For many of us, September 11, 2001 is a date we will never forget. As years have passed, many of us still remember vividly and clearly where they were or were not that fateful day. I certainly do. Long before I was your pastor, or even an ordained minister, that day remains a touchstone for my ministry and another clear example of God’s divine intervention in my life.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
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!