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A CALL BY EXAMPLE - Dr. Iva E. Carruthers

April 15, 2012

A CALL BY EXAMPLE

JOHN 13: 12-15

 

Dr. Iva E. Carruthers

April 15, 2012

9 AM Service

 

 

 

 

New Millennium Church

Little Rock, AK.

Rev. Wendell L. Griffen, Pastor


 

A CALL BY EXAMPLE -  JOHN 13: 12-15

 

Psalms 92

It is good to praise the Lord

And make music to your name, O most High

To proclaim your love in the morning

And your faithfulness at night.

 

Thank you to the  teacher, preacher, judge and prophet, of this House, Pastor Wendell Griffin, to his gracious partner in ministry, Dr. Patricia, the pastoral team, officers and members of the New Millennium Church; other clergy and guests of The New Millennium Church for this kind invitation.  I acknowledge with a grateful heart the presence of my Little Rock family and the matriarch of us all, my 93 year old mother, Lois Johnson, and her adopted son who she loves more than me, none other than the esteemed servant of God in whom the Lord is well pleased, the prophet, my pastor, brother, friend, and colleague, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. 

 

God has a sense of humor and this is the biggest set up yet.  I am still trying to figure out how I got myself into this assignment.   I feel like I have been set up by the High Priest and Judge, Eli, and the Prophet, Jeremiah.  I know everyone is really here to share and celebrate with Rev. Anika and to hear Rev. Wright.  I would be crazy to think otherwise so all I can say is as John the Baptist said, just wait for the one after me.    Meanwhile, I will just try and stand in the tradition and courage of the Prophetess and Judge Deborah

 

Now, once upon a time, there was a little girl from up North who came to visit her family down south as they say.  One day, she and her cousins went to a movie theater.  After purchasing their tickets, the little girl began to walk thru the front door, only to be snatched by her cousin who chastised her and told her they had to go to the balcony through a different way.  The little girl was shocked, resistant and complained until the big cousin said “that’s the way it is; it’s that way or no way, move on.”  The little girl’s spiritual eyes and mindful inquisitiveness was fixated on “that was the way it was”.  By whose authority? and why? were questions that nagged her for the duration of that visit and beyond.  The divide between the North and the South form of segregation,  de facto vs. de jure segregation, had become deeply rooted and alive by the aborted joy of a child who only wanted to see a movie.  On the drive back North the parental whispers about gas and bathroom stops, lunches from shoe boxes (which were seen as fun) had taken on a new meaning.  Cousins of the same generation would learn to navigate their cultural context in different ways, but their generation  would  be  haunted and bonded by the terrifying murder of Emmitt Till in Money, Mississippi and the courageous defiance of the Little Rock Nine. 

 

Years later the little girl would learn that at the turn of the century in response to racism, one member of the family had packed up wife and children and left Little Rock, ending up in Brazil.  Five generations of the family are now heirs of life begun in a new century and on a new continent. 

 

The little girl would also learn that she ended up North not because of a stand against racism, but more because of the humor of usism. One night a man got up on the roof top of another man’s shotgun house in Pulaski County and repeatedly said ‘Oh, John, Oh, John, this is the Lord calling you to preach.”  John woke up the next morning and told all who would listen he had been visited by the Lord and was called to preach.  John became Rev. John and went all over the county preaching for several months before the culprit admitted he had climbed on the roof and told him that was a prank. Rev. John, literally and seriously, threatened to kill the prankster who fled Little Rock in fear of his life.  Five generations of the family are now heirs of life begun in a new century up North.

 

Perhaps you have figured out that the little girl was me. The American expatriate to Brazil was my mother’s maternal uncle.  The prankster was my mother’s paternal grandfather.  With her parents, my mother left Little Rock at the age of five.

 

It’s always good to come to the ancestral home, from Woodson to Altheimers to Pine Bluff to Gethsemane.  [not Gethsemane]  and it’s even better to come and it’s not for a funeral.

