It’s exciting to see the redemptive genius of the Father, Son, and Spirit in our daily lives and it is equally, if not more exciting to peer into human history and see them at work in the lives of extraordinary individuals whose participation in the Shared Life of the Father, Son, and Spirit literally helps change the world.
Robert Smalls is one who stands out!
Robert was born into slavery 5 April, 1839 in Beaufort, South Carolina. When he was a young man he was hired out to work in Charleston for the city and the wharf. He loved the sea and working hard, he rose from the lowly position of sail mender and rigger to pilot. As a “wheelman” on small vessels, Robert learned the Charleston Harbor quite well. He navigated the Charleston Harbor and surrounding waterways well enough to have complete control over the navigation of a ship. A skill that would serve him well later in life. At the age of 17 Robert fell in love with Hannah Jones and married her. Together they would raise two children after enduring the unspeakable tragedy of their son dying at age two.
During the American Civil War Smalls was forced to pilot the vessel, CSS Planter, for the Confederate Navy out of Charleston Harbor- a decision that would prove strategically unwise for the Confederacy.
On May 12, 1862 Smalls and a few other slaves aboard the Planter executed a long-planned escape. They waited for the officers and other crewmen to take their leave ashore and quietly sailed out of the harbor. They used the Confederate Navy’s codebook to signal the fortifications they passed (including the infamous Fort Sumter) so that no one would be wise to their escape.
A man of integrity Smalls would not escape alone… he and his band of courageous freedom-fighters stopped at a pre-planned dock to pick his family and the families of the crewmen who were also escaping the oppression of slavery.
After securing their families on board Robert Smalls and his crewmen hoisted the white flag of surrender and sailed to the Union Fleet.
Upon surrendering the Confederate Vessel Smalls hoisted to the mast an American flag and delivered to the Union Navy the ship, its canons, and the most valuable prize- the Confederate Navy’s code book that the Union would later use to intercept and defeat Confederate Naval vessels.
The courage and fortitude to execute such a daring plan, risking life and limb for the cause of freedom has only one source… this sort of other-centered bravery and strength is found only in the life of the Triune God.
Robert Smalls went on to great fame as a member of the Union Navy and after the war achieved the rank of Major General in the South Carolina Militia.
After the Civil War Smalls moved back home to Beaufort, S.C. and purchased his former master’s home and cared for his master’s wife in the home through her elder years until her death.
Smalls went on to become a South Carolina State Congressman and a State Senator then in 1874 he was elected, on the Republican ticket, to the United States Congress. He helped pass civil rights legislation and the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.
His home in Beaufort, S.C. is now a National Historical Monument. A Godly and patriotic American, Robert Smalls, gives us all inspiration to reach above our station, to dream despite our situation, and to act with courage and conviction to right the world around us in whatever way we might.
It is not enough for the Father, Son, and Spirit to accomplish their mission alone. Jesus did not convert water to wine alone… the servants were invited to participate. The Lord did not raise the daughter of the High Priest in solitude… he allowed Peter, James, and John to see and experience his miracle. Even so the Triune God would not overcome the inhumanity of slavery without the extraordinary men and women like Robert Smalls.
Today you may feel insignificant. You may feel like the troubles of the world around you are too large for you to make a difference. It is my prayer that in the face of such giants you would feel Small(s)!
In this message of Good News understand what it means to be made in the image of God, Father, Son and Spirit and what that has to do with grasping and participating in your great value, significance, and present hope!
*photo courtesy of http://www.knowing-jesus.com
I’ll never forget the time I first noticed a dark spot on my youngest daughter’s tooth – the one that didn’t brush away. She wasn’t quite two years old at the time, and oh, how I panicked inside. I’d had friends deal with tooth decay in their very young children, and I knew their stories – ones that often involved anesthesia. I fretted about it for days until I was able to secure an appointment. Sure enough, it was tooth decay. And I would have another six weeks to suffer through before we could secure another appointment to treat it.
