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Jesus delivered his inaugural public sermon in a society where the Roman -Greco influences were greater than the values that the Hebrew people learned from the Hebrew Scriptures. There was a constant political struggle between the teachings of the faith community vs the values of a secular empire-minded society. BeatitudesMany of Jesus’s teachings challenged the religious leaders to embrace God’s principles vs the expedient political positions. Theses 8 Beatitudes speak directly values that God embraces in all human beings.

I do not know the history but I would like to imagine that these Beatitudes was the backdrop for Emma Lazarus who wrote the sonnet “The New Colossus” to raise money for the Statue of Liberty. In the sonnet, we find these words,

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The clarion call as a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be welcoming of the outsider, inviting to the outcast and hospitable to the foreigner. As Jesus was talking to the other sunkissed brothers and sisters of the first century we see the embrace of all people regardless of race, class, previous religious experience.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be welcoming of all.  Some people have suggested that we need to be concerned of “terrorist” sneaking into the country.

Since when do the people of God make decisions and operate by fear. Fear about the “other people” is a tool that secular political communicators have used to cause division. Some Christians have embraced this principle over the scriptures that teach us in 2 Timothy 1:7

 ”For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Bad things can happen to any of us at any time. My trust is not in a government wall of protection but in God that I will be where I am supposed to be doing the will of God and if in that moment I am to die in God’s service I will also be with God in eternity. While we are addressing the foreign terrorist we must also confront the rise of domestic terrorism and many times the underlying mental health issues that provoke their behavior.

This brings me to the specific comments that the President made concerning Hattians and Africans. Racism is America’s original sin. America’s greatest moral failing is the lack of repentance, reconciliation, and restoration of the original sin.  The effects of systemic racism impact every area of our society today from education to economics, to housing, to employment, to health care and every social institution in between. America has attempted to legislate inclusion, the valuing of diversity and move toward a post racial society. The reality there many people who still believe that there is superiority or inferiority of an individual based on the color of their skin. I agree with the New York Times opinion editorial by David Leonhardt.

“No one except Trump can know what Trump’s private thoughts or motivations are. But the public record and his behavior are now abundantly clear. Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differe

ntly than he treats white people. And that makes him a racist.“  (https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/01/12/opinion/trump-racist.html)

Mr. Trump’s behavior and words reflect America’s lack of repentance from its original sin. Until the hearts of men and women are transformed from believing that there is no inherent superiority, intellectual advantage or intrinsic privilege based on their “whiteness” we will find ourselves at this point again and again. This behavior is not acceptable by any bible believing disciple of Jesus Christ. Pastors who are controlled more by the power of the political empire than the Scriptures which are our authority will find it difficult to condemn the behavior and words of the President. This is one reason that the church has lost its moral authority. We can’t fight for justice and be a tool of the oppressive empire at the same time. With a collective voice the believers in Jesus Christ must speak up, speak out and no longer be silent. The drum beat for justice must crescendo into a mighty nationwide drumline that sounds a cadence that

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I was listening to the lectionary scripture {Matthew 2:1-12} being read yesterday and began to reflect on the many times that I had listened to the story of the three kings and never asked a critical question. What are the lessons that we learn from the Magi that visited Jesus which will help me be a better disciple of Jesus?

They were full of faith – They had followed other stars that led them to other kings and they were confident in this new star also leading them to a new king.  This was not a spiritual journey for them but it was about honoring the office and person.  This required great faith. To grow as a disciple means that you are growing in your faith.  To become mature would indicate that you walk daily by faith. This is a place of surrender.  Faithree-kings-day-january-6thth is not about you and what you can acquire but faith is about God working in you so that you can trust God completely.

The journey was a part of the process – Many times as people are maturing in Christ there are complaints about meeting the class schedules, driving across town for to pray with a group, meeting a new believer at times that are not convenient to you and questions about “Why isn’t Sunday morning enough?” The reality is that if we are going to grow as disciples of Christ we will have to learn that the process is not linear and the process will not be the same for everybody.

The magi were clear that the goal was to see the new born king even if it was 2 years after his actual birth. If our goal is to become mature committed disciples, we have to expect some challenges during the journey but never give up on the goal

They were generous – They brought their valuables to a future king. They had no previous relationship or allegiance to the future king and they gave freely.  This is especially interesting since they had to barter for their needs during the journey.

As we grow in our discipleship may we all be full of faith, be comfortable with the journey and be generous.

 

AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH PLANTING AND MULTIPLYING: THE NEXT GENERATION

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Connect with successful African American Church planters and receive insights on planting and multiplying Ministries in a new church reaching African Americans as next generation leaders!

Our forum includes planters leading new churches of various sizes! What they have in common is a calling from God to share the gospel, impact their community, and multiply ministries. Come hear succinct Ted Talk style presentations w Q & A and receive cutting edge research & resourcing in African American Church planting.

In this session you will experience:* The importance of Vision & Momentum as you Plant & Multiply

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* The Emerging Black Church & The Next Generation

BY REV. ROBBIE MORGANFIELD

ST. MARK’S UMC, LAUREL

I have to admit that I didn’t get much caught up in the debate that preceded the recent execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.

As a Christian I acknowledge that is not acceptable, especially since I see no way that one who takes seriously the teachings of Christ can find the death penalty tolerable.

