is a Godly Play Trainer in the U.S.; an Episcopal Priest; Chaplain at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia; a Godly Play Practitioner since 1996; and a mother and grandmother. Every day I get to be with 400 children at school and on weekends when I'm lucky, with my four terrific grandsons and three lively granddaughters. As a Godly Play practitioner, I want to spread the word about this life-giving, Montessori-based way of nurturing children in the Christian story and life. Godly Play, the creation of the Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman and his wife Thea, is used in many denominations and in many countries, and has been translated into at least seven languages. This blog is not an official publication of the Godly Play Foundation (see but seeks to be a clearinghouse for ideas and experiences of teachers, trainers, and parents. Join the conversation!

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