Monday, February 22, 2010

Some Assembly Required...

Recently a friend told me about a huge pile of snow that she saw in a field. Next to the snow was a sign that read “Free Snowmen, some assembly required.” This is funny because we all have had enough snow and would not want any of it even if it was given away free. It is ever more humorous because of the “some assembly required” part of the sign. That conjures up for most of us images of a child’s toy or an appliance that we purchase and when we get it home we have the challenge of assembling a thousand little parts with an instruction manual that was written by a mechanical engineer. But when it comes to assembling snow men it is more about seeing the potential of a snow sculpture while it is still a blob of snow. God made Adam from dust and breathed in him the breath of life. Michelangelo, the famous artist and sculptor would look at a block of marble before he would begin making a statue and imagine the figure inside the marble and that he was charged with the task of “freeing” the statue that was trapped inside.

Having the eye for potential that is not yet realized is a gift from God for people of faith. Whether it is a mission project at your church or building expansion or even a person called into ministry we need to see beyond the present blob of snow and imagine the potential that God sees before it has yet been created. Once we have the vision for what God wants us to do then get busy doing the ”required assembly” to bring it about.

I love these words of Natalie Sleeth from the “Hymn of Promise:”

In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed, an apple tree
In cocoons, a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. (BOH 707)

May you have eyes of faith that sees the promise in everyone and everything and a diligent spirit to make a reality that potential in partnership with God.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Olympics 2010 – Vancouver

The Winter Olympic Games begin in Vancouver on February 12th. Many athletes from all across the globe will compete for medals and to surpass previously set records. Some athletes see these games as a higher calling. On a recent interview Tyler Jewel , an American athlete, said that competing in the Olympics was the best way for countries to engage one another in a “fight without death” where athletes “lay down arms” of war and promote peace. The Olympics symbolize for many an opportunity for nations to come together in a unified effort as an inspiration to our broken world.

The symbol of the Olympics: the 5 interlocking rings (blue, yellow, black, green and red) represent the 5 continents of the world. The connection of rings reminds us that though we come from different countries we can have a common purpose and unity.

May we find unity in places in our life where we see diversity and may our competition with one another only serve to improve what we already do well.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Father Peter Spencer

Peter Spencer was born into slavery in 1779 in Kent County Maryland, but he became one of the great leaders in the cause of religious liberty. While he was still a slave he accepted the invitation to join the Christian community. He lived in slavery until the death of his owner, when he gained his freedom.

When Peter moved to Wilmington, Delaware he sought Christian fellowship at Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church. They welcomed him with open doors but not with open hearts nor with open minds. It was alright for him to be seen in worship, but he was not given the dignity of full participation in the life of the church. The Holy Spirit would not allow Peter Spencer to remain silent. He expressed his disapproval of the racism that he experienced in the church. He believed that people of color were entitled to religious equality.

The church refused to listen to Peter’s protests and there came a time when he was no longer willing to submit to the discrimination that existed in the church. Peter Spencer asked permission to build a church where he and his followers could worship freely. He wrote: “In the year, 1805 we, the colored members of the Methodist Church in Wilmington, thought that we might have more satisfaction of mind than we then had if we were to untie together and build a house for ourselves, which we did the same year. The Lord gave us the favor and the good will of all religious denominations, and they all freely did lend us help, and by their good graces we got a house to worship the Lord in.”

Peter’s followers succeeded in getting their own church and holding separate worship, but because of the color of their skin, they were denied any say in the business affairs of their new church. Peter Spencer did not want to start an independent church. It was his intention to only to worship separately in a Methodist Episcopal denomination. However, these faithful African Americans were told they had no rights to conduct any of the business in their church and would have to remain under white control. This seemed unreasonable and unfair to them.

They continued to struggle over their civil rights. Some were expelled from the church membership and others went to court to protect their right to oversee their own affairs as free people. Finally in December of 1812, when Peter’s group realized that the forces against them were more than they could overcome, they decided to organize a free and independent church of their own.

On June 1, 1813, Peter Spencer (known as “Father Spencer”) and his flock left the church they had built and began worshiping as a free and independent church. The church became legally recorded in Dover, Delaware, September 18, 1813 under the title of the Union Church of Africans. This was the first free and independent church entirely under the control of African American people in the United States. It pre-dated the famous beginning of the African Methodist Episcopal Church under Rev. Richard Allen.

Father Spencer died July 25, 1843, after thirty years of service to his church and people. His character, veracity and honor were beyond reproach.

Father Spencer’s fight continues in the church today. We still have open doors, but not always open hearts or minds. There are still those that are kept from being full participating members of our church. They may speak a different language, have a different ethnicity or different political views. Let us not force brothers and sisters of God out of God’s church. Let us learn from the past, repent, and show greater hospitality to all.