By. Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan

Jack SullivanJust caught Peter and Paul, of the famed freedom and justice singing trio Peter, Paul and Mary, on the Tavis Smiley show. Goodness, they were magnificent! It was quite good to hear them sing some of the folk songs of the Civil Rights movement while describing the climate surrounding their music and activism. They have a book out titled, “Peter, Paul and Mary: 50 Years in Life and Song”. As I heard their music and reflections, I became inspired by the fact that the sacred work of Civil Rights and freedom has always featured a multicultural, multifaith cast of bold, risk-taking, visionary people who had the audacity to sing their faith and convictions as they delivered truth to power. While our contemporary climate does reveal amazing levels of progress since the 1960s, the rivers and streams of everyday life continue to reveal toxic amounts of waste products such as hate, bigotry, violence, and discrimination of many forms that poison too many of our environments, physical, political and cultural. I am not altogether sure of the many songs we sing when we gather nowadays, but I sure think it is time for our music to recapture the passion and poetry of the songs of people like Peter, Paul and Mary, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and so many others who sang about freedom, justice and peace and therefore provided us with a soundtrack for social progress. During a contemporary era where large segments of society seem to congratulate themselves for not knowing or accepting the histories, values, and aspirations of people who differ from themselves, we need right brain inspiration that can liberate us from the prisons of our linear, individualism-colored world views so that we may actually see ourselves caring for our neighbors by acknowledging then dismantling walls and systems of nullification and selective privilege, by helping each other to succeed, and by learning each other’s story. Now is the time for music that teaches us, transforms us, and then transports us so that we may create earthly places where the long dictatorship of fear comes to an end, where a warm smile can melt glaciers of arrogance, and where people are willing to walk or roll hand-in-hand into a future punctuated by peace, with progress for everybody, and the trivialization of nobody. When we sing songs with these kinds of themes, we open ourselves to God’s still awesome ability to transform the world. I am ready to sing! How about you?

This article is from theresurgence.com  I found it to be informative

Article Link – http://theresurgence.com/2013/05/23/the-places-grace-empowers-us

In fact, God’s grace grounds and empowers everything in the Christian life. Grace is the basis for:

  • Our Christian identity: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).
  • Our standing before God: “. . . this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2).
  • Our behavior: “We behaved in the world . . . by the grace of God” (2 Cor. 1:12).
  • Our living: Those who receive “the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 5:17) by the “grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7).
  • Our holiness: God “called us to a holy calling . . . because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Tim. 1:9).
  • Our strength for living: “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:1) for “it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace” (Heb. 13:9).
  • Our way of speaking: “Let your speech always be gracious” (Col. 4:6).
  • Our serving: “Serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10).
  • Our sufficiency: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9), “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8)
  • Our response to difficulty and suffering: We get “grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16), and when “you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace . . . will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Pet. 5:10).
  • Our participation in God’s mission: As recipients of grace we are privileged to serve as agents of grace. Believers receive grace (Acts 11:23), are encouraged to continue in grace (Acts 13:43), and are called to testify to the grace of God (Acts 20:24). In John 20:21, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” God’s mission is to the entire world (Isa. 49:6Matt. 28:19Acts 1:813:47).
  • Our future: God, and his grace, is everlasting. “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).
  • Our hope beyond death: “Grace [reigns] through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21).

The gospel is all about God’s grace through Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul calls it “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) and “the word of his grace” (Acts 14:320:32; cf. Col. 1:5–6).

Image“My greatest hope as a campus pastor of  Infinite Grace Fellowship is to, “authentically” minister to those Believers and Non-Believers who have been “Beat up and set aside” by the World. My deepest concern is inspire Youth and Young Adults to draw closer to Christ, majorly focusing on Young Men.  My prayer is that by the Grace and Sovereignty of God, their eyes open wide enough for them to see and receive God’s Majesty and they will feel led to leave the World, and cling to God.”

