June has showed us how much the church is needed in this day and age. In the words of the bard of gospel music, Thomas A. Dorsey, “If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need him now!” Indeed, trying times seem to abound in this country. It seems that every day, week, or month, there is something going on that has astounded our sense of self and community, and highlights the divisiveness in this country.
What a month of May we enjoyed! We celebrated our mothers, sisters, aunts, and women who form a unit of womanhood that cares for, nurtures, and many times goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the success and progress of others (look what Moses’ biological mother and sister did to ensure Moses’ survival and success)! May also witnessed us celebrating Pentecost and concluding our examination of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the power of the Holy Spirit was felt in our midst as we praised God for two new members who gave their lives to Christ and were baptized both with water and with the Spirit!
There are times in one’s life when you realize that wherever you are at a particular time and place is the exact place you are supposed to be. Earlier this month, I had such an experience at the celebration of the life, legacy, and impact of the Reverend Dr. James H. Cone at the Riverside Church. To be sure, Dr. Cone was a theological giant! Union Theological Seminary and the field of theology will never be the same. His work and witness, scholarship and theology, will forever live on and continue to be used, critiqued, and furthered in the way that foundational paradigms remain benchmarks for future generation
I write to you in the empowering spirit of our risen Savior Jesus Christ. In this month of Resurrection remembrance and celebration which leads us into Pentecost, I trust that all are in reflection and rejoicing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ’s sin conquering atonement. What Christ did for humanity should embolden all who believe in Jesus Christ into a greater sense of community and love for all humankind.
As I continue to try to make sense of the world we live in and the pervasive societal ills that we yet still do not acknowledge nor look to cure, I am reminded of that hopeful admonition: Be Glad for Jesus! The old preacher would forcefully shout out that declarative affirmation when the spirit was moving in service. The power of that statement would reverberate within the congregation, particularly with the elders of the church who knew that in spite of all the things that they had endured, Jesus was still in the blessing business.
James Weldon Johnson’s prophetic and powerful poem set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson is the quintessential sermon in a song. The evocative call for those who have been denied their humanity and wronged by society to sing highest praises to our God in spite of their situations speaks to the unshakeable and steadfast faith in God through Jesus Christ.
The Advent season featured a series of sermons that focused on what the coming of Christ to this world means. We examined our preparedness for the Advent season. The series pondered the question: Even in the midst of a culture and society that promotes Christmas and its consumerism with the fervor of religious zealots; do we love Christmas more than we love Christ? Additionally, we created a new greeting to reassure us of our priority in the season: Keep Christ!
Let me first thank my colleague and friend Rabbi Steve Goodman and his members from the Garden City Jewish Center for blessing us with a wonderful sermon and tremendous fellowship. Rabbi Goodman preached a profound message for our church and country on the blessing of a pluralistic America. The need for communities and communities of faith to come together and fellowship is a necessary one that will build strong bonds and unity for social change. I look forward to continuing the fellowship with many of our Garden City congregations and beyond in the New Year. Thank you again Rabbi Goodman!
Beloved Church-in-the-Garden Family and Friends,
As I was putting the finishing touches on this month’s Garden Time on Sunday afternoon, the breaking news alerts from Sutherland Springs, Texas bombarded my phone. That familiar feeling of angst and sorrow began to well-up inside of me. Not again, I thought. My God, not again! Since that time I have been thinking and praying on what to write. What can I say? What can be said? What should I write? The clear answer for me at this time is to remain silent. While there is much for me to say and there is much for me to write, I need to have a talk with God. My silence is not a lack of activity. It is an affirmation of my anger and righteous indignation. It is an acknowledgement of my sincere need to sit with this in silence. It is recognition that I need to take some time to listen and talk to God about these recurring incidents in this country. I must seek inspiration from the Holy Spirit to use my platform as a microphone to trumpet words of truth, love, justice, comfort, and compassion. Please know that in due time I will have something to write. I pray, by God’s grace, that it will be a spirit-filled word that is relevant and convicting. In the meantime, while I sit and talk with the Lord, please find the original Garden Time that I penned for this month.
Beloved Church-in-the-Garden Family and Friends,
First, let me thank all of you who took the time to comment on last month’s Garden Time. I count it a high honor and humbling experience that anyone would look on my words and feel compelled to respond one way or another. Thank you for your feedback.
As most of us are still trying to deal with the events of last month and their ramifications as a country, new disheartening and devastating events have unfolded. Like many of you, I find myself again outraged, angered, frustrated, and spiritually angered by this prolonged lack of urgency on the part of our government in aiding our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. It is unthinkable to me that our leaders in the federal government have dragged their feet to this extent.