 

I never knew my great grandfather, but I know despite his horrible joke, he was a man of God.  He and his wife were early members of the AME church in Evanston, IL in which I grew up.  And one lesson learned is that The Call to God’s ministry then and now, is not to be played with and as my grandparents  would often say, some were called and others just went.    This afternoon’s occasion of affirmation of Rev. Anika’s call to ministry by ordination is a high moment of celebration for our family and this congregation.  We thank God for what he has already done and will continue to do in her life. 

 

As I prayerfully considered this assignment, God and I had many questions and answer sessions so to speak.  Some of the questions, I could  not repeat here , for God knows I am still trying to figure out why me, Lord?.  So pray with me Church as I stand as your humble servant, invited and honored to bring the Word for this service. 

 

[Lord, it’s time for your Word and here I am, a most humble servant only wanting to speak your Word and do your Will.   You know what our moments have been in the stillness of the night; I ask that your Spirit be with me and that you now cover my preparation with your power for your people are listening].

 

For this morning’s word, God led me to wrestle with my own personal faith journey at this juncture in my life.   From the little girl growing up in the separate but equal era, grounded in the faith traditions of the AME church, participating in the hopeful and holy expectations of the civil rights movement and the African freedom movement, opportunity for educational achievements and professional advancements in three careers, to a mother widowed with an 11 month son, remarried and divorce, challenges of raising two sons, and now re-raising my 93 year old mother, there have been high hopes and low disappointments,  human demons and periods of major disbelief, joy and sorrow, good and evil all around, but, through it all, God’s grace and mercy have always shared the journey.   

 

In my role as servant leader of the SDPC, I am daily challenged by the reality that the Black Church has more churches than ever before, 4 – 6 in some blocks; there are more preachers that have been to seminary and more on television and in the media than ever before, and yet, our communities seem to be worse off, more content, and less courageous to fight for justice and what’s right.  I am charged and entrusted to build resources and capacity for the Black Church to stand in the tradition of the prophets, righteously and fearlessly speaking truth to power on behalf of the least of these and at the same time give a word of hope and direction to them.

 

Today,   As a prelude to Anika’s service of ordination, however, I want to spend my moments this morning reflecting on the Call to the church and its disciples.

 

The Christian church all over the world has just celebrated Easter.  Last week thousands of  sermons were preached on the meaning of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  We are standing in the afterglow of many words proclaiming victory over death, joy over the resurrection and hope in salvation.  Those messages largely focused on the vertical arm of the message of the cross, reminding us of the cost paid by the Son of God for the gift of our salvation.   I want us to go back to the Upper Room and pause on John 13 for there I find a word for the church in this present age.    We know Jesus left a word at the cross for the crowd; but he left an example at the Last Supper for those who profess to be the disciples.  And, this is where we enter the text. 

 

The text verses 12 – 15 reads as follows:

 

12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. [NRSV]

 

Prayerfully consider with me the message, “A Call By Example.”

 

Biblical scholar Jerome Ross emphasizes the need for us to have a Biblical lens that sees the entire sacred text, from Genesis to Revelation, as a story of God’s people’s survival under systematic  oppression- oppression by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and then the Romans.  If oppression is the backdrop then that certainly makes the Biblical story relevant to Black folks in our lifetime.

 

If we believe that God’s word is everlasting, a word for all generations, and that Dr. Ross is correct, my question is what is the call to and of the Black Church in this present age?  More, specifically, what is the call of the Black Church in the Age of the 1% oppression? – oppression by the elite where 99% of the people are oppressed.

 

I imagine few of us in this congregation would argue against the need for The  Occupy Wall Street movement in all its forms and manifestations.  In 2012, a few people control our life choices - the 99% are controlled by the 1%ers.  This system of control is global, based on race, religion, class and caste.  The gap between those with resources and without is getting greater and so are the tensions and reactions to the divides. 

