What can we learn from the Black church?

Thursday evening and Friday evening, I had the pleasure to attend the Brady Theology and Lecture Series at Northern Seminary in Chicago. The speaker this year was Reggie Williams, a gifted writer, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus, and a gifted speaker. He spoke eloquently and vividly about how Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a White Aryan brilliant theologian at a very early age, engaged the Black Church at Abyssinian Baptist in Harlem, NY in 1930-31. That one year encounter dramatically changed Bonhoeffer’s understanding of engagement with race and ethnic social-economic issues in his homeland of Germany. It led one to think of how if more White evangelical churches engaged with their Black counterparts how we could find new answers to racial hatred in this country.

Also significant for me was the panel discussion that was held on Friday morning in the last session. The conversation of what the Black church experiences brings to the table of for formation of both Whites and Blacks was very interesting, especially the comments of David Swanson, a White pastor of a multi-ethnic church in Chicago. He spoke from a reserved and humble position of the need for White pastors and congregations to engage the Black faith community with equal parts of humbleness and submission to their engagements in the community rather than assuming superior positions of power due to one’s Whiteness.

One can listen to the panel discussion on the Northern Seminary Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/northernseminary. It is well worth the time.

Changes and Fresh Challenges

Because, I fail to appear here very often, it is difficult to imagine the changes we’ve seen here lately.

The past 30 days the house has changed dramatically. It’s filled with moving boxes. That is only prep work for a bigger change. After 14 years in Winchester, Regina, Raini, and I, with our two feline children, are leaving for Fieldale, Virginia.

That, of course, points to another change. I’m leaving Redland Church to pastor the Fieldale and Mount Bethel Cooperative Parish. Change and fresh challenges.

So we will be moving from a single-level house to a multi-level house, from our own house to a church parsonage. Change and fresh challenges.

We are moving from the fastest growing county in Virginia, to a county sunk in poverty and seeking new direction. Change and fresh challenges.

Despite the change and fresh challenges, I’m certain of one thing: God in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is in the mix, and I’ll not only travel with this God, but I’ll give my all to love Him, as well as his people wherever they might be.

Father, I pray that as we take this new journey, I will have the eyes and ears to know your presence where ever we go, and I’ll remain connected to the gospel narrative of salvation offered in the Messiah, my Lord, Jesus, and that I’ll submit to your Spirit at every turn of the path. I give you praise and thanks for all things. Amen.

Feildale and Mount Bethel Cooperative Parish

Reading the Bible in Public Schools

I am not against reading the Bible in public. I frequently read my Bible at a local coffee shop or restaurant. I have even encouraged Bible study in such public places. But we always came together as a community of faithful Christians.

President Trump has recently spoken out in favor of bringing back reading of the Bible, as an elective, into public class rooms. I am not in favor of this idea. I agree with another blogger and Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, Alan Bevere, who wrote:

First, the Bible is not America’s book; it is the church’s book and must be taught in the context of the faith community. I have said it before and will say it again: America is not a Christian nation nor has it ever been. There is only one Christian nation in existence and that nation is called “church.” 1 Peter 2:9 states to the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” http://www.allanbevere.com/2019/01/scripture-refracted-or-should-bible-be.html I recommend reading his entire posting, as he gets into more detail than I will hear.

I have for many years now, after having attempted individual Bible study myself, to promote Bible reading only in community. I have seen too often how much damage can be done by both independent Bible study and study in groups outside of the formation Christian community. I have been led astray in my own individual pursuit, and only because I joined a caring Christian community, the church, was I able to be brought back and gain more solid footing in understanding the nature of the Bible witness.

In the 1970’s, I also took a course on the Bible as literature in a public university. I enjoyed the class, but I realize in hindsight, how it also failed ultimate purpose of the Bible as Scripture – the formation of a Christian soul. It was still not until the end of the Twentieth Century that I realized the seriousness of this error.

Thus, I can not support a move to bring Bible reading back to public schools. Instead, I would like to bring Bible reading back to Christian families in accord with a Christian community. I believe, our illiteracy in the Bible begins there, not in public schools. Christians, we need to make both prayer and reading of the Bible a primary function of our family life, along with regular attendance in the one true Christian state, the Church.

To sum it up, I let Bevere speak again:

In other words, the Bible cannot simply be taught “in terms of its historical context.” It must be embodied by those who have decided to follow Jesus. And those who follow Jesus do not become Americans; they become Christians and they belong to the nation called “church.” If studying the Bible results in anything less, it is not a true lesson in Bible literacy.

 

Clarity of Discipleship

To write or talk about any subject, clarity of terms is absolutely necessary. So in order to speak to others about discipleship and disciples, clarity is necessary for agreement on the term. That will help determine expectations as people journey together on the journey called discipleship.

So first we are calling discipleship a journey. It was a journey for those who Jesus called from the seashore and tax tables. It is about traveling and venturing and even about risk.

Discipleship is a life style where lives honor God at work, play, and as we engage the world.

Disciples take responsibility for their own spiritual growth by opening themselves to the work of the Spirit.

Disciples are mentored, and mentor others on paths of discipleship.

