Nov 25, 2007

Someone else said it, but it could be me too!

Quote from Stanley Hauerwas:

"I'm a theocrat. But my problem is that I'm a theocrat who's also a pacifist, and it seems like it would be really hard to rule the world without using violence. But I'm willing to give it a try!"

Blame it on my mother. She raised me to be a Bible believing Black Christian man working to be faithful to the kingdom of the Holy Trinity!

Nov 22, 2007

Our Problem with God’s Justice

Texts: John 3:12-16; 35-36

1st John 4:9-16


--Have you ever talked to a family member, it was like they were speaking a different language than you? My mom and I used to be like that. Whether talking about sports, or politics, we would saying the same thing, just using different terms.

--It is so funny because in the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, it was if they were using 2 different languages. In John’s gospel, Nicodemus admits that Jesus a teacher from God, but Jesus corrects him, and says, oh no, that he is from heaven— from above.

We may only see John 3 as a chapter on God’s love on the surface, but it is also about God’s righteousness. The way we can talk about our sense of justice and divine justice can be just like the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus—same starting point, but 2 completely different understandings.

-The apostle John is often called the apostle of love. In 1st John—Love is God’s action-the crucifixion. Yet, doesn’t it strike anyone as ironic?—the author of the Gospels and Love letters from John--- may be the same oral tradition where the book of Revelation comes from-- a book dedicated to Jesus Christ and his justice. The Johanine tradition never separates God’s righteousness. This is primarily our problem with God’s justice

--Oddly enough, as Jesus is discussing his future work on the Cross and Ascension, he uses the story of how Moses raised the Serpent. This is not accidental. The Exodus story is when God 1st displayed His justice. Jesus’ Judaism is a large theme in John’s writings, like Matthew, only the use of symbols from the OT— whether referring to Moses, teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus as the manna from heaven [bread of life] (Passover),as the Passover Lamb, as David’s Good Shepherd.

Let us refer back to the Moses/bronze Serpent narrative:

Numbers 21

4From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 5The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” 6Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” 9So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

This was not the 1st time Moses had to deal with serpents sent from YHWH. [ In Exodus 3] Moses asked— What if the Hebrew children not trust him or YHWH’s justice, and God said—throw down your staff. A snake appeared and when Moses picked it up, it returned to a rod/staff. Then, when Moses and Aaron and Pharoah went before Pharoah: again, snakes came from Aaron’s rod which ate Pharoah’s snakes.

God was sending Moses and the Israelites a message—Trust YHWH alone. YHWH’s justice was greater than any human constructed view of Justice. Pharoah was right and just, in his own eyes. The Roman politicians and fellow Jews who executed Jesus were acting righteously, according to their own way. We Americans as so confident in our judicial system—“innocent until proven guilty” & “liberty and justice for all”—God’s justice, however looks nothing like the justice that we human beings can create. Bible’s story of God’s justice is quite different from what the world would have us to believe.
Divine justice is more majestic than what we can comprehend. God’s ways are not our ways. This is why in Scripture: snakes or serpents sometimes represent God’s wrath. When Isaiah was in the temple of YHWH, mourning the injustices of his fellow Israelites, he looked up—saw YHWH—and around his throne was these—winged cobras.
Isaiah 6:
6In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
5And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”
Isaiah had to be justified—he had to recognize that only God was righteous and the One who vindicates—before he showed the family of Jacob the error of their ways. Isaiah was unjust in the face of God’s righteousness.

God’s justice is like a snake. Snakes, found in the desert, or in the country. In the City of Louisville, where I’m from—there aren’t any snakes, and although we need snakes to keep the rat population down, we really don’t want them around. We don’t want God’s justice anywhere near us. We want it to go away, like that homeless person we see sleeping in front of Loafin’ Joes, or that undocumented worker who doesn’t look like us or talk like us. God’s justice is a scary thing—like a serpent, it is ugly, lowly where we have to get low to the ground in order to receive it (just as Moses had to pick up the serpent by the tail to get his staff back) but at the same time, like the winged cobras in Isaiah’s dream, it is from above; we want divine judgment on others, on our enemies, but we never really want to that same justice shown to us. Instead, we would rather go to church every Sunday morning and talk about how God loves us and how we should love our neighbors (which usually means tolerating/without offending them). God’s justice—like the 100 foot long six winged dragon in the middle of your living room—Oh I hope it doesn’t see me…..