 

I want us to focus on John 13:14 as a prelude to the seven last words. ..So if I, your lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 

 

Year after year, we have all heard the 7 last words preached creatively, prophetically and dramatically. The preached words have become a staple ritual for many who profess to be Christian.   One young person told me they were not going to Good Friday services because it had become a competitive match between preachers. 

 

That’s unfortunate and not really true, but that same charge was observed with the disciples.

The situational background of John 13 was the arguments among the disciples two days before the Passover meal and then during the meal about who was the greatest and who would be seated next to whom.  Jesus had had enough.

 

So in the midst of this private intimate dinner, a dinner known to Him as a farewell dinner, but  relished by them as special guests,  Jesus would rise, disrobe, take  the cloth and  posture of a servant and undertake the lowliest of tasks in those days – washing the feet of others. 

 

Let us not forget there were no cars, taxis, trains, busses, or limos.  Walking the dusty roads in sandals was the mode of transportation. For those of means, an occasional donkey or camel ride was as good as it got.

 

In the ancient world, foot cleansing, Anika, was done for various reasons: as a part of public baths, for purposes of religious cleansings, as a prelude to anointing with oil as the woman in Luke did for Jesus, as an act of respect between the teacher and student, or child and parent and as an act of hospitality to receive the guests who entered the home.  Some  basins were wooden, some silver and some gold.  But whatever the pot, the task of washing the feet of another was considered one of the lowliest task one could do, a task reserved for servants, often a woman,  or one in the posture of complete servitude. It was so low a task that it was used as a metaphor for enslavement.  In Ps 60: 8 David declares “Moab is my washbasin.”  Moreover, under Jewish law, Jews who were slaves did not even have to wash the feet of their masters.  [something like what we see today- hierarchy and special protection based on your racial/ethnic category  - more respect given to a poor white man than a black president – let me go back to the text]

 

To fully understand the power of this moment, back up to verse 3 and note, the time stamp before v. 3.  The text did not say after supper, but during supper, “Jesus knowing that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” v 2-4.  During dinner, He unrobed. 

 

He, like only he could do, thus dramatically broke all the codes and protocols – cultural, religious, ethnic, gender and family protocols. 

 

And, verse 12 begins, “After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and returned to the table, he said to them, “do you know what I have done to you?” 

 

By dramatic example He had made a point to the disciples that they could understand and fulfill.  Perhaps, they could not claim a virgin birth, turn wine into water, walk on water, and stretch five loves and five fishes into enough food for thousands.  But, by example, he had shown them something they could do. 

 

And to get confirmation, He asked them “do you know what I have done to you?”  Now this is the ultimate kind of  double edge sword of a question that only Jesus could ask.  A no win question. If you say no, it means you have not understood the lessons of your Teacher and Lord.  If you say yes, it means you are now called to do as the Teacher and Lord did.    Between the no and the yes and ur ur, there lies in the Easter narrative a Call By Example for the Church in the Age of 1% Oppression.      

 

I will be the first to confess, that the ur ur for me is that this Call By Example appears to be taking me to some feet of folks I can’t imagine I could or would want to wash.   And I’ll tell you why.

 

You got a black police officer even after he showed his identification, was shot 27 times by four white officers in Chicago, and he’s facing murder charges.   We have Trayvon Martin’s killer being protected under the stand your ground law.   You got two other apparent skinheads in Tulsa randomly killing black people.  You got a Santorum talking about taking this country back and a Sarah Palin being a co-host on the Today Show. 

 

And when you take the time to pull the covers back deeply, much of it is being designed and funded by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an advocacy group funded by the Koch Brothers and other corporate sponsors.  One of ALEC’s other major contributor is the Walton Family and Wal-Mart so-called philanthropies.  The facts show that not only did Wal-Mart representatives chair the committee and lobbying efforts of ALEC to establish the stand your ground laws in more than 20 states, they are funding the voter suppression laws and tactics during this election season.

