Rev. Ronald E. Braxton, Senior Pastor, Metropolitan AME Church
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Scripture: Psalm 18: 1-6
1I love you, O Lord, my strength.2The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. 4The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. 5The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. 6In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
We are surrounded by so many events right now – the earthquake in Haiti, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Social Justice Month – and our church is an active participant in these efforts. I would like to acknowledge the important work of the ministries of our church – ministries such as the Mighty Men of Metropolitan, who are actively involved in recovering the lives of men and women who are in prison or coming out of prison through the Daniel Alexander Payne Reclamation Program (“DAPRP”, pronounced “DARP”). The Mighty Men are also ministering to young men who are incarcerated at the Oak Hill Youth Center, and they are ministering to ex-offender fathers to help them to become good viable parents and role models to their children through their Fatherhood Initiative Program. The Mighty Men are God’s way of showing up in the rubble places of other men’s lives.
The scripture in Psalm 18 shows us how, no matter how devastating a situation might be, God shows in the “rubble places” of our lives – the places that are broken, from physical and emotional devastation, quakes, confusion. The scripture shows us how God always shows up in these rubble places of our lives, and how He always shows up on time.
1. God Will Show Up in the Rubble Places.
God Showed Up in David’s Rubble Places. Psalm 18 is a Psalm of David’s cry out to the Lord to deliver him from his enemies; to deliver him from the hands of King Saul who was determined to destroy David. King Saul was determined to end David’s life after making several attempts. Psalm 18 shows how the Lord delivered David from Saul’s attacks on his life. God showed up in David’s “rubble places”. The message from the scripture is that you can always depend on God to show up in your rubble places.
God Showed Up in the Rubble Places of the Segregated South. Rev. Martin Luther King wrote of the dilemma he faced after he had completed his residency requirements for a PhD, and needed to find a job while he wrote his doctoral thesis. He was torn in several directions: should he accept a teaching position, a deanship, or a position in administration? Should he pursue the pastorate, or should he pursue a career in education? If he pursued the pastorate, should he accept an assignment at a church in the north, or in the segregated south? He confessed that “I resented segregation”. However, he also felt that some of those who had been educated in the north should “return to the south to assist in changing the landscape. So I went back to Montgomery.” Dr. King soon discovered that God was in the rubble of the segregated south.
God is Showing Up in the Rubble Places of the Men, Women and Youth Who have been Incarcerated. I mentioned the work of the Mighty Men of Metropolitan’s DAPRP program, and their laudable efforts to help men and women coming out of prison to reclaim their lives. This morning, some of the Mighty Men are not here because they are helping to organize the worship services at the Oak Hill Youth Center. They have partnered with the District of Columbia and the Federal Government through the CSOSA program to help men and their families to reclaim their lives upon release from prison. Through their efforts, we have brought 34 affiliate churches into this program for the combined purpose of: 1) strengthening the family unit, and 2) recovering the lives of men coming out of prison. In order to prevent recidivism, the Mighty Men’s DAPRP program provides job training, mentoring, counseling, and other services. This is an example of how God has shown up in these rubble places.
God is Showing Up in the Rubble Places in the Earthquake in Haiti. Across the globe, money, health supplies, water, and food are being shipped to Haiti. Billions will be spent to help to rebuild the poorest nation. We see men and women feverishly digging through the rubble to rescue lives during a critical 72 hour window; uncovering both the dead and the living. We see rescuers coming out of the rubble PRAISING GOD for the miracle of lives that were spared in the rubble. Through the rubble in Haiti, the world will uncover and discover God because God shows up in the rubble places.
Unlike the preacher who attributed the devastation in Haiti to God, I will never believe that God was just waiting to “dump” on His creation. We are all subject to hurricanes, and wickednesses of our own doing – lack of healthcare, social and economic injustice – are as devastating as any natural disaster. If all we have to depend on is us, if all we have to depend on are our own natural resources, we are in trouble.
If you have ever been there in the rubble places, no matter how bad it gets in your life, you must never forget the lesson from our ancestors: GOD IS A ROCK. This is a message for the people of Haiti: death and destruction might to be all around you, but God is there in those rubble places.
2. God Always Shows up, and He is Always on Time.
Some time ago, I visited Martin Luther King’s house in Montgomery, Alabama. Though it was probably a fine house in its day, it is actually a modest, one story house. There is a little kitchen; there is plastic on the furniture like our grandmothers used to have. Dr. King said he spent all night in that little kitchen, calling to the Lord for direction and help. In the scripture, David says: “In my distress I called out to the Lord”. The familiar hymn goes: “I prayed…I cried all night long…until I head the Lord”.
In Haiti, the 72 hour window is closing now; the workers have moved from rescue to recovery. The people are living among the dead bodies, with no places to relieve themselves. Some might ask: why is God so slow to answer?
Many of the men and women coming out of prison are coming back home with no jobs. Some might ask: Why is God so slow to answer?
In our own personal rubble situations – diabetes, cancer, HIV AIDS – we might ask: Why is God so slow to answer?
Brothers and Sisters, when we cry out from our rubble places, God moves in mysterious ways, and He is always right on time. How else could China, Cuba and America come together to answer Haiti’s cry of distress? How else could an African American president call upon his Democratic AND Republican predecessors to come together to rescue a broken nation wracked by earthquakes?
When we cry out to God, God hears our cry; He moves through the rubble, in His own way, in His own time. God rebuilds from rubble places. It may seem that God isn’t moving fast enough, but God is using the time in the rubble places to rebuild humanity. God is in all of these things.
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Tags: Psalm 18, Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton, Sermon