Your votes for Metropolitan A.M.E. Church every day between April 24 and May 10 will enable our church, “the National Cathedral of African Methodism” to restore the historic stained glass windows that have become destabilized as a result of decades of traffic past its downtown Washington location. Vote Now!
About the Windows
Metropolitan is a connectional church, which means it is part of a system of AME churches that come together to promote Christ, their spirituality, their religion and to advance the welfare of African American people. These memorial stained glass windows provide an historical timeline of the church and contain the names of several AME annual conferences and are dedicated. Windows still in need of repair include those that are dedicated to each department of the church.
Metropolitan A.M.E. was chosen to compete in the Partners in Preservation program by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This community-based initiative will award $1 million in preservation grants to historic places across Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
About Partners in Preservation
Partners in Preservation (PiP) is a program in which American Express, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, awards preservation grants to historic places across the country. Since 2006, $6.5million has been awarded to preservation projects in the following locations: San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, Saint Paul/Minneapolis, and New York City.
Through this partnership, American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation seek to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of historic preservation in the United States and to preserve America’s historic and cultural places. The program also hopes to inspire long-term support from local citizens for the historic sites at the heart of their communities.
Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton, Senior Pastor
Metropolitan AME Church
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Scripture: Acts 16:9-15
The crucifixion and the death of Jesus were fresh in the memory and heart of the Apostles and those who followed Jesus. In the scripture, the resurrection had occurred. This text is post-resurrection and Peter, Paul, and the Apostles were about the work of the church doing what we call in our language: “kingdom building.” Following the command of Jesus to “go ye into the highways and hedges of the world,” the followers of Jesus are doing just that; and as they moved, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, God also moved.
Up until this point, in the history of the early church, the message of Christ and the ministry of the Apostles had been geared to and tailored for the Jewish community, the household of David, the “circumcised” community. These are they whom Jesus came to save first, and these are they who rejected Jesus. It was the aim of Peter, Paul and the other followers of Jesus to continue the work of salvation for those who rejected Jesus. And so here in the scripture text, they go out to the household of David to win and convert the Jews.
As it happened to Peter in Acts chapter 11, in our text it happens now to Paul. Peter had a vision laid out before him of all kinds of meat spread before him, and he is told to kill and eat. In view of his Jewish background, he declares the meat unclean and says: “I cannot/will not eat. But God says to Peter, “What God has made clean, let no man claim unclean.” This was Peter’s sign to venture outside the gate and open up the ministry of Christ to anyone and everyone who would listen, believe and follow.
In another region of the country, the Apostle Paul is called upon to venture beyond the gate of the household of David and extend his ministry to any who would hear, believe, repent, be baptized, and follow Jesus. In the text, just like with Peter, Paul has a vision, and he sees and hears a man calling him to, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Paul was immediately convinced that this was the sign of a call of God and he set out to venture beyond the gate of the inclusive community. You know we all have “inclusive communities”: This is my church; my choir; my friends; these are the people I hang with; this is my crowd. If you aren’t an Alpha; you aren’t much. Kappas, Omegas, Deltas, AKAs are no better. And if you don’t dress like us and talk like us, swing like us, you can’t be a part of our community. This is what is meant by “inclusive communities.”
In the scripture, Paul hears and sees a man who is not in the inclusive community who says, “Come over to Macedonia and preach to us.” Here’s a salient thought that needs to be highlighted at this juncture: (1) Venturing beyond some gates to get to where God wants you to be is seldom a straight, clear, direct and easy path. To get to where God wants you to be in your life, or in your church, is seldom a direct, easy path. Acts, Chapter 16:11ff says: “We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day we went to Neapolis and from there to Philippi. We remained there in the city for some days.”
In his work, The Inward Journey, Howard Thurman writes,
“Thomas á Kempis reminds us that it is the nature of life and man’s experiences in it, that there be what he calls ‘war and affliction.’ This is not a note of pessimism and futility—it is rather recognition that conflict is a part of the life process. Whatever may be the plan that one has for one’s life, one must win the right to achieve it. Again and again in the struggle, a man may experience failure, but he must know for himself that, even though such is his experience, the final word has not been spoken. Included in his plan must be not only the possibility of failure but also the fact that he will not escape struggle, conflict, and war.”
The hymnologist put it in these words, “Are there no foes for me to face, must I not stem the flood…”
This one thing I know and I can witness to this personally: when divinity and destiny converge in a human life, there is no telling what paths one will be called to travel; what mountains one must climb; what rivers must be crossed; what crosses one must bear; or what strife one must suffer. When your life and God’s divinity hook up together, there’s no telling what mountains you will be required to climb. When you and God meet up together, there’s no telling how deep the river you’ll have to cross, there’s no telling how many crosses you’ll have to bear.
Here are some words from a hymn I doubt that most of you know, “Jesus calls us over the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea…Saying Christian, follow Me…In our joys and in our sorrows, Days of toil and hours of ease, Still He calls, in cares and pleasures Christian love me more than these.”