God’s love and justice are not divided in Scripture. Theologian James Cone argues that “Love without righteousness is unacceptable” to those who suffer injustice. If God’s love is preached without God’s wrath, sin and oppression rule; by embracing both the justice and mercy of God, we proclaim the fullness of God’s kingdom. God is not a neutral permissive Being, who sits idly by, hoping for the best while the iniquity goes unpunished; the Christian God, the Trinity—Father Son Holy Spirit—works in the world to establish God’s righteousness throughout the world, choosing the foolish, the lowly and the poor, to shame the wise, mighty and rich.

Jesus uses the example of Moses lifting up the bronze serpent as the foreshadowing of the revelation of God’s righteousness. [CAN YOU IMAGINE JESUS AS A SNAKE?] If there is one thing about the gospel of John--- it is that Jesus is innocent. His conspirators are wrong and God is right. Our human brand of law & order, what we call just, is exposed starting the Caiphas, who saw Jesus as a scapegoat so that the Roman authorities would be satisfied. However, God, in the greatest display of the Triune God’s power, used the crucifixion of Jesus to—reveal our wickedness while God remained righteous and just. In the resurrection and ascension of Christ, God vindicates Jesus as he is sitting at the right hand of God, on his throne.

God’s justice is for everybody; through Christ, God made a way out of no way, to show God’s love for all of the world—that whosoever TRUSTS in Jesus Christ, God’s son (John 3:16)—will saved.

Trusting in Jesus as God’s Righteousness is at the heart of the Gospel message. The apostle Paul, who was once a murderer, even found forgiveness by placing his trust in him. As he made the cases for the church at Rome about the order of the creation as well as the reason why no human being on this planet can call themselves righteous—as well as Jesus Christ serving as God’s Justice in his crucifixion and resurrection. Christ did not die for the righteous, but for sinners—and according to Paul, “All have turned aside, together, they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not one.” (Romans 3:12) Yet, the Letter to the Romans is filled with good news: God has shown His kindness—by sending our Justifier-- Jesus Christ. It is not from within ourselves as we remain self-assured in our justice systems or our man-made laws or our religions that we can find God, but thru fully trusting that the One True God is Just! Who can accuse God’s chosen?--It is God who justifies, it is God who vindicates, and God alone. In a land where the Supreme Court and the congress may have found me guilty of being 3/5ths of a person, but God has the final, the last word—the Alpha and Omega.

The Word according to Paul to the Romans does not stop without giving us a clue of what it means to be declared righteous, to act justly as a justified people. We should not conform to the what the world believes is just, yet be transform by the renewing of our minds, or as Jesus told Nicodemus, to be born again. Walk in humility; Rejoice and pray always; Be on one accord; and just as God treated us—do not repay evil with evil, but good with evil.

You may be asking yourself why I am wearing this Black church studies shirt. The motto say,” Linking divine justice to social justice.” Why? Because the apostle Paul nor John the evangelical kept God’s justice to the past—on the cross of Golgotha 2000 years ago. God’s justice is also for the here and now as well as the future

The words of Isaiah the prophet says it the best.

(Isaiah 9:7)

7His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.

Oct 28, 2007

A Tale of Two Temples

Introduction: discuss--When I was in 5th grade, I would watch Nickelodeon after a long day of school. The Legends of the Hidden Temple was my favorite show, and on it, It [the temple] talked, and told stories. It was like a history lesson and game show all in one. But today I would like to discuss 2 vastly different temples.

