Sermon Says: Hopefulness, God’s Presence, & Racial Harmony

If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality

that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be.”

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Keeping the Courage to Be: Your Hopes, Your Dreams

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that . . . I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream. I have a dream that one day men will rise up and come to see that they are made to live together as brothers”. [Emphasis added]

These words are from the last Christmas Sermon (December 1967) that King delivered, prior to his assassination in 1968. The importance of having hope and having dreams are expressed in this sermon by the embattled civil rights leader.   Racial harmony is based in all people really ‘living together as brothers’.   Therefore, simply uttering the word Unity in a single speech doesn’t mean that a diverse, divided country is magically transformed!  In the 1960s, when I was a young child living in New York, or now.

Sadly, in 2017, nearly fifty years after the death of MLK from an assassin’s bullet, we’re still a nation that judges people too often on their color – not their character.   Men of God like the other man who I showcase in this post, Rev. Noah Van Niel, give me hope that MLK’s dream is still possible.  A deferred dream, not an impossible dream.  

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Your Soul: A Stronghold Against Hate and Fear

Rev. Noah Van Niel

But allow me to offer a little bit of hope, a reminder of what the soul actually is and how it is constructed and valued. It is not external, it is internal. It is not made, it is given. It is not earned, it is instilled. It is not of humanity, it is of God. And as such, it is not subject to the changing winds of culture or politics. It is more stable, more lasting, and more resilient than anything else we possess. Our lives are liable to be molded and shaped by all sorts of forces beyond our control. But our soul—that bit of God that resides in each of us—is unchanging in that it is always pure, and righteous and good and it is always there no matter how much hatred, or anger, or worry, or fear is piled on top of it. And it will, always, have the last word”. [Emphasis added]

In that God has the final say, your soul will have “the last word”.  Period.  End of discussion.  This powerful Sermon was delivered on the Sunday after the recent Elections (11/13/16) by Rev. Van Niel.  I thank my friend Thomas, who I profiled in “When Hate Arises, Silence is Tacit Approval: One Man’s Story, for bringing this Sermon to my attention.  I’ve personally thanked Rev. Van Niel for delivering a message I, and many others, needed to hear!

The eloquence and empathy of this young, white Priest was one of the most calming things I experienced in the days after the candidate I didn’t vote for won.  To this fifty-something Black man in NC (yes, NC . . . Pray for me!), God knew I needed something compelling, spiritual, and anointed to deal with the changes I was enduring.  Reflecting on this Priest’s words was part of my own post-election strategy to not loss hope – when the candidate I voted for lost (in the Electoral College).  

God’s presence in our souls is something no Christian should take for granted.  Your soul is a stronghold like no other!


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Strategies for Dealing with Life’s Storms

Leslie Vernick

The sermons of Dr. King and Rev. Van Niel serve as a foundation for the insightful strategies which Leslie Vernick offers.   In times of disappointment and discouragement, even the most abiding Christians may feel like they can’t go on.  Sermons, without specific coping strategies, may not have had the impact the Lord desired for this post today – my first in 2017.   

In “5 Ways to Stop Discouragement from Getting the Best of You” Vernick offers some spiritual steps that you can take when facing disappointment.   They are in my humble Christian opinion a very good complement to the pulpit-delivered words of King and Van Niel.   

  • After offering four ways that abiding Christians can be discouraged, Vernick offers “five (5) steps you can take when you start to feel the black cloud of discouragement swallow you up“.   With ‘the God in you’ that is your soul, with ‘that courage to be’, and your dreams, you CAN deal with tough times like a champion.  You can go on!   The steps, described poignantly in her article, are:

1. Be honest.

2. Take care of your body.

3. Pay attention to your thought life.

4. Train yourself to “see” life out of two lenses at the same time

5. Press close into God


Link to full Sermons:

 


Our soul—that bit of God that resides in each of us— is

unchanging . . . and good and it is always there no matter how much

hatred, or anger, or worry, or fear is piled on top of it”.

Rev. Noah Van Niel



Photo credits:

Bible – honorbound/fickr  (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson & Rev. King – U.S. Embassy New Delhi/flickr  (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Cross – Dave King/flickr  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

4 Habits of God-fearing Christian Voters (2016 Election Results)

 

The way to God


We’re often reminded to ask ourselves, when we’re at a critical juncture, this simple question: What Would Jesus Do? Frankly, as I’ve reflected on the 2016 US Presidential candidate who was declared the winner, I’ve mused on a similar question: How Would Jesus Vote?  The spiritual voice in my head keeps telling me firmly that the man who prevailed on Election Day wouldn’t have been Christ’s choice.