Let me put it another way: Every now and than, beyond the gate, you’ll have some tears to cry. I know God has made a way for you to get to where God wants you to be, but every now and then, you’ll have to cry along the way.
It took Paul a while to get to where God wanted him to be. Then the text says in verse 13: “On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer…” Here, beyond the gate, Paul seized the opportunity to witness to a woman named Lydia. He may not have known at first glance that she was a Gentile; she a wealthy entrepreneur, accustomed to dealing with the elite class, and she herself lived beyond the gate: she was head of her own household. She had it going on, she didn’t need a man to take care of her. She had her own house, her own wealth and income; she was an independent woman. If you commit all to God, God will set you up, to live beyond the gate.
It was uncustomary for a man to talk to a woman, but Paul was venturing outside the gate. And outside the gate, Paul blessed this woman and this woman in turn became a major blessing to Paul and his ministry. (2) Here is an (A) and (B) significant thought: (A) Never turn your back on an opportunity to be a blessing in someone else’s life. You have no clue down the road of life as to where that blessing is going to take that person, and be clear that somewhere down the road of life that blessing will fall back on your own life. When you help somebody else, it will come back to you. When you do something for God, it will come back. (B) Beyond the gate, you are required to do your thing, and if you do your thing, you can rest assured that God is going to do God’s thing.
In verse 14, the text says that the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to listen. Of the many things I have learned in this life one thing stands out: If you work at what God calls you to do with all your heart, mind and strength and make every effort to do the right thing, where ever you come up short, God will work it out for you. You won’t do it right and perfect all the time. You won’t dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s, but God has a way of coming behind you, and cleaning up all that stuff. They may not call your name, sit you on a pedestal, get the promotion, sing the solo, the church may not recognize your service, but leave it to God, and God will give you the reward. And sometimes you think you’ve gotten to a point where you can’t go any further…and God will take you over that!
Sometimes God can take us on some strange journeys, in our family lives, in our church lives, in our business lives. Sometimes God bids us to travel in some uncharted and unfamiliar places. Sometimes all you can do, beyond the gate in your daily living, is live with a spirit of conviction and decisiveness and trust that God is at the helm of your life and, as the scripture says: “All things work together for Good to those who love and trust the Lord.” Romans 8:28. You can’t always see the answer down the road; there are some detours down the road. But if you put your hands in God’s hand and move with a spirit of decisiveness and conviction, God will work it out.
Here is the third and final salient and significant highlight to be underscored in this text. In his theological perspective of this text, Ronald Cole-Turner writes, “It almost did not happen, this meeting of the businesswoman and the missionaries, and surely would not have happened were it not for the inexplicable convergence of human faithfulness and divine guidance. Paul and Lydia and the Holy Spirit all work together in this event, this ‘chance’ encounter by the river.”
Here is the thought: (3) When our faithfulness and God’s guidance converge and blend themselves as one, God can take us to new vistas, to places we never thought we could go. When God hooks up with us and we hook up with God, miraculous and seemingly impossible things can be accomplished in our lives for God.
Brothers and sisters, when you hook up/align your life with God, there are no limitations in your life. We ought to stop talking about what we can’t do, about what is impossible to do. God opens doors you never knew existed. God doesn’t always bring mountains down, but he gives you iron legs to climb the mountain. God won’t let you drown in the waters of life, He won’t let you burn up in the fires of life, but when you and God hook up, blessings come down, mercy drops fall down, goodness falls down, praise falls down, love falls down.
My poor mother of humble means, raising two children by herself, used to get down on her knees and sing the song: “There is no secret what God can do…” I’ve lived long enough that my mother’s testimony is now my testimony. “There is no secret, what God can do….”
I’ve been through enough and witnessed enough to sing it now for myself. When you step beyond the gate and your finite faithfulness converges and blends with God’s grace and guidance, God can do more than you know he can do. God can take you places you never thought you could go, can open doors you never knew existed, can open up heaven and pour blessings on top of blessings, so that you get scared because you don’t know how so many blessings can come your way. All you can do is say thank you Jesus, not just for all you have done, but for all that you are doing in my life.
Every now and then, when you think you’ve made it, when you think you’ve got it all together, when you are ready to put the period behind the sentence, when you are about to close the chapter and say “I got it,” God says: “Don’t put a period there, because I want you to step out in a little deeper water, there are more mountains to climb, more souls to save. Step out!”
God call us to go beyond the gate. Gun control: go beyond the gate. Our young boys and young girls are on the pipeline to prison: Go beyond the gate. Stop talking about what you can’t do, and look at what you can do. Drugs are running rampant in our community: Go beyond the gate. We still have a high teen pregnancy rate right here in the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia still has the highest rates of HIV AIDS. It’s not enough for us to sit up in here Sunday morning and clap our hands and go home. God wants us to step out, venture out, go out, beyond the gate.
Sing: I’m on the battlefield for my Lord, I promised Him that I would serve Him til I die, I’m on the battlefield for my Lord!
Scripture: Acts 16:9-15 – New International Version (NIV)
9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi 11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.