1st temple-

The apostle Peter preached in Solomon’s Portico at the Second Temple in Jerusalem. It was there that the prophecies in Haggai were fulfilled. the Temple was so important. Temple worship was central to all of life because YHWH resided among the Hebrew people there. Sketched in the walls of God’s house was a story, but not just any story, but the God story of salvation history from the beginning. The word of the Lord came to Solomon instructing Israel’s wisest king on every detail from the rooftops to the doors. The sole reason why Solomon was permitted to even lay the foundation of the Lord’s house was because unlike his father David, Solomon had not engaged in warfare which requires the destruction of living breathing tabernacles. [Read 1st Kings 6:1-3 (NIV)]
In the four hundred eightieth year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord.
The house that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high.
The portico in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits wide, across the width of the house. Its depth was ten cubits in front of the house.

The sanctuary was made of the finest cedar with the inner most room containing the Ark of the Covenant. The whole house and alter was overlaid with the most refined gold. 2 angels (with their wings) guarded the sanctuary each from wall to wall. On the walls, engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers covered the outer and inner rooms of the house of God. The entrance way even had carvings of angels, open flowers, and palm trees while the inner court contained the best cedars of Lebanon. After all of this had happened, Solomon had everything that was in the tabernacle (from the dishes and cups to the burning menorah) into the innermost room of the Lord’s house. Why furnished this way (compared to 21st century churches?)?
King Solomon dedicated the temple, he prayed [1st Kings 8:27-30].
"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!
Regard your servant's prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today;
that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, "My name shall be there,' that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place.
Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.

King Solomon’s request was a return to the Garden of Eden. The flowers, the trees, the angels, on the walls in the sanctuary and on the doors refer back to the creation narratives, with the formation of God’s temple, the Earth, and His sanctuary, the Garden of Eden. God dwelled among us at Eden, in His Holy of Holies with his royal priesthood Adam and Eve.
(Scholar Scott Hahn) Parallels between Adam and Eve in Genesis and priests in Numbers and Leviticus:
a. Genesis 2:15, till (the garden) and keep it. Hebrew words—abodah and shamar---found also in commands to priests/tabernacle Numbers 3:7-8; 8:26; 18:5-6. Both Eden and the temple were entered from the East
b. God walks, the cherubim, menorah is the tree of life/ burning bush.
c. Lastly, God clothed Adam, just as Aaron was clothed. (Genesis 3:21; Exodus 28:42; Deuteronomy 23:13-14). High priests of humanity.
When the Enemy one day stole God’s treasured possessions and then returned them beyond the point of recognition; so much so that when God searched and called out for His priests, Adam and Eve, He asked, where are you? Who are you? Why don’t you know where you truly belong? Since the priests had failed to be holy anymore, God expelled them from His sanctuary, as a cherubim with a flaming sword was commanded to guard the tree of life. The events where God worked to get His priest hood back began with the election of and promises to Abraham and Sarah and realized after YHWH chose Moses at the burning bush as the liberator of the Hebrews from Pharoah. [Hebrews] celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem every year, reliving the Exodus event where God chose [their] forebears to be His royal priesthood. Centuries after King Solomon had dedicated the temple, God had expelled his priests from His sanctuary. Yet, the Lord of Hosts spoke to Haggai, promising a more glorious temple in which God would again dwell. [read Haggai 2:4-9].
Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts,
according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear.
For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land;
and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts.
The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts.
The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.

--I find it strange that the God who is supposed to reside in the temple is referred to as the Lord of hosts. The Lord of Hosts, a God with an army chooses a king who had never been to battle as the person to build His temple. This tells me two things: first, God the Creator is Lord of creation; God is sovereign because God has created all nations. This means that no nation has the right to lord themselves over another nation. Second, by selecting Solomon as the builder of choice, God is telling us something about the people who God wants worshipping at His house: people who live peaceful lifestyle to worship the One True God in spirit and in truth.