 

This gang of evil doers will do anything to maintain their power in the age of 1% Oppression. They are out to annihilate the President and the constituents’ interests that they feel he might sneak to represent.  Not satisfied and trusting that the first African American U.S. president, a politician,  opted to  disavow his pastor and church on the road to the White House, a fact not fiction.  Not satisfied and trusting that he is a politician who, as the head of the most powerful nation in the world, will always be caught between a rock and a hard place and bound by the intractable policies and priorities and relationships of a system designed to maintain the status quo, fact not fiction.  Rather, driven by fear and fiction, the  very skin color and ancestry of the President has driven some to such a manacle state of deep seated white supremacy that they will go to any level to destroy, defame, caricature or disrespect his manhood and the position to get their country back.  And they still got some black folks willing to stand by their side.

 

Turn to your neighbor and say ALEC.  Turn to your other neighbor and say Wal-Mart.  Don’t be fooled by the photo op and co-optation of First Lady Michelle Obama with Wal-Mart as the poster sponsor  for her healthy eating child obesity initiative.  This is the same Wal-Mart that is supporting the privatization of prisons and Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) offer to the governors of this country to sell them their prisons on condition that they keep them 90% full and they have a binding contract for twenty years. [Commercial – the SDPC and UMC have called for a national call in day to all the governors on April 18.  Put that on your calendar.]   [And your pastor has agreed to assist with our Arkansas state hearings]

 

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the industrialized world; higher than China, Iran or Russia.    13% of the U. S. population yet, over 51% % of the prison population is African American.    In Arkansas, African Americans are 16% of the state and 52% of the incarcerated.   Blacks here have 4-5 times higher rate of incarceration and on the front end $6500/per pupil spent on education and $16,500 per prisoner. 

 

It’s now time to flip the script and instead of allowing them to ask the question can anything good come out of Nazareth, we need to be asking can anything good come out of Bentonville, Arkansas? 

 

Up the road a piece about 200 miles, Bentonville and the Walton family interests are reinventing a new global slave system with exploited workers, prison labor and human trafficking based on principles of greed, selfishness and the power of entitlement.    Can anything good come out of  Bentonville, Arkansas?

 

Well, some refer to this town as the Beast of Bentonville.  In Biblical days it would be about a 10 days journey.  Well, in our day it’s about a 2.5 hour drive and if it can’t be good, then maybe we can pray and act for it to be gone. 

 

I heard about a growing Little Rock church in the era of the 1% Oppression who has claimed the name of The New Millennium Church.  This New Millennium Church has heard of the Biblical text and the commandment that they love one another. In fact, their pastor ends his emails with John 13:34a. They are doing group study of not only the scriptures but this provocative book by Bishop Tutu, called God is Not a Christian.  With his experiential and spiritual wisdom, Bishop Tutu is elevating and excavating the notion of Ubuntu which affirms the humanity of all through acts of sharing, compassion and common understanding.   As Disciples of Jesus, this New Millennium Church apparently sees no contradiction in Ubuntu and what they believe.  They have reconciled their identity as Christian and African, knowing that everyone is equal at the foot of the cross and that their ancestral tradition is undergirded by the idea that I am because you are and since you are I am.  

 

As The New Millennium Church in Little Rock  in the era of the 1% Oppression, they have accepted a call  be a transformative force in the world.  They know they are surrounded by giants but they, along with some other like-minded disciples, want the giants to be gone.

 

The text teaches all churches and disciples what we must do to make that happen so I want to share  my three points and sit down.

 

Jesus asked, do you know what I have done to you? V. 12 

 

The first lesson this text teaches us is that we must reclaim our memory and acknowledge  we know what the Lord has done for us and to us.  We, as people of God, need some memory classes. Yes, he woke us up this morning and started us on our way,  but He did not mean for us to lose our way.  It’s one thing to have a community of 100  with one lost sheep.  It’s another to have a community of 100 with 99 lost sheep. That’s not a community, that’s a catch waiting to be devoured.  And we stand as a community about to be devoured.

