Thy Kingdom Come
From the Pastor's Pen (Archives)
Jesus came to reintroduce the kingdom reality of all of God's sons and daughters. God, whose Holy Spirit resides in us, wants to move through us. Our challenge is to allow God to use us.
Have you ever wondered why we don't see signs and wonders today? Do you think that those manifestations of God ended when the disciples died?
God is still moving. Below is a video teaching by Rick Renner which highlights the experiences of Martin Luther and John Wesley. Their ministries were filled with signs and wonders. What God did then, God is doing now. God desires to do it through you and me.
Image by Rachael Henning
Photo by Rachael Henning on Unsplash
A Reflection by Pastor Lillian
To Observe or Not to Observe, That is the Question for Christian Families
Even with the presence of COVID-19, numerous families are busy planning their halloween festivities. Driving through the neighborhood, numerous houses are decked with ghosts, ghouls and goblins. Well, this year, I want to ask Christian families, " do you know about the history of Halloween?"
Halloween was derived from the Celtic festival of Samhain. It was on that day when the Celtics believed the dead could return to the earth. The people would wear disguises and light bonfires. They would wear disguises so that the dead would not return to torment them for a day. Related to the term bonefires, it was at bonfires that animal bones and crops were burned to repel ghosts. Bonfire is thought to be related to the term, bonefires, where people would burn the bones of animals to ward off evil spirits.
As a way to counter the pagan observance, in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III established, Halloween (All Hallow's Eve), in order to remember Christian Saints who had been martyrd.
Even today, Halloween is an important sacred day for people practice the religion of Wicca. For them it is a day to celebrate death. Christians would do well to reexamine their participation or observance of this pagan holiday.
But Pastor Lillian, 'Why?'" "It is only a little fun. What is the big deal?" God never wanted people to communicate with the dead. It does not give glory to God and can open us to a part of the spiritual realm we do not need to engage. It is not something Jesus would do.
As a parent, we have all made decisions we may have later regretted. When we know better we can do better. Here are some scriptures and resources that provide more information. Even if you are a little skeptical of what this pastor has written, do your own research. You have nothing to lose and freedom to gain.
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2021 A New Year Begins....
2020 will be a year that we will not quickly forget. It has been a hard year. COVID-19 has affected all of us. We have lost loved ones and know people who were, and are, affected by the virus. COVID-19 affected all areas of our lives - church, school, family gatherings...everything.
Beloved, we have crossed over into a new year. Come what may, we have the opportunity to choose how we will face this year. Beloved, please choose to trust God even in these challenging times. Everything depends on our trusting God. Things may or may not get better quickly. Yet, God still remains on the throne and everything, even the Coronavirus, has to bow its knee to Jesus our Lord. As Christ followers, we walk by faith and not by sight. Times like these remind us of our need to flex our faith muscles even more.
As you enter into the new year I want to invite you to do the following:
1. Determine that Distractions Won't Interfere with Your Walk with God!
2. Observe daily prayer. The following link contains information on Methodist Prayer, as practiced by John Wesley. Daily prayers are provided for morning, midday, evening and night sessions. There is also information for the Friday Fast. (Yes, historically, Methodists do fast.)
3. Observe a weekly fast day - Fasting is abstaining from something in order to give attention to God. During the time of the fast, we focus our attention on God in prayer and listening for God's voice and direction. Fasting is a process of humbling oneself in order to hear God more intimately. Fasting can be observed in various ways. It can include fasting one or multiple meals for one day, or a type of food, or meat, time on personal devices, social media, etc. Please do not begin fasting food without first checking in with your doctor. If you want to get closer with God and gain more spiritual power, fasting is highly recommended. Here is information about the Wesley Fast. (Again, Methodists do fast)
4. Worship weekly - Worship is every week at 10AM. Now that it is getting colder, virtual worship will be the way we connect.
While I can't tell you everything that will happen in 2021, there is one thing I can say. With God, 2021, is going to be good.