Disciples learn how to use their gifts, talents and resources to serve others, living within margins in order to increase blessings for the others.

Discipleship: Program or Relationships

Intentional discipleship has been on my mind more and more these late summer days. Mostly because, I have assigned myself the task of developing some thinking about discipleship and how to proceed intentionally for Redland Church.

As frequently is the case, some word or thoughts come along by others which help me think deeper and wider and more intentionally about it. Such is the case today. I reviewed a post by Ben Sternke on his blog this morning which seemed very appropriate. I liked that he referred to Dallas Willard, one of my go-to-people on all things discipleship. And I liked that Ben pointed the reader away from program thinking to relationship thinking, which is something I have been practicing as I “disciple” or “mentor” young single adults over the past few years.

Here is his blog to see for yourself. https://gravityleadership.com/what-is-discipleship/#comment-2731

 

Manna, Then and Now

Recently, very recently, a friend of mine posted a picture on Instagram of a “manna bag.” Or more specifically, a display, at a conference, of manna bags. My interest immediately was piqued by the display. So I went to Google to discover more. https://www.lifecreativelyorganized.com/make-manna-bags-for-the-homeless/

In my research, I discovered these Manna Bags are commonly a gallon plastic bags filled with a variety of items including non-perishable food items. The purpose of these bags are as handouts to homeless people, especially the ones who stand at intersections with their hand-made sign stating “Homeless. Will work for food”. A local one is “Homeless. The Challenge is Real.”

Then, I immediately went about making my own bags, loosely based upon the model I found on line. Then I taught a group of middle schoolers about manna in Exodus 16, which we expanded it Elijah and the widow, to Jesus and feeding 5,000, to Matthew 25, Paul and Barnabas collecting for the saints of Jerusalem, soup kitchens, the Salvation Army, and Rise Against Hunger, the Redland Outreach Center, and elsewhere the local community.

I found considerable joy in this exercise, especially in letting God lead through His work shared by another, to the guidance of the Spirit to receive it in a fruitful way. Thanks be to God.

 

Faith Like A Long Run

Faith is like a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t know when I heard this pithy statement for the first time. It has laid in the back closet of my memory, and every once and while something brings it out of the closet.

This time was an article from the Boston Globe about Katherine Beiers, 85 years young, who had the honor of being the oldest runner in the 2018 Boston Marathon. The paper wrote:

Beiers said it took her 7 hours and 50 minutes to reach the finish line because she walked part of the way. It took her longer than usual, but she was proud of the fact that she was able to complete the grueling course in spite of pouring rain, bitter cold, and an unforgiving wind. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/04/19/woman-oldest-runner-boston-marathon/lpZxDHlO8sbJQkTyJtstDK/story.html

Faith is a marathon. Katherine began running at the age of 49. Many of us find our faith later in life. She ran her first marathon at the age of 51. It takes some time to build up faith and running skills. I suppose that Katherine had mentors in the beginning, and throughout her 37 years of marathoning. We all should have mentors in our faith, whether we are just beginning, or we have been at it for a long time.

The article also stated that her son John ran this year. She shared her love for marathons with someone else. I can imagine that she had been doing that all of the 37 years she had been running, she had been sharing her excitement for the sport. Though running can be a solitary venture, many find a way to share it in their ordinary lives. Faith is like a marathon. We run alone, and we run with others. We share our excitement as we go.

Faith is like a marathon. We all run to the same goal. That goal is Jesus Christ.

Katherine is already thinking about her next marathon.

Psalm 23 – Shepherd and Sheep

For most of us, the 23rd Psalm is about comfort, especially when we need it most. We need such comfort when life’s storm rise against us, and we struggle to bail out the boat with nothing but a spoon.

More importantly, the 23rd Psalm speaks of God, and what God is doing and what should be humankind’s response to Him. God makes it clear early in Scripture that He is a covenant-making God. The primary covenant is that God will be Israel’s God and that they will be God’s people. Thus, God reveals Himself as a God who calls a people to himself. In Christ Jesus, that covenant is transformed to be a covenant with neither Jew nor Gentile, but with all would submit themselves to be with God. Submit ourselves as sheep submit themselves to the Shepherd.

God, in Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd, fulfills all our basic needs, food, clean water, guidance, safety in trying times, and place with His goodness and where we might dwell forever. In return, He offers us a means to show gratitude through our submission to his will. Through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we are reconciled, brought back into the fold, made part of His flock and under his guidance, comfort, and safety. Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

Shepherd and Flock

This week we continue to seek understanding what it is to belong, behave, and believe as followers of Jesus Christ. We have discovered that we, Christians, come together at the foot of the Cross, and leave from the empty tomb to follow into wildernesses and hostile worlds a Crucified and Risen Lord.

This week we will reflect together on the 23rd Psalm. Just a few beginning thoughts. I think the psalm teaches us to whom we belong, the Good Shepherd, and that we are lead and guided by rod and staff, and that all is required of us is submissiveness to our Shepherd.

There is only one Good Shepherd. There is only One to whom we belong. There is only One to whom we submit, outside of our humble submission to each other in the name of that Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.