Rev. Dr. Ronald E Braxton, Senior Pastor
Metropolitan AME Church, Washington DC
Sunday, January 30, 2011 www.metropolitanamec.org
Scripture Text: Psalm 27: Verse 1 (NIV Translation); Verses 4-9 (The Message Bible Translation): 1 [NIV]: The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? [The Message]: 4 I’m asking GOD for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet. 5 That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, the perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic. 6 God holds me head and shoulders above all who try to pull me down. I’m headed for his place to offer anthems that will raise the roof! Already I’m singing God-songs; I’m making music to GOD.7-9 Listen, GOD, I’m calling at the top of my lungs: “Be good to me! Answer me!” When my heart whispered, “Seek God,” my whole being replied, “I’m seeking him!” Don’t hide from me now!
The scripture begins with a familiar verse: “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom then shall I fear?” Initially, I was excited that the Lectionary recommended this text for today. But I was disappointed that it broke up that beautiful, familiar text by reciting verse 1, then skipping verses 2 and 3, then going to verses 4 through 9. Critical text was omitted, which isolated the text from any present crisis. There was no mention of the violence that threatened worshippers; the evil doers; the enemies; the false witnesses. The Lectionary sanitized the personal threats, the difficulty of life, the pain of being at odds with others. It ignored how difficult it is when the dark experiences of life linger on longer than we plan.
Then it dawned on me that the scripture lesson pricked out attention to the possibility of living each day in a life filled with positive language. We will not escape problems, evil, deceit, fear, anguish, or anger. But positive language will help us to live life ABOVE those things. The theme for today is: “Living Life Filled with Positive Language”.
1. Living life filled with positive language is not something that comes naturally. Positive language is hard-won. The Psalmist had experienced many battles. In the days of trouble, enemies surrounded him. When stuff in life “hits the fan”, it can build an arsenal of either negative, or positive, language. Positive language: “The Lord is the strength of my life”. Positive language: “He will keep me safe in his dwelling”. Positive language: “I will sing his praises at all times”.
2. It is imperative that you live every moment of every day recognizing the presence of the Lord in your life. The Psalmist seeks to live in the house of the Lord. The Message Bible translation says: “I’m asking God for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long.” This doesn’t mean that we are to make our beds at 1518 M Street. It means we are to live our lives in an ever-deepening walk with God. The Lord makes a safe place for those who dwell with him in the temple of the Lord. The Lord provides a place – mentally, emotionally, spiritually – a place where you can feel a “peace that surpasses all understanding”. Positive language explodes against the odds.
3. Positive langue lends itself to unabashed, shameless and sincere praise. The thing about praise is this: you know when it’s REAL. In verse 6 of the Message translation: “I’m headed for his place to offer anthems that raise the roof! Already I’m singing God-songs; I’m making music to God; I’m offering sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving!”
In my second church, I had an elderly member who used to break out in praise and shout thanksgiving as soon as she crossed the threshold of the church. Once she asked me to come to her house. She took me all around in every room of her row house in a Baltimore neighborhood. She laid out all her silver, crystal and china. She told me: “Son, my parents knew slavery; then they were Mississippi sharecroppers. Then they moved north where they lived with my brother, his wife, and their 6 children. I will never forget what the Lord has done for me. I can’t help but to praise God. So don’t be ashamed of me when I come into the church shouting!”
When I look back, I remember that God will open doors. God will make a way for you. I don’t care how hard it gets on that job, how hard it gets in life, positive language makes me wait on the Lord! ***Amen
Sunday, January 30, Tavis Smiley will address Metropolitan regarding America I AM. America I AM celebrates nearly 500 years of African-American contributions to the US. The showing will be at the National Geographic Museum February 2-May 1. The exhibition includes over 300 rare and original objects and artifacts from the 1600s to 2009.
Beginning Sunday, January 23, 2011 our Worship Service will be held in the Madison Hotel. Regular parking will be used & our Church School will meet as normal. Rev. Louis Anthony will be the guest preacher.
The Metropolitan family thanks our First Family, President Obama, First Lady Michelle and their daughters Sasha and Malia for worshiping with us on Sunday. We had a wonderful service of music and message. Thanks to everybody who played a role in the planning and execution of such a spirit-filled service. The congregation sang happy birthday to Mrs. Obama whose birthday is Jan 17 and to our First Lady, Rev. Marie whose birthday is Jan 22.
The event was covered by Hamil Harris at the Washington Post:
Since President Obama’s arrival in town two years ago, many local religious leaders have wondered when, or if, the country’s first African American first family might choose a new church home. On Sunday, as the Obamas worshiped at the storied Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church a few blocks from the White House, a not-so-subtle appeal came direct from the pulpit. Read more. . .
Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton, Senior Pastor
Metropolitan AME Church, Washington, DC
Sunday, January 16, 2011, 9 a.m.