Pastor's Summer Reading List
Defeating Strongholds: A Believer's Guide to Breaking Strongholds of the Mind by Rebecca Greenwood
Forgiveness by Rodney Hogue
Liberated: Set Free and Staying Free From Demonic Strongholds by Rodney Hogue
How to be An Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi
The Fast Metabolism Diet: Eat More & Lose More Weight by Haylie Pomroy
Prince George's County and the Civil War: Life on the Border by Nathania A. Branch Miles, Monday M. Miles and Ryan J. Quick
The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American's Church's Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby
Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 by Dallas Willard
Let Justice Roll Down Like Water, And Righteousness Like an Ever Flowing Stream - Amos 5:24
As this reflection is being written, the world continues to reel in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis, Minnesota police officers. This area is experiencing the 8th day of protesting. Like you, I have been jarred by the images of that fateful 8 minute 46 second video, the mass protests, riots and burning cities. Like you, the images of similar videos haunt me. Like all of you, my emotions have run the full gamut, from tears and sadness to the disbelief that something like this has happened again. Like many mothers of sun kissed sons, I’ve prayed, ‘God, please protect my sons. Keep them safe.’ Like you, I’ve asked, ‘What’s going on- Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor? The list is just too long.
The issue we currently face is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is a sin problem framed in the hatred or mistreatment of individuals based on their color. The sin of hatred in the form and nomenclature of racism has threatened the fabric of this nation for a long time, really from its inception. There is only one race-human. The construct of race was created to justify the dehumanization of others based on color. Acts of the Apostles 17: 26-28, records,
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ [b]
What would happen if we each were able and willing to honor every person as we would want to be honored? What would happen if we loved others as we love ourselves? What is God expecting God’s sons and daughters to do in interactions with others? What would Jesus do? As a person of faith, ‘what does the Lord require of you and me? To do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. ‘ Micah 6:8
The issue is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is truly a sin problem. The sin of racism has threatened the fabric of this nation for a long time, really from its inception. Beloved, there is only one race-human.
As a multi-cultural church family, we have not shied away from open and hard conversations about racism, prejudice, implicit and explicit bias, white privilege, and internalized oppression. Cheverly United Methodist Church has hosted talks by the Rev. E. Michelle Ledder, General Commission on Religion and Race, Freedom Rider, Ernest “Rip” Patton, and studies including “Multi-Cultural Conversations.” The Police Chief’s Advisory Board, on which I serve, participated in a department implicit bias training. More work remains to be done. If true peace is to happen, the extra work has to be done. We will have to continue to work and pray to be the change we want to see. We have made great progress. We still have miles to go before we are done.
Musings on the Eve of March: Bible Study Zoom Bombed on the Last Day of Black History Month..Racism is Alive in Living Color
By Rev. Dr. Lillian C. Smith,
Pastor, Cheverly United Methodist Church
February 28, 2021
“Hmph. Hmph. Hmph,” my mother said quietly. We were sitting together at the dining room table observing our usual Sunday routine. Usually, she sits quietly and says nothing, but this time was different. I asked, “What’s the matter Mom?” She replied, “ I’m just thinking about those people…..”
On Sundays she sits with me as the pre-recorded worship service streams online. I host the chat room and communicate with worshippers. Then, later, she sits in on our Adult Sunday School Class. We are studying “How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice,” based on the book by Jemar Tisby. Discussing the Imago Dei, we had just engaged the scripture, Genesis 1: 26-27.
Genesis 1: 26-27 (Common English Version)
“Then God said, let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth. God created humanity in his own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them.”
We had turned our attention to the practical ways to combat racism, as identified in Tisby’s book. Tisby, in chapter 2, offered the following three practical suggestions to combat racism.
Teach what the bible says about Race and Ethnicity
Learn Theology from the Disinherited
Treat Racism as a Sin
We had just discussed the first two practical suggestions when things went awry. I posted our Bible study information on our website and sent the information through email with the prayer that more people would become involved in the conversations on race and faith/religion. I was glad to let new people in to join the call. My suspicions grew when 16 others joined. They listened then took over the call with language too disrespectful to repeat. Remember, my 92 year old mother, members of our church and guests to Cheverly UMC were on the call. This decision, by these hackers, to disrupt our discussion strengthens the need to address these issues and for the church to take the lead. Zoom hacking, best known as Zoom-bombing is a federal offense and when caught, can be prosecuted. The legal system will address this side of the issue but we as believers in Christ must address the souls of people who engage in the privilege of remaining ignorant, leverage God’s Word and the actions of His people to create harm, and miss the opportunity to live out God’s purpose in their lives because they are not open to the possibility that all of us have something to learn and each of us is accountable for doing such.
Cheverly United Methodist Church is committed to helping people talk about issues of racism, prejudice, white supremacy, internalized oppression and God’s love for everyone regardless of language, ethnicity, color, walks of life, etc. These types of conversations are not new for us. What is new is a heightened level of hatred spewed at my bible study class earlier today. This multicultural congregation is known as the church in the heart of the community with the community in its heart. We serve, love, feed and help the community weekly.