  • If you feel as I do, this post is for you.  Can we talk?

While our faith in some of our fellow citizens may have been badly battered, we can’t let our faith in the Almighty waver.  We can’t. Scripture tells us that when we’re weak, he’s strong.  In times like these, strive to find comfort in those who voted like you . . . and the one who walks with you and me and ‘makes our path straight’. Acknowledge the Almighty, even on those days when you turn on the TV and see something about politics that makes you want to scream or cry.

  • To put it simply, when abiding Christians are presented with a mountain, they must trust that they’ll have the power to climb the unclimbable. They know they’re not climbing alone.

Four Habits for dealing with your Post-election mountain

How can you successfully deal with the huge mountain that the events of the last 35 days, and the campaign season which preceded it? There are 4 habits, four steps to climb the political/societal mountain that you, I, and those who voted for one of the defeated candidates should practice.

  1. Stay: Don’t flee and run from a challenging situation.   When you do choose to stay, be engaged, not paralyzed due to indecision – like a deer in a car’s headlights.  Those deers don’t fare very well, do they?   Stay engaged and face the situation at hand.
  2. Pray: If you do, a way to deal with the giant may be divinely revealed to you.   Guess what?   With some help from Him, you may even be able to take down the giant without casting a single stone!   The Lord doesn’t utter ‘void words’! (Isaiah 55:11).
  3. Slay: If you haven’t run or avoided asking the Lord for help, you’ll be in a far better position to deal with the situation – slay the giant.   Your ‘walking buddy’ will not leave or forsake you.  David (1 Samuel 17) knew this! You and I should too, right?

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The 4th Habit is about what you can do for OTHERS.

  • Assist others, don’t avoid or abuse them.

This is based in the well-known Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25 – 37).   A Sermon my Pastor (Dr. Rev. James A. Webster) gave on September 18th on this parable revealed how people in life, when faced with ‘man lying on the side of the road’ situations, generally fall into one of three categories:

  1. Assisters (the category God wants abiding Christians to be in)
  2. Avoiders (crossing to the other side of the road)
  3. Abusers

You may be asking now: Who might be someone needing an assisting, Good Samaritan like me? Three groups of people come to mind:

  1. People who are the victims of post-election hate, racism, bigotry, or anti-immigrant hatred. You may be able to assist such people in a way that they’ll never forget. Ever!
  2. Like-minded Christians who need to be reminded to stay, pray, and slay. If this is a racially-diverse group, this has the potential to be mutually beneficially. There is great power in knowing that people who don’t look like you DO share similar feelings.  Even if they aren’t very religious, the things you hear from spiritually-grounded, moral people may make their day – or yours.
  3. Someone who voted for the man who was the victor, but who is now having reservations about the voting choice they made 5 weeks ago. This may be the toughest group to work with. However, what you do could change how they vote and live forever.  You may be the designated angel to convey the benefits of studying the Bible and using the What Would Jesus Do question to guide their life – and future election choices.

I can speak to the amazing power of interacting with those in the second group.   In the next post on this blog I will share a story of someone who helped people (1st group) who were the victims of racist and misogynistic rants.  Who says Good Samaritans only happen in the Bible?

  • A New England businessman, in a rowdy Southern bar on Election Night, got more than he could stand.

Peace be with you.

Greg Silverthorne

66 Assurance Way

 

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme (Poem, audio)


A Love Supreme

I will do all I can to be worthy of Thee O Lord.
It all has to do with it.
Thank you God.
Peace.
There is none other.
God is. It is so beautiful.
Thank you God. God is all.
Help us to resolve our fears and weaknesses.
Thank you God.
In You all things are possible.
We know. God made us so.
Keep your eye on God.
God is. He always was. He always will be.
No matter what…it is God.
He is gracious and merciful.
It is most important that I know Thee.
Words, sounds, speech, men, memory, thoughts,
fears and emotions – time – all related …
all made from one … all made in one.
Blessed be His name.
Thought waves – heat waves-all vibrations –
all paths lead to God. Thank you God.