Martin Luther King Weekend
Special Guests: President Barack Obama and The First Family of the United States
Scripture Lesson: Isaiah 49: 1-7, “A Light for the Nations” (The Message Bible Translation): 1-3 Listen, far-flung islands, pay attention, faraway people: God put me to work from the day I was born. The moment I entered the world he named me. He gave me speech that would cut and penetrate. He kept his hand on me to protect me. He made me his straight arrow and hid me in his quiver. He said to me, “You’re my dear servant, Israel, through whom I’ll shine.” 4But I said, “I’ve worked for nothing. I’ve nothing to show for a life of hard work. Nevertheless, I’ll let God have the last word. I’ll let him pronounce his verdict.” 5-6 “And now,” God says, this God who took me in hand from the moment of birth to be his servant, To bring Jacob back home to him, to set a reunion for Israel—What an honor for me in God’s eyes! That God should be my strength! He says, “But that’s not a big enough job for my servant—just to recover the tribes of Jacob, merely to round up the strays of Israel. I’m setting you up as a light for the nations so that my salvation becomes global!” 7 God, Redeemer of Israel, The Holy of Israel, says to the despised one, kicked around by the nations, slave labor to the ruling class: “Kings will see, get to their feet—the princes, too—and then fall on their faces in homage because of God, who has faithfully kept his word, The Holy of Israel, who has chosen you.”
From the greatest figures in human history to the most insignificant, God has singled out individuals to reach all men and women of every nation. In the words of Mary Thompson in 1870: “To tell all the world that God is Light; that he who made all nations is not willing one soul should perish, lost in shades of night. Proclaim to every people, tongue, and nation that God, in whom they live and move, is Love…Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace, tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.” I’d like to speak from the theme: “When God Singles You Out”.
Throughout biblical history, there are stories of people who were singled out by God. Noah was singled out, though he was scorned and ridiculed for building an ark on dry land. Abraham and Sarah were singled out in their old age to go out to an uncertain future and start a new life. Queen Esther was singled out to speak a word to the King to save God’s people. And what an awesome challenge it must have been for Mary and Joseph, the parental nurturers of Jesus, to be singled out.
In their work Augustine and His World, Knowles and Penkett point out that Augustine, the African born patriarch of Christianity, struggled between lifestyle and belief early in his life. Ultimately, it became clear that God had singled him out. He writes of that defining moment in his life: “The nub of the problem was to reject my own will and to desire yours…Already my mind was free of the ‘the biting cares’ of place-seeking, of desire for gain, of wallowing in self-indulgence, of scratching the itch of lust. And now I was talking with you, Lord, my God, my radiance, my wealth, and my salvation.” (From The Confessions).
We also have Rosa Parks; an ordinary person who had no idea that God would single her out to be a champion of human rights and social justice.
And then we have Martin Luther King, Jr., with a bright future at Boston University’s School of Theology. He could have easily had a future as a college president, a seminary professor, or a pastor in a major northern, big city pulpit. But in 1954, he accepted the call to return to the south. Charles Marsh writes that civil rights activism was not high on his agenda; rather, he had “his eyes set on denominational fame and fortune, eager to [raise the stature of] the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.” It was not until one evening as Dr. King pondered the call to be the leader of a planned bus boycott and considered the danger to himself and his family that fear stuck him and he sought to get out of the commitment while saving face. At his kitchen table, sipping coffee, he had an encounter with God. King sat at the table, his head buried in his hands, and he prayed: “Lord, I’ve tried to do what’s right. But I confess I’m weak now. I’m losing my courage. I’m afraid. I can’t let the people see me weak like this because then they will start to get weak.” King said he heard the voice of God bidding him: “Stand up…I will be with you…”. Marsh quotes Dr. King as saying, “I heard the voice of Jesus say still to fight on…He promised never to leave me alone…I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced him before.” Dr. King knew in that moment that God had singled him out.
In the expanded scripture text in Isaiah, the prophet lifts up the “second suffering servant” passage. He declares that God has singled out a servant with a local and global mission to challenge all humanity that we are called to a destiny beyond our finiteness, beyond our human pettiness, beyond our personal blindness and smallness, to live life on a much higher plane. Killings and murders, hunger and homelessness, broken lives and broken living, dysfunctional families – they are not in the Master’s plan.
There are at least three salient principles from the scripture that govern when God has singled you out:
1. Understand that you have been in the flow of God’s river from the day you were born. God had a plan for you from the beginning. In verses 1-3 of the scripture text, it is clear: “God put me to work from the day I was born…the moment I entered the world he named me…he gave me speech…he kept his hand on me…he made me his straight arrow. God was making me, molding me equipping me, getting me ready to shine at the moment He would determine and destine.”
Jeremiah said: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you, I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” God has a plan; he has a river flowing and the river knows where it’s going and where it’s going to take you. You may not know it at the time; you may not see it. You might say: “It wasn’t my plan to be a school teacher, or a doctor, a college professor, or lawyer.” God has a plan, and if you follow God’s plan, there is no clue today about your tomorrows.