In our case, it was not serious enough to warrant anesthesia, so that was an enormous relief. But the thought of my tiny daughter having to face a dental procedure filled me with nothing but horror.
I was terrified.
The six weeks came and went, and aside from the odd temporarily lost child scenario, it was the most traumatic experience of my life to date. My toddler, who until then had known only gentleness and security, had to be wrapped tightly in order to be immobilised, and she screamed in fright through the entire procedure. They were the kind of screams that scar a mother’s soul, and I would have lain strapped to that chair and taken any amount of torture to make it stop for her. But I could only helplessly rub her little feet and try to console her. When it was mercifully over, she slept in my arms almost all day.
But she recovered. A day later, and you’d never have known it had happened.
She’s just turned three and I have learned that she will now need a little more dental work. And now I have another six weeks to suffer through as we wait.
I told my mother about it last night. The words were hard to say, because I still don’t understand how this can be happening. (I really have tried all along to do all the “right” things.) And my mother said quietly, “She’ll be okay.”
They were simple words, but are there any more powerful? They put tears into my eyes instantly. Sometimes you just need someone who has earned your trust over the years to tell you that it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of life, and that it’s going to be okay. Sometimes those words make everything okay.
It’s not that it’s going to be easy – it is going to be hard. But my daughter is going to be okay, and so am I.
The Bible, in Old Testament and New, is full of exhortations to “fear not.” It’s also entirely human to worry and be fearful. We face so many situations where it would take nerves of absolute steel – and perhaps some denial – to not worry. When you love someone deeply, it’s impossible not to ever worry about them, especially when they face challenging times or pain. There are situations that threaten our own survival. When you see things falling apart politically or socially, or people exploited and abused when you are for the most part powerless to help them, it’s natural to feel discontent and to worry about what it all means for life as we know it.
Obviously our Father knows this. I think what he wants for us is not to lose our lives to our worry. I think he especially wants us to fear not ultimately, because we are not alone in this life, and this life is not all there is for us. We have never been abandoned: he really is with us, and with every human. When Jesus took on human flesh, he willingly bonded himself and the Father and the Holy Spirit to humanity for always.
There is so much fear in our country and world currently. It’s nothing new really – it seems to have been this way throughout history more often than not.
But fear and evil never have and never will get the final word.
“Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.” Matthew 10:28, The Message translation.
The amazing news – absolutely shocking news according to our broken modes of justice – is that the God who indeed holds us, body and soul, in his hands, does not demand our fear as he could. Rather, he wills nothing but good for us – requiring nothing from us in return. It is his nature, and even our worst acts are not able to change it. Jesus came so we could leave behind our blindness and for the first time see the true face of God – his kindness, his benevolence, his swiftness to forgive every time, his refusal to judge and condemn, his faithfulness.
The bullies that threaten us are not just people who would hurt us, but cancer, tornadoes, economic turmoil, aging, corruption in all its forms – and so on. Some of these things may hurt us or take the lives of those we love, but their power is not eternal.
His is. We can’t see it yet, but he has already made everything okay. He has fixed every broken thing and healed every hurt. No person has escaped his loving eye or been denied his care.
I don’t know about you, but I long for a world where I no longer have to worry.
In the end, it’s all going to be okay.
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
So, why do we need to know that God, Father, Son and Spirit created EVERYTHING? Listen in and understand why humanity exists, what humanity’s purpose is, and why you really can live with less worry, better relationships, and a clearer sense of your life’s meaning!
*Photo courtesy of sermonview.com
This happens to me all the time: I’m looking for something, I’m tearing my office apart, or searching under every cushion in the sofa, or roaming through every room in the house, and I can’t find it. Then one of my kids says “oh, here it is, Dad, it was right in front of you the whole time.”
In this sentence from today’s gospel reading, Jesus says that something like that can happen to us in our spiritual lives if we’re not careful. We can learn the Bible backwards and forwards, and know all the stories, and we can cite chapter and verse of all the rules, and yet we don’t see the one to whom those very stories and verses are pointing us.