“Those people”, my 92-year-old mom referenced, were not the people who required her, as a child, to sit in the movie theatre balcony, in Easton, MD, because she was Black. “Those people” were not the ones who would not allow her to complete her Master’s Degree at the University of Maryland, because of her color. She would have to do that at Columbia University in NYC. “Those people” were not the individuals who, angered by the thought of desegregation in Lamar, SC, threatened the lives of African American teachers who were going to have to leave the high school where Black students attended; to go to work at the former whites only high school. The danger was so severe that those teachers had to be accompanied by National Guardsmen. The threat of buses being turned over, or worse, burned, was real.
No, “those people,” to whom my mother referred, were those we encountered on Sunday. The face of one anglo male, dressed in a red and white striped shirt shown on the screen. He sat looking at us while he ate what appeared to be potato chips. While he looked at the Bible study members, we heard voices and recorded messages. The screens of the other callers were not turned on.
“Those people” my mom talked about are criminals. They said things, like, “Shut the f up….Dumb black, and more.” “ Those people” had somehow hijacked control of the call. The only way to get them off was to end the call.The perpetrators’ intent appeared designed to dehumanize, disrespect and intimidate the persons in the class. Intentions do not always garner the outcomes desired.….
Yes, “those people caused problems.” I, the pastor/shepherd of this congregation, do not like nor tolerate her sheep being bullied and disrespected by anyone but especially not racist individuals. I was angry these people had nothing better to do with their time but to Zoom bomb a Bible study? Really? A Bible study?
Racism is alive and growing. Lest we forget, the prayer meeting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, where believers were massacred because of their color. Lest we forget, the recent destruction and burning of Washington, DC church “Black Lives Matter” signs. One of those churches was my childhood faith community, Asbury UMC.
“Those people” disrupted our plans but their plans were disrupted as well. We were not intimidated and are not afraid. Contrary to their plans, we completed our work for the day. Those people spoke their foul language and received my call for the forgiveness of their action and the healing of their minds and souls. What they heard was….
“If you died today, where would you go? “Hell is real.”
“You are not bothering me. Your soul hangs in the balance and I’m praying that God will have mercy on you and change your heart.”
“Is this what your church teaches you?”
You see, it is possible they never learned everyone is created in the image of God and I wanted them to know the error of their ways before they met their Maker face-to-face. Maybe, they grew up in and/or currently attend church. Who knows!
In our Bible studies we are learning that churches have been complicit in supporting racism, intentionally and/or through silence. Churches represent communities of humans trying to live the faith walk, teach the truth, and hold the community responsible for growing in their faith, knowledge and in service.
You see, Jesus loves everyone.He died for “those people” too.It appears, those people don’t realize their hatred, harmful to others will eventually cause them to self-destruct. History has shown, those people cause destruction but they will not remain unscathed.
Don’t get me wrong, I hope and pray the authorities will find and deal with these individuals. I pray God will touch and turn their hearts around so that those people do not pass on their hatred to generations yet unborn who will, in turn, inflict harm on generations unborn in my family and the families of people I love and serve in ministry. This nation has inherited a quagmire of racist hatred that threatens to destroy this nation even today.
Let none of us be “those people!” Let us work and pray for better. Laws alone won’t stop this evil cancer of racism upon our nation. We need God’s help. The world needs your prayers.
Let’s be clear. No longer can people of faith be quiet in the face of racism, even if it appears in our families, schools, neighborhoods or in our jobs. We can’t cower and hide our heads in the sand. We must meet the challenge head on.
You see, “those people'' cannot have the last word. Too many of my ancestors experienced too much for me to be quiet. From the newly enslaved ancestor who was thrown off the ship and told to ‘sink or swim’ because he would not easily submit to the horrors of slavery; to the numerous others who withstood unspeakable dishonour, degradation and disrespect, armed with God’s strenghth and knowlege that God made them somebody too.
Too many people of various colors and ethnicities have prayed, marched, risked their lives and worked for the vision of God’s beloved community. You see, those people do not realize that in order to hate people to the extent that they demonstrated today, there must be a deep hole in their souls, and only Jesus can change the situation. Their behavior reflected more on their depravity than on any sense or message of inferiority they attempted to project on the class members. They need help.
Our class may not have been able to talk about the third practical step, and that is ok. On the last day of Black History Month, our experience taught us, all too well, about the sin of racism, the power of privilege and the danger of ignorance. Racism is alive and well and needs to be eliminated.
“Hmph. Hmph. Hmph.” “What’s the matter Mom,” I asked. “I’m just thinking about those people.” Beloved, tonight, I’m thinking about those people too. What about you?