Pastor William H. Lamar IV
Metropolitan AME Church
Sunday, June 22, 2014; 7:45am
Scripture Mark 1
When I arrived at Metropolitan, everyone wanted to know, “What is your vision?” My reply was, “I just got here.” Beware of the pastor who comes with all the solutions without even knowing who the people are.
As I’ve looked at the history and future of this church, I’ve discerned that there are three things we stand for and that we do: We worship, we liberate, and we serve. But before we get into the details of a vision for this church, we must ask ourselves: Who is this man called Jesus? I’ve learned that we no longer ask the question, Who is Jesus? – because we think we already know the answers.
We must know the answer to the question “Who is Jesus” before we can establish a vision for ourselves.
Who is Jesus? Nat Turner and his slave master cannot both be right about Jesus. Slave owners and abolitionists cannot both be right about Jesus. The Tea Party and Democrats who work for inclusion can’t both be right about Jesus. Richard Allen, Absalom Jones and the founders of the AME church, and trustees of St. Georges who pulled them up off their knees because didn’t want t worship with Blacks can’t both be right abut Jesus. The Jesus who champions the exploits of empires cannot be the same Jesus who lifts people out of oppression.
So let’s ask ourselves the question: Which picture of Jesus is true, and who is the Jesus that we will follow?
So before I can give you any vision about what Metropolitan is going to do, we’ve got to first understand who Jesus – this man we are following — is. Is his province the human heart? Or did he come to change the social order, to shake us up and turn us upside down? Just who is Jesus?
Most have called Mark’s description of Jesus the true one, because it has been around the longest. The gospels of Matthew and Luke point to the book of Mark for truth. There is no Christmas story in Mark; he begins the book with: “This is good news.” So the question for us today is: What is good about this news?
First of all, most of what we are bombarded with today is not news at all. I don’t care about Beyonce, or about Solange’s beef with JayZ. What we need is good news about God’s actions in the world TODAY. We need to know that God is at work today; we need to see how he is moving, to know that he is alive working in our lives. And this is exactly what we need to let other people know. In the midst of a changing political and economic reality – we need to let people know the good news and see that God is alive and working in our lives — TODAY. We depend too much on what our mothers and fathers used to say about God. I don’t want a dead church singing dead songs about what God used to do. We need to show the world that God is alive and God is working in our lives today.
In the scripture, the term “good news” is being used in the theological sense for the first time; it used to be a military term. Mark is saying this “good news” is about a victory that has been won. In wartimes, it was important for women to know how the men in their lives were faring on the battlefront. So some women who had heard what was going on from their men brought back the good news to the others.
Despite outward appearances, the “good news” is that: God is winning!
In today’s context, “good news” means that God wants us to realize that the battle that he is fighting he is winning on our behalf – health, sanity, oppressed and bruised, He wants us to know that the “good news” from the front line is that God is victorious, God is winning, despite any appearances to the contrary!
The challenge for us today is that there is so much evidence that God is losing the battle – if you look at the state of education, welfare, political discourse, ministry of our churches – it appears that God is on the losing side of this equation. Sometimes it appears we are not realistic about following God. Some of us feel like throwing in the towel because the situation has not changed and you are not sure that God is winning. What Mark is saying in the scripture about who Jesus is is that he is the one who finds victory.
Sometimes God’s victory looks a lot like pain.
Victory means that God has not abandoned the human condition to allow us to wallow by ourselves – the text says God has come to us in his son’s name, as a window to humanity, he walks with us, talks with us, he will not abandon us — no matter what the challenge.
You are here because God has NEVER ABANDONED YOU.
God will never abandon you — no matter what the situation, no matter what people say – God will deliver us, no matter what the challenge. Your defeat is not a defeat – your defeat is God’s victory because God has never let you go or abandon you; He will never leave you alone.
So we continue to ask: Who is Jesus; who is this spirit of God who never abandons us?
Just as it looks like you can’t go on any further, God gives you power to continue on.
Has anyone thrown in the towel, waved your white flag, said “I’m tired and I can’t keep going.” DON’T GIVE UP: It’s at that point that you feel as if you can’t keep going that God will lift you up and give you power to continue to move forward.
God is not going to give you “stuff;” God is going to give you more “substance.”
I began with the question that Jesus cannot be two opposed realities. Our mothers and fathers were looking for something different than those who first called his name in their presence. We need to stop looking to the Lord to give us “stuff” and start looking to the Lord to give us substance. We don’t need one more toy, not one more distraction. We need him to give us clean hearts. Too many of us are asking him to do stuff he just will not do. But if we ask him to give us the Spirit Power – if we ask him to give us the power to be healers, forgivers, restorers of the breach — He will give us that power. I will follow him the way he wants me to follow him.
Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God who came so we might be saved; follow Him.
Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God. All of us are sons and daughters of God, but Jesus is the one who is fully God and fully man. He is the one who came to live our lives and to sanctify the mundanity of our condition.
This historic place, Metropolitan, has been declaring the gospel of Jesus for 176 years, and it’s our role to continue to declare that he is the one, he is the true and the living God. And if you don’t know him, let me recommend him to you. Let me recommend that you give your life to him in discipleship. Following him will not always be easy. Anyone who started on this road a long time ago knows that you must put your hands to the plow, and don’t look back!
Everyone on your feet! Go to someone and tell them who Jesus is to you!
Scripture: Mark 1 – The Good News About Jesus
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— 3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” 4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The Baptism and Testing of Jesus
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Jesus Announces the Good News
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”