To my way of thinking this is how you get Christians enslaving people, waging wars, hating refugees, and elevating moral codes about sex above the inclusive love of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
If there’s someone you want to hate, or abuse, or reject, or dominate for your own selfish purposes, then you will be able to find a Bible verse – maybe even a whole chapter! – that will back you up on it. But you won’t find Jesus backing you up on it.
Loving Father, you have given us the Scriptures as a witness to the faithfulness of your Son Jesus Christ; grant that we may be so filled with your Spirit that we may see clearly in them the one to whom they testify and in whose name we pray. Amen.
~ Jonathan Stepp
I am a weather watcher by nature. Given the variability of Ohio weather, I usually watch the forecasts in the morning and evening with occasional checks of the latest updates on my phone. I like to know what’s going to happen next. Though I can enjoy a good mystery book as much as the next person, I have occasionally flipped to the back just to see how it all turns out. To be fair, I did finish the book with just as much relish because I could watch for clues as I was reading that pointed toward the anticipated outcome of the story. I liked the certainty of knowing how everything turns out.
Life usually doesn’t offer us that kind of certainty. Some young people are facing the uncomfortable insecurity of what to do in life, while other people have medical issues that place them in a life-or-death world of uncertainty. Author Joan Wickersham’s mother was in this spot of not knowing the outcome of her cancer prognosis:
“Sometimes the only answer is ‘Who knows?’ My mother’s surgeon said this, when I asked him about her prognosis. I wanted to hug him, even while I believed that deep down he knew that she was going to die. But she went through surgery and chemo and she didn’t die, though the next few years were terrifying. Learning to live with uncertainty is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I’m continually having to re-learn it. But there is also something deeply lovely about uncertainty: the possibility of optimism. If the story of the future truly isn’t written yet, who’s to say it won’t end well?”
As Christians we expect our faith to give us certainty about our lives on earth. And it does, though not in the way we think. Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV). We often interpret the purpose of faith to mean that we are somehow shielded from the suffering that comes from living in a world that was created to allow human beings free moral agency. But that’s not the purpose of faith.
Our faith is not that we will be miraculously spared suffering, but our faith is in the character of a loving Father, Son, and Spirit who have included us in their loving relationship, both now and for eternity. Jesus endured suffering as a human, not just the pain of the cross, but also hunger, grief, betrayal, and other physical and emotional pain that we all know so well. Christ’s solidarity with us in our suffering is what he means by “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” In fact, Christ still retains his humanity to this day, seated with the Father and in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and this testifies of the inclusion of humanity into this loving relationship forever.
As Wickersham points out, uncertainty does not necessarily mean something bad will result, nor does knowing the outcome necessarily mean that it is a good one. When faced with not knowing, we can optimistically say, “Who knows?” because our brother Jesus has told us to take heart. Life is a mystery that we can’t flip to the end and read how it turns out, though we can know that we are loved and treasured by God, and this certainty helps us rest in optimism. While the changeability of life can be like Ohio weather, we can’t watch an hourly forecast to see exactly how our latest struggle will be resolved. What we can do is believe that it will end well, despite any suffering we endure along the way. Our brother Jesus tells us so.
~by Nan Kuhlman
photo courtesy of blog.Cleveland.com
As a congregation grapples with participating even more with Jesus on His Mission in and outside the walls of the local congregation, the Good News is proclaimed that Jesus Christ is our Vision, therefore, we can go forward confidently with Him in faith, and without fear, even in the middle of the accompanying storm!
Matthew 8:23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.
picture courtesy of perfectwordsintheworld.blogspot.com
Some of us find it difficult to find the Triune God of Grace in the more violent sections of the Hebrew Scriptures. This is something I personally have wrestled with for a long time, and none of the easier options have worked for me. It is so important for me to worship Jesus as the Word incarnate, in whose Light all revelation is transformed. But at the same time, I know that the Scriptures are there to tell me things I cannot tell myself, so I find that I cannot simply discard the parts of the Bible that aren’t comfortable for me.