2nd Temple 

That day, in Solomon’s Portico, the apostle Peter claimed that Solomon’s prayer had been answered, and that every word of Haggai’s prophecy had been fulfilled. He proclaimed the Good News, alongside his friend John, that YHWH tabernacled among us, as one of us [John 1:14— [14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.] [the Greek verb skenoo literally means God fixed a tabernacle among us]. This very person, Jesus Christ once told a Samaritan woman [read John 4:19-26].
The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you F30 say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem."
Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us."
Jesus said to her, "I am he, F31 the one who is speaking to you."

During the Passover one year, our Lord Jesus cleared the temple and made a promise to the crowd [John 2:16-19].

He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!"
His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me."
The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?"
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

Throughout his life, Jesus talked about the kingdom of God in parables, about a stronger man plundering the strong man would take back his possessions. The opponents of Jesus accused him of wanting to destroy their temple while the Roman Empire accused the True King of the world of being a traitor and all had him crucified. At the crucifixion, the earth and heavens did shake as Haggai prophesied [Matthew 27:51-53].
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.
The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Yet, 3 days after the temple of God had been crushed and buried, God raised him from the dead. Christ had conquered death and sin, delivering us (his treasure), from the strong man we call Satan. I remember Peter telling us that silver and gold, he did not have, but he did have the Gospel, the power of God which gives life. Upon the cornerstone who was rejected, God has made a new priesthood, of Jew and Gentile, male and female, red brown, black or white, we are all precious in His sight.
And today, the stories from the 1st Temple and the 2nd Temple continues in the life of every member of the faithful who believes in Jesus Christ and who becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit. The enemy continues to try to take away Christ’s treasured priesthood—whether it be in Darfur, the western region of Sudan where the (Janjaweed) Devil Riders rape women and destroy villages; but even within the borders of the world’s lone super power, the USA,—in the abortion clinics and on death row where tabernacles of God’s breath (God’s ruach) are demolished in the name of free choice and capital punishment. [a favorite theologian, commentary] the apostle Paul, wrote to the Corinthians, however, [1st Corinthians 3:16-17].

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? F17
If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

As Temples of the living God and as the chosen priesthood, the church must share the wealth of God’s Good news that Jesus lives & reigns, and that every person, old or young, from womb to tomb, is valued by our Lord. Clement of Alexandria once asked, “Without the body, how could the divine plan for us in the church achieve its end?” While the Enemies may try to steal us back, we know that he will fail. Because Christ became victorious over the world, his church will also---[in the words of the members in the Civil Rights Movement, who achieved victory in spite the bombings of churches and the abuse of their temples]-- We shall overcome; We shall overcome; We shall overcome some day; Oh, deep in my heart ; I do believe We shall overcome some day---We can overcome the destruction of God’s temple because His Son, Jesus Christ first did.

Life is sacred not because of my free choice or my flawed sense of justice but because of God's sovereign choice at the Incarnation and the justice of God we find at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the words of John--[Read Revelation 21:22].

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

Jul 4, 2007

An Independence Day Reflection

“Freedom, then, is not an abstract question. It deals with human existence in a world of societal enslavement. We cannot solve the question of freedom in a college, classroom, theoretically debating the idea of “freedom versus determinism.” Freedom is an existential reality. It is not a matter of rational thought but of human confrontation.” James Cone, p. 89, A Black Theology of Liberation.

Liberation for the world (if you want to learn more about liberation theology, other than what Fox News tells us it is):

My favorite, J. Deotis Roberts



Sola Trinitas

Jul 1, 2007

Cage Stage?

What is the cage stage? According to many Calvinist theologians, the cage stage is that short period of time when young Christians decided to become Calvinists and rather more aggressively try to convert their friends to their positions. I, unfortunately, once went through this stage, but once I got out of it, I also left Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism, in particular, is a heresy. While the Bible says that Jesus died for the whole world, Hyper-Calvinists still insist that Jesus only died for the frozen chosen. These brand of Calvinists would prefer to abrogate the word of God, Scripture, by exclusively reading their man-made tradition into the text. The cage stage is a particularly unique phenomena because it gives license for believers to remain bitter towards those who do not agree with them. The cage stage is another excuse to live in the flesh because the Bible says that a true Christian will be like this:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:22-24 (NIV)

I am a Christian, and I am not perfect, but at the same time, I believe that Scripture does not give Christians, at any point in their walk, (even out of zealotry) to remain angry.