~Isaiah Redd, Sr. ~

Campus Pastor, Infinite Grace Fellowship

Missional Communities vary widely but can be described as mid-sized groups (20 – 50 people) who are bonded in vision and on the mission of God for their group together. At Infinite Grace we call them Grace Communities and Grace Circles.  We are preparing to launch 4 Grace Communities in September.  We are looking at Arbutus, Catonsville, Woodlawn, and Randalstown.  Check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/infinitegracefellowship

by Adam Hamilton

  1. Remember who you are. You are somones husband or wife. You are someone’s dad or mom. You are a child of God, person of worth.
  2. Recognize the consequences of your actions. Will I be more free or enslaved by this. Who will be hurt by my actions. Fantasize about the worst possible outcome instead of the “best.”
  3. Rededicate yourself to God. Stop, drop, and pray.
  4. Reveal your struggle to a trusted friend. Confess your sins to one another and pray that you might be healed.
  5. Remove yourself from the situation. Pluck out your eye. No, not really. But the point remains. Get out of there. Stop attending the situation.

Welcome all to Day one of the Biloxi Katrina Relief Mission.  Today was a day of making new friends, developing our teamwork skills, and despite overwhelmingly oppressive heat and humidity… dirty dusty demolition.  Upon arrival, the team assessed the home and quickly got to work on the jobs that were most needed.  Dave, Larry, Marian, Ron and Sarah put their muscles straight to work tearing up a good part of the back third of the floor.  Frank and Eddie set out tearing down the bathroom.  By noon, the first team had the entire floor out and was already setting replacement floor joists.  While Dave and Larry went for supplies, the rest of the team enjoyed lunch.  It was the best Bologna and cheese we’d ever had.  Frank and Eddie had hoped that much of the bathroom could be saved, but in the end, once they added Pastor Sarah to the bathroom demolition team, all that remained was the roof.  She went crazy once we put a saws-all in her hand. The homeowner, Shantdtea (pronounced Chant’a), also lent an enthusiastic hand and made a substantial collection of refuse.  By the end of the day, we had attracted a bit of attention and some of the locals also lent a hand. In particular Shandtea’s nephew, Denzel, came home from school and pitched right in helping Dave and Larry nail down the floor.

We’re getting ready to sit down to a well deserved meal, cooked by the loving hands of Sarah, Marian and Frank.  In reflection, it was a good day and I think I speak for the entire team when I say we’ll all sleep well tonight. The showers never felt better. We are all extremely grateful that Ron decided NOT to follow through on his threat to not shower for the week.

We are now making our plan of attack for tomorrow: Which looks like finishing the floor, wiring in lights and outlets, painting, starting some drywall, and starting to put the bathroom back together.  

Please keep us and everyone here in the Gulf area who is still suffering from Katrina in your prayers. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Taylorsville UMC
http://www.taylorsvilleumc.org

“Amazing and Uncomfortable Grace” Several years ago, there was an absolutely fascinating study done of America’s favorite music and one of the discoveries was that for many Americans one of their favorite songs is actually an old hymn, Amazing Grace. Perhaps you know how it goes: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” But what exactly is grace? And what makes it amazing? You know, when we use the word grace in ordinary conversation, we tend to downsize the word. We’ll say things like, “She’s a very graceful young woman,” and we mean she dances well. Or, “He’s a very gracious host,” and we mean he says nice things at dinner parties. We tend to use the word grace in small ways. But when the New Testament uses the word grace, it uses it in a very big way. It’s a powerful word. It’s an amazing word. In fact, it’s so powerful that sometimes grace can be quite uncomfortable. When the New Testament uses the English word grace, it’s actually the translation of a Greek word, charis, which means “gift.” And this is the New Testament’s way of saying that at the very center of life there is a God who is not a punitive judge or a scolding parent, but a God who gives gift after gift after gift. That’s grace.

