HIGH POINT, N.C., Jan. 15, 2018 – Change agents must be audacious.
That’s the message Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie shared today with community members, students, faculty and staff at High Point University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day worship service.
“Audacity is believing that you have something to offer that no one has yet given,” McKenzie said during her sermon in the Hayworth Chapel, with a full audience who were often moved to their feet while the energetic bishop spoke during what she called “Praise God” moments.
“Anybody can board a boat on calm seas and watch paint dry on the wall,” McKenzie said. “Anybody can lead the go-along-to-get-a-long crowd – not really interested in getting better, but more interested in getting by… But God is not looking for anybody to take a stand. God is looking for some who will not wither in the face of evil.”
This annual chapel service celebrates the life and work of King and features noteworthy clergy and scholars from across the country. McKenzie serves as the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She is the first elected female bishop in the more than 200-year history of the AME Church. As one of today’s most sought-after preachers, McKenzie is a national voice for women, servant leadership and social justice.
“Taking a stand is risky business,” McKenzie said. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took a stand – yes he did. And we celebrate his life and legacy today not only for his historical significance, but for what he means for life today. Without his courageous stand that cost him his life, it would be difficult to say when equality would take center stage in America. He plowed a path of racial discourse that paved the way for a new way of thinking as well. He lifted the role of the black preacher to become an agent of change outside the walls of a sanctuary. It was through his words and his actions that social change happened, and we who are gathered here today have an opportunity now to take our stand in the 21st century in a very divisive time.”
McKenzie drew her lesson from 1 Samuel and the story of David facing Goliath, a man much stronger and larger than he. Yet David learned how to use his differences to his advantage, she said, and he learned how to take a stand.
“David was audacious enough to see his disadvantage as an advantage,” she said. “Your age, your gender, your status quo, your heritage, your history, your social economic status can be a disadvantage. But David learned how to capitalize on what others perceived to be his disadvantage.”
“The thread that runs through all of these designations is this: Both prophets were called to audacity,” McKenzie said about David and King.
“Audacity calls you to look beyond your disadvantage – the ones that you perceive you have, and the ones that society has assigned to you… Go beyond your perceived disadvantages and make them work for you. David did. He was just a boy sent to tend sheep. David was audacious enough to step into the fight that wasn’t his fault. And when he became audacious enough, everything changed forever.”
The HPU Genesis Gospel Choir also performed throughout the event.
Throughout the day, students were also leading 35 service projects in the community during “A Day of Service” to honor Dr. King’s legacy.