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Both Naomi Davidson & Nelson Mandela

August 19, 2018

United Methodist Bishop Ken Carter, of the Florida Annual Conference, wrote this one month ago yesterday and graciously gives permission to share it —

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela.

Baptized a Methodist, he trained as a lawyer, and was imprisoned by the South African government for his opposition to apartheid (white supremacy).

He was imprisoned for twenty-seven years and was released in 1990.

That year he spoke in the Riverside Church in New York City. If you watch it online (only about eight minutes), his entrance is greeted with traditional African dancing, jubilation and high pitched sounds of that tradition.

When he begins to speak, he says: “you did not forget us in prison and we thank you”.

Then Mandela quotes the prophet Isaiah: “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Isaiah is speaking to people who have been exiled and imprisoned in Babylon, and are now returning home.

Mandela was the first black elected as president of South Africa in 1994, and is regarded as the father of his nation. He died in 2013.

God is never without a witness. I am grateful today for Nelson Mandela, and for the word of the prophet, Isaiah, that sustained him.

In the pursuit of the liberation and equality of all people, which Mandela moves to at the conclusion of his speech and which expresses values deeply embedded in scripture and in the formation of our nation, may we mount up with wings like eagles, may we run and not be weary, may we walk and not faint.

— Naomi Davidson was a powerhouse I’d known decades ago in the days of The Carbondale District, when she lived in Sparta, IL and I lived in nearby Chester, IL. Our paths merged through various district and conference activities, most notably those of  United Methodist Women.

Naomi was a beloved, respected leader, and a real friend.

Time went by.

In October I began serving on staff with Union United Methodist Church in Belleville, IL as a retired pastor. It was a very pleasant surprise to find Naomi active in this same church!

Yesterday it was my honor to read Scripture at our church’s service in celebration of her faith and life. The passage assigned to me yesterday was from Isaiah 40, ending with verse 31.

I now think of that as “The 2N Verse”…it was a favorite of both Naomi Davidson and Nelson Mandela.

May their faith help ours today: may we mount up with wings like eagles, may we run and not be weary, may we walk and not faint.



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