The Pastor’s Pen: December 29, 2019

The season of Advent, the time when we commemorate the coming of Christ, has ended. It is now the season of Christmas. The light we had expectantly waited for is now here. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king!” Even though at Christmas we acknowledge that the baby born in a manger is the light of the world, the shadows all around are just as unyielding as ever. The impeachment of the 45th President of the United States, though warranted per the two Articles of Impeachment, cast an even darker cloud on the current Administration and our democracy. Yet, the light of impeachment, with removal, is imperative to preserve our democracy. Christmas has come as it has for 2,019 years, yet, the darkness remains in our health care system—citizens cannot be guaranteed affordable health care, drugs run unchecked in our streets, communities remain unsafe, and the systematic oppression of classism, the increasing pervasion of racism and ethnic hatred are more acute than at almost any time in our history. In spite of the birth of our Lord, the shades of evil are thicker and more impenetrable than ever because we have not done our part as the church of the living God. We have been instructed by our Savior in Matthew 5:16 to “Let [our] light so shine before men…” 

All too often, shining our light is just a dim talking point that many cannot see or take seriously. We can shine our light by bringing Jesus’ life-giving messages to every sphere of our lives. Shining the light in the educational arena means promoting fair wages or classroom instructors, aids, and administrators. Transforming classrooms into modern, state-of-the-art learning spaces would be wonderful, but totally committed teachers who are enthusiastic about their calling, would also make for enlightened education for all. We can bring light to our volunteer services to spark change and improve the world. Rather than throw up our hands and yield to the belief that things will never get better, we can establish relationships with our police and other local officials to work to see law enforcement personnel and citizens as two sides of the same coin. We can bring light to our world by simply smiling and being friendly with everyone we meet. In the words of Perry Como, “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be!” As the hymn-writer penned, “Let others see Jesus in you”, by so doing, you will “…lead the lost to life and light.”

ATTENTION! New Lifestyle Bible Institute Session begins soon!

January-February Bible Institute

Starting on Thursday, January 16th – 7-8:00 pm

Rev. George Mensah will lead us, continuing with the church theme, Reimaging Shiloh, as we learn effective Bible study techniques.  Rev. Mensah will facilitate the January 16, 23 and 30th sessions.  The February 6, 13 and 20th sessions will be conference call-in sessions.  Stay tuned for additional information!

The Pastor’s Pen: December 15, 2019

Last Sunday, “Messiah Sunday” proved to be a rich spiritual experience for all. For our morning worship, the Gospel Choir and the Wallace Charles Smith Ensemble rendered rousing sounds of excerpts from Quincy Jones’, Handel’s

Messiah: A Soulful Celebration. At 3:30, our Senior Choir provided another matchless presentation of the venerable Messiah of George Frederic Handel. The church was full, with roughly 1,000 people in attendance. As always, the soloists and musicians were of the highest quality. We also were blessed by the signers and interpreters’ enthusiastic presentation of Messiah. Special thanks to Drs. Thomas Dixon Tyler and Sharon Parker, the Music Ministry, General Usher Board, Communication Ministry, administrative and support staffs, and all who contributed to this tremendous blessing to deliver a matchless and memorable concert. To God be the glory!

Over the years, I have said that the singing of Messiah begins our Christmas season here at Shiloh. In actuality, we are now in the third Sunday of Advent, the time when we expectantly wait for the coming of our Savior. In this year of turmoil and political confusion, it is certainly clear to many of us that the coming of the Messiah is desperately needed. Evil in the world runs unchecked. Systems that we have come to rely upon are under constant attack. Those who have followed the impeachment hearings know that Republicans and Democrats can look at the exact same facts and come away with diametrically opposing opinions. Perhaps most egregiously we are seeing the death of truth. Politicians take proven facts and create an alternate universe where only the facts as they present them are real. Some of this can be attributed to the many different media outlets available today that did not exist years ago. At one time, news was handled by the three major networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Now round the clock Fox News presents their version of facts as does CNN and MSNBC. Add to that, the insatiable world of talk radio and Internet that promote the various conspiracy theories with impunity.  

What are we as Christians to do? The answer is simple: we continue to diligently study God’s word, then hold the Bible’s recommendations against what politicians promote. We must never forget the words of our Lord and Savior who answered the issues of falsity and truth by saying, “We shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free” (John 8:32).

