The Pastor’s Pen: August 11, 2019

As we work towards reimagining Shiloh, we have devoted the second Sundays to our young adults.  Specifically, we will hear from our young adult preachers. We thank God for them and the energy they bring to our congregation.  On this second Sunday, we welcome to our pulpit today, a beloved son of Shiloh, Minister Zuogwi Reeves. Zuo, as he is affectionately called by close friends and fellow clergyman, literally grew up in Shiloh. One of my first functions was officiating at his naming ceremony when he was an infant. We have watched Zuogwi grow and develop into a mature man and servant of Christ. We know Minister Reeves will bring an inspiring word from the Lord.
The world mourns the loss of one of its most beloved authors, Toni Morrison. A graduate of Howard University, Ms. Morrison was the first African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1993. She was also bestowed America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2012 by President Barack Obama. One of Ms. Morrison’s quotes is particularly insightful in these chaotic and violent times, “One must never become tall by making those around you live on their knees.” Toni Morrison was one of the tallest figures our nation has ever produced through her prose that “spoke to the pain and resiliency in the African American experience.”
The recent gun violence in California, Texas, and Ohio continue to focus our attention on the need to eradicate incendiary hate speech which is a major feature of the white supremacy movement in our country. Following are words from Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins, former Executive Secretary of the American Baptist Churches Home Mission Society, and presently the interim executive secretary of the Covenant Churches, a group of all Baptists convened by former President Jimmy Carter:

“White supremacy is inherently violent. Sometimes that violence comes in words that deny the common humanity we share with all God’s children, and sometimes that violence comes from the point of a gun. This past weekend, we witnessed two more mass shootings. We already know that one of these shooters was undeniably motivated by hatred of immigrants and targeted our Latinx siblings. This was not just violence, but violence motivated to take the words of white supremacy and act them out to their logical and deadly conclusion. Politics and policy come out of culture and either the failures or successes of our country’s leadership. With each statement we hear from faith and political leaders we need to ask, do they affirm or denigrate the image of God in every person? Do these words take us a step closer to peace and understanding or toward fear and division? We must hold our elected officials accountable. But for our church leaders today we must ask another question, how loudly is your silence speaking? How deafening are the words we have not said to the people who now suffer? If now is not the time to have the hard conversations in our communities about the violence we perpetuate through our acceptance of the status quo, when will it be? It is not enough to claim that our communities are not at fault for the violence of words and deeds we see every day. We must be a part of the solution or we perpetuate the problem. We need to confess our sins of things done and left undone. Then, take our thoughts and prayers and turn them to action.”

The Pastor’s Pen: August 4, 2019

We continue to thank God for the way the Shiloh family has accepted the challenge of the Covenant Commitment Campaign. Each week, faithful people continue to rise to the occasion with their pledges and their contributions. Our pledges have exceeded our goal!  The Campaign will run through the end of September. Be reminded, however, that all pledges are due – paid in full – by September 15. We also must remember that these gifts are in addition to our tithes. With the help of the Lord, we will achieve our sacrificial commitment and meet our $500,000 covenant with the bank by September 30. To God be the glory!

Luke 12:13-21 provides Jesus’ position on stewardship. He states that stewardship is about our relationship to possessions. When a man asked Jesus to help him tell his brother to share his inheritance with him, Jesus replied (verse 15), “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Jesus goes on to tell the story of a farmer who has been blessed with a bumper crop, an unusually productive harvest. The farmer has so much yield that he considers building bigger barns to contain it. Yet, the farmer has not considered the finality of life. God says to him, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?”

When I was in seminary, I read the biography of Mohandas Gandhi, a man who was internationally renowned for causing the end of Britain’s colonial rule in India. On the back cover of the book, it showed all of Gandhi’s earthly possessions at the time of his death:  a linen cloth, sandals, and a pair of eyeglasses. We Christians know that when Jesus died, all His earthly possessions consisted of a robe that the Roman soldiers gambled for at His crucifixion. 

Many of us harbor fears about our futures. We wonder if we will have sufficient resources to age with dignity, to afford our medications, to make ends meet, etc. Yet, when we meet our final hour, we will have nothing to take with us but our relationship with God. We can never be true stewards of God’s gifts until we come to grips with our relationship to possessions.

The Senior Choir sang an anthem at Asbury last Sunday afternoon that included text from Psalm 127:2: “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” What we do during our time here on earth has its place; though God welcomes and even commands human effort and participation, our efforts will not stand in place for our obedience to God’s Commandments.