In Matthew 5, Jesus decries the notion of an “eye for an eye” and teaches those listening that they should “turn the other cheek.” Indeed, Jesus sets the bar high, calling for us to react in ways that clash with the prevailing culture. But too many Christians today seem too comfortable with hatred and unforgiveness when love and forgiveness were clear mandates in Jesus’ message.

The principles Jesus articulated call us to a higher standard than what our society has embraced, and it’s time for Christians to be clear about whose side we’re on.

I don’t know the religious convictions of  the family of Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail, whom Davis had been convicted of killing more than 20 years ago. In comments to the media, MacPhail’s widow used language that suggested that she is person of faith, but her sentiments fell short of what one could argue Christ taught.

“I will grieve for the Davis family because now they’re going to understand our pain and our hurt,” Joan MacPhail-Harris told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. “My prayers go out to them. I have been praying for them all these years. And I pray there will be some peace along the way for them.”

MacPhail’s widow, who apparently has remarried, called the execution a “time of healing for all families.” Her comments suggest that healing could begin because Mark MacPhail’s accused murderer had been executed. She apparently concluded that Davis’ family members were not suffering as they and many others fought to preserve Davis’ life. Davis maintained that he was innocent down to the very end and growing numbers of observers cited growing evidence that cast reasonable doubt on his conviction.

After the execution, MacPhail’s mother, Anneliese MacPhail, said in a telephone interview from her home that she placed no stock in Davis’ claims of innocence.

“He’s been telling himself that for 22 years,” she said. “You know how it is; he can talk himself into anything.”

I wonder who’s really talking themselves into something.

Whether Davis was innocent or guilty, I have a fundamental problem with the death penalty because the nation’s criminal justice system is too often uneven. One’s race or economic status can often shape the outcome of criminal proceedings, and too many people are convicted based on circumstantial evidence.

Davis had been convicted of killing MacPhail in a Burger King parking lot in Savannah, Georgia. MacPhail was working off-duty as a security guard and reportedly rushed to help a homeless man, whom prosecutors maintained was being beaten by Davis with a handgun.  The gun was never found, but the prosecution said shell casings from that shooting were linked to an earlier shooting for which Davis had been convicted.

That hardly seems an acceptable standard for condemning a person to death.

Despite changes in the testimonies of some witnesses and claims that another man had boasted of shooting officer MacPhail, court officials and others upheld the execution.

It is even more troubling to think that many of those individuals would claim Christian identity. Yet their Christian faith somehow failed to distinguish itself.

My family has dealt with the issues that confront Christians when a loved one is murdered. My brother was shot five times by a man who once had been his friend. In court, the man never showed any remorse and was eventually only given a sentence of 10 years.

I still remember my father, who served as a church deacon for more than 50 years before recently stepping down, saying after my brother’s death that his heart was broken not only because he had lost his son, but because another life had taken a very wrong turn. He mourned for my brother and the shooter and prayed for the shooter’s redemption. The rest of the family followed my father’s lead.

When the man was released from prison, he returned to our small hometown briefly and requested a meeting with my father. My father met him, blessed him and sent him on his way.

To this day, we remember my brother fondly. One of my sisters remains best of friends with the sister of the man who shot my brother. We know now what we knew then: nothing that occurred in that court room would bring back our loved one. As Christians, we hinge our greatest hopes on the life we believe is yet to come.

That does not mean a society does not need a justice system, but it does mean that to be Christian within a society calls one to live by different standards.

Jesus asked for forgiveness for those who killed him and discouraged those who followed him from seeking revenge for his wrongful death.

I don’t believe anyone who has taken seriously the teachings of Christ can be totally comfortable with the idea of the death penalty, if for no other reason that there might even be the slightest chance that the one being executed is, in fact, innocent. Beyond that, there is no promise in Scripture that I am aware of that God will give us peace once we avenge a wrong that has been perpetrated against us.

Interestingly, Anneliese MacPhail told reporters that she felt “kind of numb” after word came that Davis had been executed.

“All the feelings of relief and peace I’ve been waiting for all these years, they will come later,” she said. “I certainly do want some peace.”

I somehow doubt she will find it in the death of Troy Davis.

The Burden of the Suburban Church – Bill Easum

Two other things caught my attention- when it rained hard the majority of homes on the West side of town flooded, and even though 75 percent of the city was Hispanic, all eleven city council members were Anglo. Neither of these conditions seemed right to me.

My last twenty-four years of local church ministry were spent in an up-and-coming suburban church. Like most suburbanites, many of my flock were into getting ahead, building fences around their homes, chauffeuring their children to this-and-that, and distancing themselves from the rift-raft of the world. . Most of the members were content with living lives isolated from the rest of the city and in many ways isolated from one another. I was 29 years old when I began my ministry in that church.

During those years I noticed several things about suburban Christianity and the city of San Antonio, TX. For one thing, suburban Christians thought salvation was something intensely personal and individual. It never dawned on them that biblical salvation is both individual and societal.

That all changed somewhere around my tenth year as pastor. I became involved in the Industrial Areas Foundation a community organizing effort of churches began by Saul Alinsky. Over the next decade I was to have the biggest learning experience of my life.

Click to Read the entire Article

This article gives great insight to the challenges and opportunities of suburban ministry.  Teaching personaly piety and societal responsibility demands a balanced approach to the scriptures and life that is often not present in many ministries.