His way … it is so lovely … it is gracious.
It is merciful – thank you God.
One thought can produce millions of vibrations
and they all go back to God … everything does.
Thank you God.
Have no fear … believe … thank you God.
The universe has many wonders. God is all. His way … it is so wonderful.
Thoughts – deeds – vibrations, etc.
They all go back to God and He cleanses all.
He is gracious and merciful…thank you God.
Glory to God … God is so alive.
God is.
God loves.
May I be acceptable in Thy sight.
We are all one in His grace.
The fact that we do exist is acknowledgement of Thee O Lord.
Thank you God.
God will wash away all our tears …
He always has …
He always will.
Seek Him everyday. In all ways seek God everyday.
Let us sing all songs to God
To whom all praise is due … praise God.
No road is an easy one, but they all
go back to God.
With all we share God.
It is all with God.
It is all with Thee.
Obey the Lord.
Blessed is He.
We are from one thing … the will of God … thank you God.
I have seen God – I have seen ungodly –
none can be greater – none can compare to God.
Thank you God.
He will remake us … He always has and He always will.
It is true – blessed be His name – thank you God.
God breathes through us so completely …
so gently we hardly feel it … yet,
it is our everything.
Thank you God.
ELATION-ELEGANCE-EXALTATION
All from God.
Thank you God. Amen.

JOHN COLTRANE – December, 1964


  • From the liner notes of the jazz musician’s classic, A Love Supreme (February 1965 release).

 

If you’re desperately down, don’t give up! (Faith)

A Must-share story (I’m sitting here with a loaded gun/Enough Tribulations).

When a blog post lingers in my mind for several days, I feel compelled to share it or comment.  Given the way the ‘inspirational post’ began, I was (frankly) a bit apprehensive to keep reading it, at first.  However, I came back to it later and did read it.  I am glad I did!  I thank Minister Gertrude Ferguson for sharing this Grand Slam story in her post.  An excerpt and a link to full post can be found below.

The Enough Tribulations post states, to start the inspiring story of a desperately down man:

“I once heard a story of a man who was desperately down to his wit end of troubles.   In his desperation, he went into his room and loaded a gun. He was about to kill himself!

As he sat there with the loaded gun, he decided that he had to pray before committing this suicide.   He prayed and asked God to intervene to show He’s really there, and if He does, then he would not kill himself.

After praying, the man waited to see what would happen.  Lost in his suicidal thoughts, he was startled by . . . “

  • Link to full post.

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66 Assurance Way

 Photo Credit: Josh Sniffen/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

‘A Love Supreme’ for God: John Coltrane’s Story

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is easily one of my favorite recordings of jazz music.  As noted in the Arun Rath story I quote below, it is his love for God that fueled this awesome 1964 recording by the talented jazz saxophonist.  It was released 50 years ago this year (February 1965).  How Coltrane got to the point of creating this classic album is reflected in his personal life.

  • Only 40 years old when he died in Long Island in 1967, today would have been the jazz musician’s 89th birthday.
  • He underwent a transformation in the months leading up to the December 1964 recording.  His new life view sparked his praise of God, including this 50-year old jazz masterpiece.

Personally, it took me a while to appreciate this album.   Like my spiritual growth, my taste in jazz music evolved over time; initially a Ronnie Laws (another saxophonist) lover, I grew to love the jazz expressions of John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, & McCoy Tyner.  Once I came to understand Coltrane’s music, it was hard to really appreciate Laws anymore.

  • Excerpts of two NPR stories on this classic jazz recording are offered below.

As I read Eric Westervelt’s post, I thought of the importance of knowing someone’s story.  How Coltrane (Sept. 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967) came to his respectful praise of God, and what that change meant, is a fascinating story.


A Love Supreme is Coltrane’s ultimate spiritual testament: The “love supreme” he describes is God’s love.


While A Love Supreme is a recognized musical masterpiece, it had enormous personal significance for Coltrane.  In the spring of 1957, his dependence on heroin and alcohol lost him one of the best jobs in jazz.   He was playing sax and touring with Miles Davis’ popular group when he became unreliable and strung out.   Alternately catatonic and brilliant, Coltrane’s behavior and playing became increasingly erratic.   Davis fired him after a live show that April.

Soon after, Coltrane resolved to clean up his act.   He would later write, in the 1964 liner notes to A Love Supreme, “In the year of 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening, which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.”

But Coltrane didn’t always stay the clean course.   As he also wrote in the album’s notes, “As time and events moved on, I entered into a phase which is contradictory to the pledge and away from the esteemed path.   But thankfully now, through the merciful hand of God, I do perceive and have been fully reinformed of his omnipotence.   It is truly a love supreme.” [Emphasis added]


Check out:

Greg Silverthorne, 9/21/15

66 Assurance Way