 

Reclaiming our memory is no easy task.   Bishop Tutu argues that to claim God exclusively for Christianity makes God too small for God is bigger than Christianity and cares for more than Christians.  (14) 

 

The Bible tells us that  “ a thousand years is yet like a yesterday.”  So we must understand its call in the context of God’s time, Kairos time, not man’s time or Chronos time. God calls us to reclaim the memory of our ancestors and not just how we got over.  We also have to realize that there was Christianity before Christ in Africa and that African people are an integral part of the sacred Biblical story.  Our millenniums and ancestral memory goes back to In the Beginning, thousands of years before the Easter Resurrection.  Our problem in this age of 1% Oppression is not unlike the problems God’s people have confronted before. 

 

Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten God’s commandment to teach our story to our children’s children children.  And now we are up against a powerful media system who have no problem intentionally  misrepresenting, uninforming and lying about the past and present to sustain and create their future as they would like it to be.

 

We must reclaim the memory of our people over the media, undermine and confront them not through occasional days of black history month celebrations and scholarships, but by the hard and sacred work of educating our children wherever they are so that they will know who and whose they are.   

 

As we sit here, the dragons from the Beast of Bentonville are orchestrating the privatization of schools for our children’s education to become just a new form of a commodity with a controlled education.  Their tentacles are forcing legislation for the educational publishing industry to conceal, rewrite and sanitize and even make us the perpetrators of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade System.  Church, we need some memory classes.

 

The second lesson this text teaches us about the call of the church and its disciples  is that we have to restore a mission agenda over a money agenda. 

Verse 14 says, So if I your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, then you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

 

My sister in ministry, Yvonne Delk, in lamenting  what appears to be the new age pastors and there conditions of service,  loves to tell the story of how she got up the courage to call Samuel DeWitt Proctor, (Dr.Wright’s mentor) to ask  that he be a dinner speaker.  Her organization had very little money.  When she asked how much would he charge, he replied: “got a way to get me there?”  She said “yes.”  “Got a place for me to  sleep?”  She said, “yes.”  “Ok I'll come….everything else you give me is God’s grace.”  

 

Well, umm umm, how many preachers do you know like that these days?  A master teacher and preacher, a prophet, a global leader for all times and he counts his opportunities and payment for service in terms of mission and ministry, not in terms of the size of the church, potential hits on the internet and engagement fees. 

 

Bishop Tutu, like Dr. Martin L. King and Dr. Wright have unabashedly and consistently said the triple evils of materialism, militarism and racism are sins all Christians must face.   Tutu  has declared God cannot be a Christian as long as we Christians, white and black, acquiesce to the “culture of violence based on the laws of survival of the fittest, to or be eaten” mentality (170).  Today,  the top revenue generating movie is Hunger Games, focused on survival of the fittest where teens are killing teens.  This signals a depraved culture in- waiting for a turn- around ethic and ethos.  Tutu embraces Ubuntu as that ethic and ethos.  

This text teaches us that the Church  has to example the  scratch line theology of Proctor – if we are on top of the  scratch line, it’s by God’s grace, and we ought reach back to not devalue those who are below the scratch line.  New Millennium  Churches have to example Tutu’s Ubuntu theology where you measure your own humanity by your capacity to show compassion to, love for and affirmation of other’s humanity, wherever you find them in the community, for we are all made in the image of God and are children of God.  The New Millennium  Churches  have to example the liberation theology of James Cone  and the Pan African praxis of Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.   We can be both unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian.  We can be an equal opportunity prophetic voice, confronting the sins of a system of White Euro Western domination that justifies racism and Zionism, as well as confronting the sins of African despotic leadership, - both systems drowning in the credit liens against their future being held by the Chinese financial markets.

 

The mission of  New Millennium  Churches in the era of the 1% oppression is for the Church to become the hands and feet of Jesus in the posture of servant leadership.

 

The mission of  New Millennium  Churches in the era of the 1% oppression is to  be a voice for the least of these among us, not for money fame or notoriety, but as change agents ready to do battle against powers and principalities until justice and peace are reconciled in Godly love.