Sola Trinitas

Jun 26, 2007

Nothing is new under the sun

Well, we baptists are splitting up again. And we claim that it won't start a new convention. Yeah right! Apparently, my denomination, National Baptist Convention, USA will be participating in the event, in Atlanta 2008.

Sola Trinitas

Sign that the end of the world is near.

I was accused of being a feminist today.

Jun 23, 2007


So, yesterday I had the worst lunch break ever. It all started when I suggested we go to Luby's for lunch. It was my friend Jacob, Darryl from work, and myself. As I was in the parking lot, I walked in between 2 cars. One red convertible had a license plate on the front that had bent corners. The plate cut deeply into my right knee. For a few minutes, my knee would not stop bleeding. As it stopped, we ate an overpriced meal. Then, we looked out our window near the booth we were sitting when a tall black man in a very short mini-skirt kept pacing back and forth. Let's just say we could not stop laughing, as much as we tried. After lunch, I went to school since I was scheduled to have Theological German at 2pm. However, I started bleeding again, and fortunately, the administrators called the TCU police who escorted me to the TCU Health center. I got stitches and my shot updated. The good part about yesterday was last night, Molbert (molly and Robert) and I went to see "Evan Almighty." I also saw my friends Rodney and Amanda at the same auditorium at the Rave (Fort Worth). It was a decent movie for kids to see, and very-faith friendly, in that it was not blasphemous like "Bruce Almighty."

Jun 16, 2007

Living God, Living Wage




The Living God and the Living Wage: A theology of human dignity and independence



June 16, 2007


“And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is God not of the dead, but of the living [.]”
Jesus Christ, Our Lord

Oftentimes in Texas political dialogue, we hear candidates use the phrase, “the sanctity of life.” To claim that all life is sacrosanct means that human life, in our experience, points the community to an Ultimate Reality that guides our being, thinking, and doing. The recognition of a Higher Power requires that community work for the common good as an assurance that life remains sacred in the eyes of the individual and public. A living wage at Texas Christian University would be an example of such an assurance; it would make a statement to the TCU community as well as the city of Fort Worth and the state of Texas that TCU affirms the sanctity of life as well as values independence and freedom.
The notion that all of life is sacred is grounded in the general recognition that the entirety of creation, including every human person originated from a Creator. In particular from the Christian religious perspective, all of humanity is created in the image of God, the imago Dei. This means that every person is endowed with innate, God-given attributes such as intelligence and freedom, and above all, life itself. While we are all dependent upon God for all that we are, God’s gift of freedom allows for each individual to function freely in relationship with her/his community. God is love and freedom is necessary for the highest quality of relationship with God as well as with others. If the life of freedom and independence are freely given by God, any encroachment of these gifts is a violation of human rights. Christian liberty within a community is one of many values in Scripture. The apostle Paul told the church at Thessalonica, “But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1st Thessalonians 4:10-12).
As a community of faith, Texas Christian University should adopt a living wage policy because it best reflects the value, independence, that our community’s professed religious tradition endorses. TCU, as an institution, however, has members of its community who follow a plurality of religious tradition. We also have a number of faculty members who are adherents to Judaism and Islam. While these traditions do not share the same experience and history as the “C” in TCU, the concept of independence is not a foreign idea to Islamic and Jewish life. In Judaism, the twelfth-century legal scholar Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon noted that the highest form of charity was the kind that gave the recipient independence. His conclusion was derived from his interpretation of Leviticus 25:35, which says, “If any of your kin fall into difficulty and become dependent on you, you shall support them.” A living wage at TCU would share the same aim as Maimonide’s scale of charity, or the tzedekah. In Muslim life, generosity is required as one of the five pillars of Islam, Zakat. The giving of the alms is “for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors”; it is an obligation that is useful to stabilize society and purify the faithful from becoming greedy. It is this spirit of charity that a living wage at Texas Christian University would set an example for the Fort Worth community to act justly towards those who have become dependent on society, particularly the impoverished.