This sermon outlines a way of approaching Scriptures in a way that is sensitive to these concerns, but also emphasizes the question “What question is this text trying to answer? When I go to the book of Joshua with the question ‘How violent is God?’ am I disrespecting the text by asking it to answer something it is not meant to answer? The audio is here: http://thejourneychurch.com/teachings/?sermon_id=361
A few months ago, I began taking monthly painting classes. In all my 40 years, I’d never learned to paint, so I was half-terrified going in to our local wine-and-canvas operation. I’ll never forget having to make that first brushstroke across the perfect, white canvas. I was paralysed for a few moments – only the fear of being left behind altogether put an end to my inertia.
So paint I did, and I surprised myself with the results. I went again, and again, and a couple of weeks ago, I took my fifth class. Though it was my most challenging so far, for the first time ever in my painting journey, I felt myself let go and relax as I approached my painting. I softened. Perhaps it was because I had learned by then that no brush stroke was truly fatal, or that creating something new required taking risks. Perhaps it was because by then I had observed that my painting did not have to be exactly like my instructor’s to be beautiful. I’m not sure.
But something magical happened as I softened. A warmth flowed through me (and no, it wasn’t the wine as I had declined that night to drink anything). I lost my dread of my first brushstroke. I stopped trying so hard to get it exactly right, trusting that in the end, it would come together just right. I lost my need to compare my work with that of others around me.
In so doing, my enjoyment of the whole process increased exponentially. And I realised, life should be like this.
So when I was challenged to select my intention for 2016, I knew immediately what it would be.
I want to approach my life this year as I did that painting – without tension, without striving for perfection, without comparison, with freedom and with joy.
Someone told me recently that our thinking changes from decade to decade. We think differently in our 30s than we did in our 20s, in our 40s than in our 30s, in our 50s than in our 40s and so on. She also observed that the 30s are the decade we all endeavour to “do life” better than our parents did. We select and cling to a philosophy or set of principles, sure that it is the one right philosophy that will produce the superior results we so desperately want to see – in ourselves, our children, our spouses.
Guilty. A year into my 40s, I am beginning to see how pointless that was.
But the beautiful thing is, it wasn’t pointless. I couldn’t have skipped that stage if I’d tried. I needed to live my 30s to grow into who I am in my 40s. A decade from now, no doubt I will be saying the same thing about this decade.
I am sure it is this way by design.
God comes to you disguised as your life. ~ Paula D’Arcy.
Fr. Richard Rohr calls it the Second Half of Life. Dr Wayne Dyer called it The Shift. We all have the opportunity to proceed into that stage of life where we are no longer driven by our egos, and no longer assess our own self-worth by comparing ourselves with others. The stage of life where, as Fr. Richard Rohr puts it, having created our bowl, we become concerned with what, spiritually speaking, is going to fill it.
God seems to be about the refinement of souls. Clearly, he could perfect us all at the flick of a finger, but he seems to be after something more authentic in us than that.
By softening, we welcome an inevitable process and we show compassion and understanding for those who inhabit the stages of life we once did. And we can take joy in knowing that we are at a certain stage for a reason – that we have grown from a previous stage and that we will grow and deepen as individuals again.
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
In this last and year-end message in a series about discerning God’s vision for His congregation at New Life Fellowship of Baltimore. MD., we continue asking “How is Jesus speaking to us RIGHT NOW through these scriptures and directing us in His mission locally?”
This message of God’s Good News continues to get very specific about what participation with Christ looks like for us in this world! It asks and discerns: Where and with whom do we begin? How do we address healing in our day as we proclaim Jesus? How should we steward Jesus’ money, and how will we live in Jesus’ peace – on mission with him – as sinners in THIS broken world?
The message can be summarized in this quote:
“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture, and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security… To look for guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying down the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1934 [Renate Bethge’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Brief Life]
Come check it out and walk with us!