 

New Millennium  Churches cannot be led by brothers wanting to be deified and sisters wanting to be divas off the backs  of the 99% people and their issues.  The text teaches us that servants are not greater than their masters nor messengers greater than the one who sent them. If Jesus can bow down to wash the feet of the disciples, so too must the disciples of Jesus be willing and ready to serve our most dispossessed sisters and brothers.  The mission is their liberation not our elevation.

 

The text teaches us that first we must restore our memory in the presence of a hostile media, to know what the Lord has already done for us.  The text then teaches us we must reclaim our mission in a culture of crass materialism and a rent- a- prophet marketplace.

 

Finally, in this enduring word, we see in the text that the Church and its disciples must answer the call to return to  the cross for such a time as this, this present age of 1% oppression.

 

Many thought the walls of segregation would not fall; they did… but we seem to have forgotten what it took and the destination we were going.  Many thought the powers of apartheid could not tumble;  it did, even though they are now struggling with mission over money with too many new masters whose model for power and Christian witness is more akin to Judas’ heel than Jesus’ way. 

 

Between the privacy of the Upper Room to the public humiliation on the cross, Jesus walked to Calvary and spoke a word to the Daughters of Jerusalem -  He said don’t weep for me but weep for yourselves.  The days are coming in which they shall say Blessed are the barren.  Luke 23

 

I don’t know if that time is upon us.  I do know time is relative, and in the end, controlled by God.  There’s a time to live and a time to die.  A millennium can be like yesterday.  We are here today because of the sacrificial blood and willingness to return to the cross of people like Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Septima Clarke, Daisy Bates and the far too many unnamed faithful. 

 

The cost of the cross is great; was then and is now.  The legacy is still alive, but the New Millennium  Churches and their disciples must be willing to claim the tradition and  be obedient servants knowing they are on the way to the cross, not the crowds.  The crowds, the Sanhedrin academic types today are still arguing over whether Jesus’ washing the feet of the Disciples was a call for a new ordinance or a ritual of the church? does it enhance or diminish baptism?

 

Those are questions of the crowd. But, that was not what Jesus was concerned about.  The text does not say do this for the Church’s benefit, it says “if you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” V. 17

 

Anika, on this day, your serving as a podiatrist and your serving as a minister have come together in a special way.  You will be in obedience to the figurative and literal call to wash the feet of the faithful and those in need. 

 

The New Millennium Church in Little Rock and New Millennium Churches in this nation are at a crossroad.  We can go forward in chronos time pretending to be mega saints, adapting and adjusting to theatrical ideations which make bad seem good and false seem real.  We can be the bread and butter of televangelism at its best and Black church oratory at its worse.  We can dilute Jesus’ message and example and make it devoid of the burden of carrying the cross.  We can make Christians comfortable, safe and vulnerable to the next oppressor.  At the same time, we can increase Fox news ratings while muting the voices of God’s sheep. 

 

OR

 

The New Millennium Church in Little Rock and New Millennium  Churches in this nation can choose to go backwards towards the cross. Our African spiritual traditions are rich and vibrant, deeply rooted and linked to God the Creator and Jesus the Christ.  In West African tradition the Sankofa bird represents the charge to go back to restore the memory -  To know the past so you will understand the present and then to be better prepared to create the future. 

 

In South African tradition Ubuntu beckons us to reclaim the mission, not the mission of survival of the fittest but the mission of servant leadership and obedient discipleship.

 

In East Africa tradition we learn much about time and the burdens and blessings of the cross.  Unlike the western view of time in which progress is going forward on a linear plane, the African view of time is embodied in the Swahili notion of Zamani.  Progress is going backwards in time in a circular fashion.  Life’s journey is as the people of the Congo say, under the canopy of God or in the belly of God and thus one’s faith or Imani (7th day of Kwanzaa) is what gets you through the journey.  In the end, the destination is  Amani or full reconciliation back to God the Creator of all that there is and all that there is to be.  Amani is the blessing Jesus offered in the Upper Room. 

