We have begun our baptism class! What a privilege and a joy it is to walk with the youth of our church while they learn about the Christian faith from the American Baptist perspective. In true Baptist style, we will allow them to ask questions, ponder answers, and discern what they believe, trusting that God is in conversation with them -- just as we are -- and will lead them where they need to be at this time. Perhaps they will be led to be baptized; perhaps they won't; but we will allow them the soul liberty to make that decision as we walk with them this summer. Thank you, God, for being with us during this journey!
If you're wondering what is going on in the American Baptist Churches of the United States of America, you can go to the link below to find out!
ABCUSA NEWS HERE
At its semiannual meeting yesterday, the Board of Directors of American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) voted unanimously to call the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, Interim Senior Pastor of Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Roswell, GA, to the position of Executive Eirector. He will lead the historic mission agency following the retirement of the Rev. Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III in October.
FULL STORY HERE
OVERLAND PARK, KS (ABNS 6/28/15)—During its June 22-24 meeting, the Board of Directors of American Baptist Home Mission Societies approved by common consent a letter of sympathy and solidarity to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston S.C., along with a gift of $9,000 for distribution to the families of the nine victims so senselessly murdered in the church while gathered to pray and study the Bible.
FULL STORY HERE
Pastor Kenric Prescott made the front page of the Hartford Courant with his response to the shootings in Charleston. Ken is pastor of Union Baptist in Hartford. Click below to read the article. We thank Pastor Ken for his witness.
READ ARTICLE HERE
Excerpt from sermon on 06/21/2015:
As we journey with Jesus through this life, storms will rage about us. Right now, our country is confronted, again, with the storm of racism. This week, the storm of racism took the form of a 21-year-old Caucasian man. He entered the sacred space of a church and murdered nine people. Their crime? They looked different than he looks. They were African American and their skin was a different color. My sisters and brothers in Christ, in the kingdom of heaven this difference between us does not matter. That night, there was no heaven on earth in that church. That young man created hell on earth, and we all felt it’s raging heat when we heard the news.
We have heard, over and over again this year, of violence toward the “other” who is different than we are in some way. More often than not, the “others” are minorities, and the violence done to them is done by the majority. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, taught that we are to care for the minorities of the world. He taught us that what we do to the least among us we do to him. And yet, every day, Jesus is crucified somewhere by those in power today. Sometimes he is crucified by those in political power. Sometimes he is crucified by those in social power. Sometimes he is crucified by those in economic power. Sometimes he is crucified by those in religious power. Every day, the least among us are crucified by the greatest among us somewhere, all over the world. And this is Sin, with a capital “s,” and shameful.
FULL SERMON HERE
Excerpt from sermon on 06/14/2015:
Sin separates us from God, from ourselves, and from each other; forgiveness connects us to God, to ourselves, and to each other. If we are bound by chains, we can’t raise our hands in praise of God, clasp our hands in prayer to God, hug ourselves or someone else. But if we are freed from our chains, we can raise our hands in praise of God, clasp our hands in prayer to God, hug ourselves or someone else. Sin separates; forgiveness connects.
Why was the woman able to accept forgiveness and be free, while the Pharisee wasn’t able to accept forgiveness and be free? Awareness and humility. The woman was aware that she was a sinner and she was humble enough to accept forgiveness, whereas the Pharisee was not aware that he was a sinner and was not humble enough to accept forgiveness. Remember, the woman came and knelt at Jesus’ feet, whereas the Pharisee was all puffed up with self-righteousness.
FULL SERMON HERE
At what point in your life did you discover that there was very little about the world or yourself over which you had control? Were you a young child, a pre-teen, a teenager, a young adult, an adult – or have you yet to make this discovery? I think I began learning this lesson when I was a child, but it took me years to consciously embrace the limits of my power and, even now, I keep forgetting that I don’t have as much control as I would like to have. I often catch myself believing in the illusion that I – all by myself – can make everything allright. If I am a perfect parent, my children will grow up to be wonderful adults. If I pastor correctly, the church I serve will thrive. If I manage my money well, I will have economic stability – not only now, but when I retire, also. If I eat the correct foods, exercise regularly, and get yearly checkups, I will be healthy and live a long life. If I just do life PERFECTLY, then everything will be just fine!
And then, when I’m tired, or hungry, or frustrated – when I don’t have the energy and the motivation to keep up the illusion – I realize all over again that it doesn’t matter whether I do everything perfectly or not. The truth is that there is very little over which I have control. I can do everything PERFECTLY and my children will still have challenges, my church may or may not thrive, the economy will do what it will, and I can still get sick!
Instead of living like a mouse running frantically in an exercise wheel because everything is up to me, I need to stop and invite God into the picture. I need to throw myself onto the mercy and grace of God. I read a quote recently that touched me. It is attributed to George Eliot: “How will you find good? It is not a thing of choices; it is a river that flows from the foot of the invisible throne, and flows by the path of obedience.” I love the image of a river that flows from the foot of the invisible throne, the throne of mercy and grace. It is a river of goodness and God-ness, a river in which we can swim and delight. It is always available to us, but we must stop in our frantic push to “do” life correctly and take a dip in it. It will refresh us and renew us – and remind us that God, not us, is in control.
As the quote states, this river “flows by the path of obedience.” If we are obedient to God, we will get out of God’s way so that his mercy and grace can flow into our lives and our world. We will seek his will and walk in his way. When we are weak, we will ask his power to work through our weaknesses. We will, in short, let God be God, and let ourselves be merely human.
There is a beautiful hymn that comes to mind as I write about the river that flows from the foot of the invisible throne, and I will end by sharing with you the lyrics:
Shall we gather at the river, Where bright angel feet have trod, With its crystal tide forever Flowing by the throne of God?
REFRAIN: Yes, we’ll gather at the river, The beautiful, the beautiful river; Gather with the saints at the river That flows by the throne of God.
On the margin of the river, Washing up its silver spray, We will talk and worship ever, All the happy golden day.
Ere we reach the shining river, Lay we every burden down; Grace our spirits will deliver, And provide a robe and crown.
At the smiling of the river, Mirror of the Savior’s face, Saints, whom death will never sever, Lift their songs of saving grace.
Soon we’ll reach the silver river, S oon our pilgrimage will cease; Soon our happy hearts will quiver With the melody of peace.
Yes, let us gather at the river. See you there!
CLICK HERE FOR HYMN
The Rev. Amy Johnson
Sermon excerpt from 06/07/2015:
Living in God’s kingdom for us today means not living in a kingdom. Let me explain. The people of Israel chose a king, and from that point on they were subject to some king, whether their own or a foreign king. As a matter of fact, the people of Israel’s idea of the prophesied and awaited Messiah was of a king, one that would defeat their enemies and restore their land to them. Instead, the Messiah came in the form of a wandering preacher and miracle-worker, one who said that the greatest commandment is to love, one who entreated the people to love their neighbor as themselves, one who welcomed the outcast and the sinner, one who challenged the status quo, one who called the people to be just. Jesus came to establish the kingdom of God, yet he abolished the notion of kingdom altogether. The kingdom of God is not a kingdom – it is without a hierarchy, without a human ruler, without insiders and outsiders. It is a place where justice prevails. Hannah’s song is our song.
FULL SERMON HERE
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