Thursday, May 21, 2015

His grace shall lead me

I don't feel like visiting her.  I watched her over the past year start to throw her life down the drain- again.  I watched Meth take control- again.  I watched her very wonderful husband need to walk away. I watched her neglect her girls. I peered into her drugged up life through her facebook posts.  I read the newspaper article of her arrest.  And I just feel mad, and hopeless, and done.  I don't feel like going to jail to visit her.  Even if she has hit the bottom and is repentant- again.  

And then Grace whispers to me.  And He reminds me of His presence in my straying.  His love for me in my rebellion.   His forgiveness and friendship in my sin.  His mercy and refusal to leave me behind.  His patience in my stubbornness.  Grace reminds me that He is not a limited set but an infinite source of love and kindness and hope. 

And because this is true for me, I will go visit her.  And I will testify to the good news of Christ's grace for us both. Amazing, amazing grace.  

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Romans 5:15

Monday, May 4, 2015

a step toward peace

I want to thank Reverend Whitfield and Mt. Carmel Baptist Church for extending blessing to the community yesterday.  Their invitation to pray over Waterloo’s law enforcement, their gesture of bringing people together in the spirit of peace, in the Spirit of Christ, felt like a little balm of Gilead being applied to some wounds that so desperately need healing.  

“There is a disconnect between our police department and especially the African American community.  We want Mt. Carmel to be the re-connect.  We want to show people we can work together.” 

Mayor Buck Clark thanked Mt. Carmel for welcoming The City with open arms, and he shared points from the morning’s sermon at Orchard Hill regarding blessing a broken world by turning our face toward people, offering grace, and bringing peace.

Police Chief Dan Trelka talked about our common enemy, Satan, who is hard at work in our community, nation, and world seeking to devour, divide, and destroy.   He addressed the crowd saying, “Well, we’re making Satan mad today.”  

Councilman Quentin Hart spoke to the congregation and reminded them that just as Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of a day when his children wouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin, he reminded the congregation that neither do people want to be judged by the color of their uniform.

Reverend Whitfield invited Mayor Clark, Councilman Hart, and Chief Trelka, along with other officers and family members, to the front.  Deacons gathered around them, and the pastor prayed over them. 

Some of the officers left after that because they were on duty, but a few others stayed, and at one point in the morning, a deacon stood up, and spoke a powerful word to the officers remaining.  He talked about his favorite movie “Avatar”, and he looked intently at the officers, and said, “I see you.”  “I see you.”   He was speaking beyond the physical “seeing”.  He was in essence saying, 'I see your humanity.  I see the risks you take and the sacrifices you make.   I see your wounds.  I see your strength.  I see you.'

Whitfield used his message to communicate a strong both/and to those listening.  He discussed the reality of crime and needed accountability for criminal acts, but he also addressed a history that is littered with a long string of injustices that continue today.  He talked both of how these injustices can understandably bring people to such great anger, and yet he also talked about how Christians must respond so as not to sin in our anger.  He made three great points:

1.       He spoke about a godly anger that calls for justice but refuses to hate.  He shared from Hebrews 13:1:  Let brotherly love continue.  Whitfield talked about recognizing our differences but working from a common place…the fact that we have one common enemy and one common Savior.  If love is at work in us, we will become more sensitive to humanity, the suffering and pain, and human rights. 

2.       Reverend Whitfield’s second point:  Be careful how we respond to strangers.  We might be entertaining angels unaware.  He spoke about how we have deeply embedded stereotypes, assumptions, prejudices that often make us treat a person negatively.  We categorize people without really knowing them.  We need to be careful how we respond to strangers.   We need to respond to injustice by putting it in God’s hands and never, ever lose the capacity to love every single person. 

3.       And finally, Pastor Whitfield reminded us that we need to share the sorrow of victims.  Injustice leaves people wounded.  Can we bear the pain along with those who have been wounded?  We should galvanize our sympathy to work toward something good together.  

I was thankful Mt. Carmel friends extended an invitation to the community to worship with them yesterday, and I am grateful to have been present with them.    

Click here to read an article from our local newspaper.