 

Later in Chapter 15:18 and we see that After Judas’ departure, Jesus told his disciples it would not be long and if the world hated you, remember it hated Him first.   He knew in Chronos time, he was headed to the crowd and the cross.  But he also knew in Kairos time he was fulfilling the Scripture and returning to His Father. 

 

God’s story is not a Christian story, but all Christians got a story with God.  And the hope lies in the message that you may have to drink haterade on this side, but there is victory in  the destination on the other side.

 

I love butterflies and you know that the butterfly is a symbol of Christian resurrection.  What I discovered is that The earliest known painting of a butterfly dated 3500 years ago  happens to be in [the tomb of Nebaman,] along the Nile in (Thebes)  Luxor.  This butterfly in ancient Egyptian symbolized the intersection of the spirit and mind morphed into soul.   [Interestingly , Egypt is also the place in the world with the fewest species of butterflies, 58.    The symbol  connotes the conscious possession of one’s soul.  -unconscious conscious -     Or, willful giving over of one’s soul to God.

 

Saturday, many gathered for the home going celebration of Mother Addie Wyatt…….Her life as a Christian pastor, civil and women rights and labor leader exemplified the meaning of both returning to the cross and the butterfly for me……..Mother Rev. Dr. Addie Wyatt  was characterized as a witness, a worker, a worshiper and a winner.    

 

Mother Addie is at peace with God having lived a long and productive life on the side of the dispossessed.  The question is: will we be instruments of God to tell the story of the oppressed or the story of the oppressor. Despite the darkness of the hour in this age of 1% oppression, as it was with God’s people from Egyptian Oppression to Roman oppression, AND, on the slave trip and in the stillness of the night on the plantation, I truly believe we serve a Living God and Lord that has all power and time in His/ Her hands. 

 

It’s not for us to know the hour, but it is for us to be willing to carry the burden of one another as He carried the burdens for us.   Not as one looking up the vertical arm of the cross  in pious salvation and down at the cross to everyone below us, but one locking arms and embracing those on the horizontal arm of the cross, stooping low to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters, knowing we have been given the power and opportunity to be really blessed.

 

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a [wo]man, I put away childish things.                             1 Corinthians 13:11

 

The questions of the little girl who visited her cousins were Why? And by Whose Authority?  On life’s journey, the little girl has grown up to understand that to answer the call of God, is a daily struggle for God’s people and God’s Church.  It was a struggle for the disciples, then, and it’s a struggle for the disciples, now.   

 

Two of the greatest prophets of our time, Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. and Bishop Desmond Tutu have spent a life time challenging the Black church and the world to bring forth the Spirit of Ubuntu.  What makes them great is not who they are but whose they are; not what they understand about humans but what they understand about God and the victory of the cross.

 

Humans ask        Will you love me more than those who don’t answer your call?

God asks            Which one of you who have answered the call will betray me?

                               

                          Will you allow me to be blessed and highly favored?

                         Will you praise me in trials and tribulations?

 

                         Will you recognize my service?

                         Will you serve and remain nameless?

 

                         Who do the people say God is?

                         Who do you say I am?

 

                         Where are you taking me?

                          Are you willing to go without knowing the direction?

 

                         Can I take my family and friends?

                         Who are you willing to leave behind?

 

                         What will I lose if I take up your cross?

                         What will you gain if you take up my cross? 

                                                              

Jesus gave the church A Call by Example and asked do you understand what I have done for you, if you do then do it for one another In Greek “to do” in this context means to fulfill and bring forth.  Let us recommit to step out on faith and pay the cost because the God we serve has already fulfilled His promises. 

 

On this day, I wish you all a light and peaceful journey, full of God’s joy, giving life to the New Millennium Church, empowered by the remembrances of what God has already done; strong in purpose for the creation of God’s will on earth; and, faithful to the call of the cross, knowing that there is a cost but there is also a blessing in my Father’s house because His Son said so and therefore It is so.   Amen.

 

©Dr. Iva E. Carruthers, 2012