Dr. Thomas Long is from Atlanta, Georgia, where he is Professor of Preaching at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Tom is a Presbyterian minister and the author of several books on the art of preaching. Read the Entire Sermon

I believe that there is a lack of understanding about what the Beloved Community is and how it should operate in the 21st Century. Who are the guardians of the dream or the transmitters of the vision? I believe that the Beloved Community is balanced between Chrisitan piety and social responsibility. The ultimate goal is justice for everyone.(Rawl’s Equality Principle) God’s call for us to be in relationship with God and people demands that we share this relationship that we expereince as love, grace and forgiveness so that everyone will expereince what we are/have expereinced. The Beloved Community embraced radical racial and class diversity, economic opportunity for all and justice for those who were oppressed. This is the core of the Beloved Community.

Is this a lost concept with middle/upper middle class Americans? Does the American middle class value working for justice and equality of all of God’s people or only those who are most like them? People who encountered the Beloved Community in the King framework were transformed. They believed that their individual happiness in life (Mill’s happiness Principle) was rooted in the community being whole and unified. (Dyke’s Community is greater than the individual principle) That is why there was a civil rights movement.

Proposition: The civil rights movement is dead. Now is the time for the Beloved Community to become a reality in the lives of Americans.

Thesis: The vision of a flourishing democratic society that President Obama has cast is embodied in the Beloved Community of Dr. King. Without the theological foundation of God’s grace that also seeks justice for all, the vision is incomplete.

Congregational Transformation has at least three pillars. It must be Spiritual, Systematic and Sensitive.

Spiritual transformation deals with our individual and shared community life. Personal spiritual transformation requires reaffirmation, recommitment and reclaiming your:

  • salvation through grace–
      • Romans 51 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
  • commitment to live your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ
    • Prayer Time – Time to talk and listen to God
    • Bible Study – Learning how to live as a follower of Christ as you participate in Living in Faith Everyday small group studies
    • Worship Celebrating God’s goodness in our lives
    • Service – Providing the needs of those in need
    • Sharing – Sharing your faith journey with pre Christians
    • Fellowshipping with other believers

Faith community transformation includes

  • Celebration of God’s Goodness in Worship
  • Community prayer times

Systematic transformation means that every ministry team and committee in the church is engaged in the process. The transformation includes the front office and how we provide administration. The transformation includes the worship ministry team and how they approach designing worship services around the ministry themes. Systematic transformation includes the choir and the types of music that will be sung. The trustees are being transformed as they make decisions that will ensure that our facilities are safe and prepared to house the ministries that are in existence and those that are in development. The church council will be experiencing transformation as they will be challenged to make decisions based on the churches mission, vision and values. Systematic transformation takes time, a lot of time. It will take 3-5 years for us to begin to see significant change. Staying the course will not be easy and true transformation is not a linear process. We may experience quick results in some areas and slower results in others with no predictive indicators about which one we will experience.

Sensitive transformation means that the leaders are sensitive to how the pace of change is affecting our lives together. Some people can absorb weekly changes to everything from the bulletin to the styles of music being chosen. These people usually like variety and diversity and would easily be bored with everything being the same all of the time. This segment of the population is small in comparison to the group of people who seek to experience stability in their congregational life. Nuances of change bring great anxiety because, “We’ve always done it this way”, “ We have been told that this is the right way, “ or “Why should anything change, we have done it this way successfully for 40 years.” These values that members share must be embraced as change takes place. Sensitive transformation acknowledges the fact that the church has developed a culture over many years. There needs to be several places for sacred listening so that the concerns of the congregants can be expressed without negative evaluations, unnecessary critique and personal attacks. There needs to be training and education that provides logical transitions from the established paradigms of church into the new paradigms.

Transformation is never easy but the rough edges can be smoothed out if the leaders share the plan that God has given you, assist the leaders to embrace the plan, communicate the plan constantly and if we care more about the people than the transformation.