The Pastor’s Pen: November 17, 2019

Kudos to the Veterans Recognition Committee. Last week’s service was touching and uplifting. In the last few years, the Armed Forces medley has become a significant portion of our Veterans Day Observance. When I look out over the congregation, I see numbers of people singing enthusiastically the inspiring service songs. We must never forget sacrifices that African Americans have made for freedom going as far back as the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Even though we have not enjoyed the freedoms that our nation promised, our people selflessly fought to maintain our nation’s independence. Thank God for all those who worked diligently and sacrificially to put together an exceptional service. In spite of our veterans’ willingness to sacrifice, as we said last week from Isaiah 2:4, God’s will is that “we beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.” As our ancestors said from the depths of slavery and unjust incarceration, we know that God’s goal is ultimately for us to say, “…ain’t gonna study war no more.”

Last Wednesday, the impeachment inquiry hearing moved to the forefront of the national stage. Witnesses Ambassador Bill Taylor and Deputy Secretary of State Kent provided an excellent example of what a factual witness should do—neither permitted themselves to be drawn into the weeds on the impeachment protocol or speculation. These two excellent presidential-appointed career government servants provided the facts as they knew them. Speaker Nancy Pelosi resisted entering into an impeachment inquiry out of the concern that it would further divide the nation. She was and remains right. Polls consistently show that the nation is evenly split between those who favor impeachment and removal from office and those who feel that there is not enough evidence to commit such a drastic remedy for the president’s crimes.

This entire sordid chapter in our history provides several takeaways which we must not forget. Isaiah 9:6 states, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The prophet prophesied the coming of God’s Son and that all governments will stand upon his shoulders. What that means in the present context is that arguments over quid pro quo or extortion or bribery, are immaterial. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 articulates the standard for all leaders political or otherwise, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

Whether it is a president, governor, pastor, or other church leaders, it is incumbent upon persons in a position of leadership to understand that the only effective way to lead is not to find shortcuts or linguistic loopholes that are actually lies, but to simply avoid even the appearance of evil.

The Pastor’s Pen: November 10, 2019

Shortly after majority of the city’s jubilance over the Washington Nationals’ World Series victory came the insidiousness of our nation’s present political climate. As has been the custom for some time now, championship teams are invited to the White House and honored by the president. Several championship teams, however, have declined the invitation because of the policies of the current president. “Forty-five” has branded people from developing countries as coming from “s-hole nations” and cities with high poverty rates such as Baltimore have been painted as rat and roach infested. It is immaterial that New York City, the home city of the president, has the largest rat population in the United States. But, when it comes to “45”, truth is always trumped by a good lie or “alternative facts.” That brings us to “45’s” favorite region to insult, Latin America. He launched his run for the presidency on an escalator going down, which in retrospect was a metaphor for his leadership continually going downward. When he announced his candidacy, he declared that he would seriously curtail immigration from Mexico and Latin America, as persons from these countries were largely gang members, rapists, and murderers.

Fast forward to today. We saw at the ceremony that some members of the Washington Nationals support the president, but for many of the Latin American players, to decline the president’s invitation would have put them and their families in grave jeopardy.

This president is not above retaliating by any means necessary, including dispensing I.C.E. agents to gather up people who might not have sufficient documentation. Nat’s reliever, Sean Doolittle, made it clear that he was not going to attend the ceremony, but an Anglo-American of several generations, Doolittle is not subject to the same reprisals as those who more recently immigrated to this country. It is a crying shame that something as unifying and celebratory as the Washington Nationals’ victory against all odds, is besmirched by a White House unashamedly silent about the racist attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, or the mass murders wrought by a white supremacist who went to El Paso, Texas to kill Mexicans. As the impeachment investigation continues and as back and forth debates rage over the president’s offer to release military aid to Ukraine having been a quid pro quo for damaging information on Joe Biden or not, the fact of the matter is this, that Donald John Trump has proven time and time again, since his first day in office, that he cares only for white males, and that his presidency extends solely to this group of Americans. In many ways, I have been torn about whether the Democrats should begin an impeachment inquiry. It seems to me that taking that step plays into the hands of all the Trump supporters and certainly to the “whiner in chief”, himself. However, as much as I feel the prudent action is to beat him soundly at the polls, the noose that his racism has placed around too many Americans’ necks must be stopped and the grave danger he has put us in must end sooner than later.