Sermon, "Same Tradition, New Conversation"


CHTH 70043





NEW TESTAMENT SELECTION: Galatians 1:11-16 (KJV); Hebrews 13:7-8 (KJV).

In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul in this passage is making a confession, in both senses of this term. He is confessing his sin, his mistake of loving the tradition he was a part of more than God. He also confesses his belief that Christ had chosen him to reveal God’s salvation to the nations. Jesus, in Mark 7, condemns the religious leadership because they had disobeyed God’s law in order to avoid helping their aging parents. When we look at the term “tradition,” the Greek word is [entole], which is synonymous with both tradition and ordinance. When the teachers of the law asked, “What is God’s greatest law, or what ordinance did their religious tradition center around, Jesus responded with the Jewish Shema, a prayer found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV); in addition, Jesus, using his religious authority as a rabbi, amended the Shema to include Leviticus 19:18.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

18 " 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Jesus Christ’s ordinance serves as Black Christianity’s creed that perfectly expresses our view of redemption, which reflects God’s plan for our salvation. J. Deotis Roberts says that “We have before us an eternal gospel, communicated through scripture, tradition, and witness of the Spirit in Christian life through the ages. […] He continues—“The black Christian is concerned about the relation between faith and life. His or her “ultimate concern” has to do with life-and-death situations.”p.3 of L&R The elimination of the web of sin and oppression that reigns in this world should be the goal of every person who adheres to the Jesus tradition; Love God, Love others, Nothing else matters.

I, like the apostle Paul, have a confession to make. I, too, was guilty of loving my religious tradition, the Baptist tradition more than people. I used to believe that the Baptist church was the only pure church of God; that my own Baptist tradition had all of the answers. That was, until I developed friendships with members of the Roman Catholic Church, United Methodist Church, African Methodist Episcopal, AMEZ, etc, etc. We have no right to condemn the religious leaders that Jesus rebukes in Mark 7 until we first come to grips with our own depravity. The modern age is filled with examples of persons who loved their tradition more than people. Think of the Reformation, and then the 100 years war after that. Remember the second Great Awakening, and then the Civil War that followed. Postcolonial and postmodern scholars are challenging the West’s traditional claims of the primacy of the individual and a disinterested objectivity in the search of absolute truth in the academic world. Postmodernism is about asking questions more than finding answers. For the Church Universal, this means that all of our traditional claims about God are now under scrutiny. External sources of authority, including the Bible, creeds, and other Christian practices need to be confirmed rather than these authorities wavering unquestionable power over communities and individuals. Emerging Churches p.23. Lesser emphasis is placed on institutionalized forms of religion and more emphasis on personal and culturally relevant versions of the Christian tradition. Evangelism, and therefore the great Commission and Great Commandment, become lifestyles, and not merely events. P. 80-1 Modernity consistently separated the sacred from the secular because God was viewed as distant; Postmodern Christians seek to overcome that separation with an emphasis on their search for God’s presence in their everyday lives.

I have had many conversations with postmodern, or Emergent Christians. They do not view Christianity as a religion filled with doctrine and rules; they only follow the Jesus tradition: Loving God, and Loving others, nothing else matter. Doctrine divides, and Jesus unites (as our Disciple sisters and brothers say, No Creed but Christ!) They would not live or die over battles having to do with worship styles; Jesus is all that matters. In the Black church tradition, we could learn from their approach. Jesus Christ, God’s revelation to humanity, and the Divine Yes to life and liberation who the Triune God revealed through His birth, his ministry which culminated at his crucifixion, his resurrection and ascension by placing him at the center of our tradition.

