Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recognizing HIS Story

A few weeks ago I was in the Christian bookstore searching for a Valentine's Day card for my husband. As I was walking to the register to check out, I noticed a small table with a "SALE" sign. I am no stranger to being lured to any sign that indicates a sale. What surprised me was what I found on that table. Beside the "sale" sign sat another sign indicating that February was black history month. The table contained an assortment of books that focused on Black Christians. Some of the authors were African American, others were not, but their point was the same. Each book was a reminder that February held more than just recurring snowstorms. One could cynically argue that the bookstore was trying to drum up business through catering to African American Christians. Perhaps that was a part of the motivation but the fact is the bookstore owner took the time to recognize what many Christians overlook. A little over a month ago the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. took place. After the long fight to establish Dr. King's birthday as worthy of recognition, it passes by with little fanfare, save for a few clips on the nightly news. There was more attention given to informing women to wear red during the month of January to recognize the fight against heart disease, the number one killer of women. It seems ironic that other holidays drum up tons of attention. There are special sales that take place for President's Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, not to mention huge national celebrations for Independence Day (a.k.a Fourth of July). From special discounts at the malls to car dealerships, we are urged to take advantage of and recognize these special holidays. I haven't seen car dealers offer special savings on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. I wonder how many folks even know February is Black History month? Are teachers educating their students about this part of our nation's history? How many people on the street if stopped and asked could name a black individual besides Martin Luther King, Jr. who made a significant impact or contributed greatly to our country's growth? An even more frightening thought is how many Christians if asked could accomplish the same task as the person on the street? Sadly, the church is still in the dark when it comes to addressing racial issues within the body of Christ and movement towards reconciliation. I am currently reading a book by a black evangelical, Edward Gilbreath, entitled, "Reconciliation Blues": A Black Evangelical's View Inside of White Christianity. Mr. Gilbreath draws our attention to his personal struggle with the lack of understanding of the black experience in the church and his attempts to try and "fit in" to the majority view's paradigm. Jesus knew very well how differences divide and it was His mission to erase and heal those differences. He was often seen hanging out with "Samaritans" the so-called "half breeds" despised by the Jews. It was because of Jesus that a Samaritan woman found new life in Christ and she in turn led other Samaritans to Jesus. (John 4:1-42) One of Jesus' most powerful parables featured a Samaritan as it's hero. (Luke 10:25-37) Paul reminded his listeners in Galatians that there are no divisions in the kingdom of God. (Galatians 3:26-29) Finally, Revelation gives us a glorious picture of all the nations of the world worshipping the Lord. (Revelation 5:9-10) I am thankful for that Christian bookstore owner's efforts to educate God's people through recognition of black history month. Our challenge is not to continue to perpetuate the sins of this fallen world and our culture but to be like Jesus in the forefront of showing the world God's heart for reconciliation. Celebrate the One who created heaven and earth through education and recognition of the diversity of people He created and their contributions to the kingdom of God!
Peace In Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A "Roots" Moment

It has been some time since I have written. My life has been consumed basking in the afterglow of the Advent season, the birth of our first grandchild and how God pulled all the symbolism of those two events together in my life. Following Advent, the pastor of our current church began a new preaching series entitled, "Big Life." The heart and soul of this series is focused on deepening and understanding our relationship with the Creator of the universe. At one point during his first sermon in the series, the pastor was talking about the experience of welcoming his son into the world. He said it reminded him of the recurrent scene in Alex Haley's miniseries "Roots." For those too young to remember, "Roots" was a powerful and groundbreaking series. It chronicled the historic family background of author Alex Haley adapted from his book, "Roots." The movie looked at Haley's family tree from the horrors of slavery to freedom. The main character of the series was Kunta Kinte, the African slave forcibly brought to America. The series then followed the generations that came after him. The recurrent scene that our pastor found so powerful had to do with birth. Each time a child was born, the tradition that began with Kunta Kinte was to take the child outside on a dark starry night. The parent lifted the child up and declared, "Behold, the only thing greater than yourself!" The reference of course was to God being that "Greater thing." Following the pastor's sermon I began to hear the echos of Kunta Kinte's words resonating in my spirit. I was drawn to Psalm 8. Psalm 8 is a praise from the lips of David in celebration of God's greatness and ordering of creation. It dovetails in many ways with Genesis 1:1-28. The NIV note of introduction to this Psalm captures that "Kunta Kinte" experience. The note references the Genesis passage but goes on to state, "David speaks out of his present experience of reality (perhaps on a bright, clear night when the vast host of the heavenly lights, stretching from horizon to horizon, erased from his musings small everyday affairs and engaged his mind with deeper thoughts). Two matters especially impressed him: (1) the glory of God reflected in the starry heavens, and (2) the astonishing condescension of God to be mindful of puny man, to crown him with glory almost godlike and to grant him lordly power over His creatures." This is the "Roots" experience. This is how Jesus holds up those who love Him, His children, before God the Father. Imagine Jesus holding you up under a star lit night and declaring, "Behold, the only thing greater than yourself!" What a privilege and honor God has given us! What mercy and grace we have received! Take the time to read Psalm 8 and fix the image of being lifted up before the Father in your mind. You were born for "greatness" in Jesus Christ. It is not a greatness that comes from pride or arrogance but rather humility and love. It is the love of God the Father who knit you together in your mother's womb (Psalm 139:13) and placed you on earth for His glory. Ephesians 2:10 puts it this way, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." If you have an experience like mine, you will be humbled and overwhelmed and declare with David, "O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:1,9)
To God be the glory!
Pastor Sheree