2. When God singles you out, God will equip you with everything you need, when you need it most. In verses 4-6, the servant realized that, on his own, he had only experienced failure and disaster; he had nothing to show for a life of hard work. But God had equipped him with the necessary gifts and talents. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been sitting at a table with his head in his hands; fearful, downtrodden, dejected, and weak. But God said: “Sit up, get up, stand up, and go.” Mr. President, not only to you but to every one of us here, God says: “Sit up, get up, stand up, and GO.” Go in His power; go in His strength, go in His name. Go tell the world about Jesus. You will get weak and fearful at times, but when God has singled you out, He promises: Morning by morning new mercies, new strength, new blessings, renewed hope. You might not have it when you go to bed at night, but when you wake up in the morning, you will have everything you need.
3. When God singles you out, after all your planning and maneuvering and strategizing; after you’ve dotted every “I” and crossed every “T”: Let God have the last word. In verse 4, the servant is basically saying: “There’s not a whole lot of pay here for what I am doing; I’ve nothing to show for a life of hard work. Nevertheless, I’ll let God have the last word.”
The servant makes it clear in the scripture that the goal is to give God the last word. Feed the hungry, free those in all kinds of bondage so the nations of the world can see the light. When he had become completely worn out and felt that his life had been wasted, the servant understood: God would have the last word. When the message would not resonate to the very ones who would benefit the most, God would have the last word. When his own community turned against him, God would have the last word.
I see a man full of gifts and graces. I see a man full of love and compassion. I see a man giving to the world the best that God had to offer. I see a man whose touch changed lives. I see a man with a word of hope to a torn and dejected world. I see a man born in obscurity. I see a man singled out by God…for the redemption of humankind…nailed in his hands, pierced in his sides, hung on a cross. When they left him on Friday, they THOUGHT they had had the last word. But little did they know that on Sunday morning, God would have the last word.
When you’ve given the best of your service; be not dismayed when men don’t believe you. When you try and fail in your trying, when your hands are sore and scarred from the work you’ve begun, take up your cross, and run quickly to meet Him. He’ll understand and say: “Well done!”*******End
Rev. Dr. Ronald E Braxton, Senior Pastor
Metropolitan AME Church, Washington DC
Sunday, January 09, 2011 www.metropolitanamec.org
Scripture Text: Isaiah 42: 5-95-9God’s Message, the God who created the cosmos, stretched out the skies, laid out the earth and all that grows from it,Who breathes life into earth’s people, makes them alive with his own life:”I am God. I have called you to live right and well. I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe. I have set you among my people to bind them to me, and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations, To make a start at bringing people into the open, into light: opening blind eyes, releasing prisoners from dungeons, emptying the dark prisons. I am God. That’s my name. I don’t franchise my glory, don’t endorse the no-god idols. Take note: The earlier predictions of judgment have been fulfilled. I’m announcing the new salvation work. Before it bursts on the scene, I’m telling you all about it.”
Last week I encountered some visitors in the building. This couple was from a small town in Arkansas and this was their first trip outside of their hometown. They said visiting Washington, DC was the dream of a lifetime for them. They had heard and seen and read so much about Washington, DC from a distance. They said: “Every morning we wake up, on the TV, newspapers, radio, movies there is Washington, DC. We want to see the church where our president worshipped for his inauguration.” The couple had toured the monuments, the president’s residence, the Capitol, and all of the usually places.
This encounter reminded me that Washington, DC represents the center of world affairs. It is the center of American life in the same way that Jerusalem was the center of the Israelite community. Jerusalem was a city given to them by God, a land of plenty, a “city on a hill” where God’s people gathered and worshipped in God’s house as one. It reminds me of our ancestors who didn’t have but a little bit, but they made a life for themselves as best they could. It reminds me that, no matter how messy we make life, no matter whether there are political, social, and human disasters, it really doesn’t matter whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge, we will be suffering through and “As the World Turns” kind of existence. The scripture provides three lessons on how to weather the storms.
1. When God is at the center of your life, as the world turns, you have a sense of stability.
The scripture provides a message from God who created the cosmos and all that grows from it. As the song says: “He has the whole wide world, in His hands…He has the little tiny babies, in His hands.” God’s presence in our lives gives us a sense of stability. Jesus taught in Matthew 7 that a foolish man builds his house on sand, while a wise man builds his house on the rock. If your house is built on a rock, it will stand.
2. When God is at the center of your life, you have a sense of endurance and security.
The scripture says: “I have called you to live right, but to live well. I have taken responsibility for you”. When God is at the center of your life, you can endure anything life as to offer. You can lose it all, but there is a sense that you can endure whatever comes. When your life is in God’s hands, you can endure whatever comes. Just fall down on your knees and cry out: “It is well!”
3. When God is at the center of your life, you dare to live a life and speak a word of HOPE.
Even when your dreams are out of reach, HOPE springs from a sense that He is guiding you along the way. The song “He walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own…” is a testimony that God is guiding you along the way. When God is the center of your life, you might be daunted by your present condition, but hope still lives and thrives in your life.
Most of the time, we live and we walk by faith. You are the lighthouse. It may seem as if you don’t have much, but you are the “lighthouse”. God’s hope in us is that you will be a lighthouse – a testimony that he is still lives, that he is the center of your joy. Your testimony is in how you live your life. Live your life – let your light so shine – that it will glorify your father that is in heaven…that they may see God in your right living, your right disposition. If you live right, if you live your life with God at the center of your life, your life will glorify God!