The emerging approach does present some problems to the Black church tradition. The emergent Christians I have encountered admit that the Emergent conversation (it’s not a united movement) has not gained popularity among African Americans. I believe that this is the case because the Black church’s one consistent affirmation: God is a God of liberation and that liberation involves the community and not just individual pursuits for God. Secondarily, I believe that we have become too attached to our religious institutions because in modern times, organization, rather than relationships, were prioritized. If we go back to the Galatians text, Paul admits that he had a change in conversation from his past; conversation, in Paul’s day, meant both his words and his actions. Hebrews 13:7-8 (KJV) says,

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

Human tradition may die with humanity, but the Resurrected Messiah and his tradition are forever. We, as the African American Christian community, need to change the way we converse with the world without changing the Jesus Tradition: Love God, Love Others, Nothing Else matters.

I believe we must first start with the Black traditional view of the Triune God. The Christian Trinity is a God For Us, God With Us, and God in Us. God is for our freedom from the bondage of sin and wishes to liberate our wills in order that we may serve God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross not only as a condemnation of human wickedness, but as an example of God’s ability to sympathize with human beings, even in death. Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God is with us in the good times and bad. The Spirit of Christ redeems and sanctifies us for God’s glory and plan for redemption. The Holy Spirit, God residing in us, fosters holiness and communion among the saints to achieve God’s ordained salvation. Christians serve the Trinity, a social God, a God that fellowships with Godself and with humanity; and the Triune God calls every Christian to social transformation.

Second, like the emergent Christians, we must emphasize Missional Christianity, or making Christian missions and evangelism a lifestyle. We must make decisions, as a community of faith, to find ministers who will reach out to those who are seeking God. We have to become seeker-sensible; otherwise we risk losing the church’s cultural relevance. This means we must trust the Holy Spirit to discern the various gifts that God gives us and members of our community; we need to allow the young painter, the rapper, and actress room to express themselves within the bounds of the church. The Black tradition and the Emergent conversation can work together because of our emphasis on helping the poor, lifting up the oppressed.

Lastly, we must always keep the Jesus tradition as the subject of our conversation: Love God, Love Others, Nothing else matters.


The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others by Scot McKnight

Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger

Sites to visit:

Sermon, "God's Original Intent"



“God’s Original Intent”

It was in a constitutional law course as an undergrad that I came across the term, “original intent.” Original intent is the theory of constitutional interpretation that seeks to find our Founders’ primary objectives at the creation of our republic. John 1 is a biblical passage about God’s original intent for humankind at foundations of the world and how He accomplished His task. “In the beginning was the Word” John the Evangelist declares. The literal Greek for “the beginning”, or arche, (ar-kay) in this passage, when translated, means the commencement and the primary rule. When we look for God’s original intent, we will find redemption, relationship, and restoration.

First, the Creator chose His Son, Jesus Christ as redeemer for the whole creation. God intends for all of humanity to receive redemption through Jesus Christ (1st Timothy 2:4).
The Son was with the Father at the beginning of creation because, God who is all knowing, knew that we as humankind, were capable of breaking our bonds with the Creator. In Genesis, God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” John Wesley commented on this passage found in Genesis 1:26-28

“The three persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, consult about it, and concur in it; because [humankind], when [it was] made, was to be dedicated and devoted to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. That [humanity] was made in God's image, and after his likeness […]”

The three persons in the Godhead have only one will because there is only One God; and that will is redemption through Christ. The second purpose why the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit made us in their image was that God desired relationship. 1st John 4:8 says that God is love. He encompasses all love: Love for self, love for others, and love for God. God’s way of loving Himself, and others, which is the world, is His Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten son for whosoever believes in him shall not perish be receive eternal life.” (John 3:16) God is an intelligent spirit who draws us into intimate relationship with Him and others.

The last part of God’s intention that we find in Christian Scripture and tradition is the full restoration of our humanity. Though this passage emphasizes Christ’s divinity, it tells us something about our humanity. God dwelled with humankind at the very beginning. Yet human sinfulness, the darkness that St. John refers to in our Gospel selection, separates us from God. We are incomplete without a relationship with God. Since God our Redeemer was present at the time of Creation, God ordained the restoration of our full humanity. The Triune God of the Bible, from the very start, is a God of redemption, relationship and restoration.