Sunday, 22 July 2018

Services

Sunday Worship - 9:00 am

Sunday School - 10:30 am

 

Established May 2009, Little Rock, AR

Recent Sermons

Sermon By Rev Teresa Smallwood: Send In The Women

February 4, 2018

 

“Send in the Women”

 

Jeremiah 19

 

February 4, 2018

New Millennium Church

Little Rock, Arkansas

 

Clearly there is a war going on in our nation. There is a fight between good and evil that is prominent in American culture. It is a fact that in every war there are casualties. In every contest there is a need for strategic planning, direct-action, and preparation. This afternoon many of you will be tuned in to a football contest, a war of sorts. At that contest, you expect that there will be a fight for the title: Super Bowl Champions. From the perspective of strategic planning, I am sure the season prepared the teams that will compete, but the real test of their ability to be the champions will happen on the field. On the field, the teams must perform their plays with stupendous execution. There will be challenges. In every contest there are challenges: the risk of injury, the risk of failure, the risk of penalty, and the risk of disappointment to those who support each team. Despite the significant risks, the possibility of rewards serves as a driver. It drives the participants to the fight.

 

I have been very interested in how, in the face of so much scientific evidence of the long-term danger and serious injury known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy – a neurological disease linked to head injuries to the players in sports like football, people would take that risk. Perhaps, Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee signifies an act of racial justice on an even deeper level; but, that is another story, for another day. This situation – the risk of permanent injury and indeed death is however, analogous to what Israel was up against in the Jeremiah 19 text that we read.  Now please be clear, we thank God for Jesus. It is not my intention to cause people trepidation with the threat of annihilation by an anger God. I am not here to focus upon eating the flesh of children or any of the things the text enumerates as consequence of the nation’s sin. The issue of theodicy comes up; but, that is not my focus. Our focus is upon the situation that led to God’s position as prophesied by Jeremiah. Jeremiah, the prophet, the son of Hilkiah (who was a High Priest of the Temple of Jerusalem and who discovered the “book of the law),” was chosen by God to deliver God’s message to the people. Jeremiah, a Levitical priest, was set aside by God to prophesy admonition to Israel. His message was simple: return to God’s covenant.    

 

In our situational text, we find Israel being given a pronouncement of the coming destruction by their enemies from the north. The people had resorted to the worship of false gods that they called Baal. They had begun to build altars to Baal and were burning children as offerings. Jeremiah was charged with the responsibility to warn the people first, that God would withdraw their blessings and second, that God would allow their enemies to destroy them. As the nation became increasingly more obstinate, Jeremiah’s warnings described more deleterious actions. For instance, earlier in the chapter, the nation was warned about famine and starvation; plunder and captivity. Eventually, Babylon would invade Jerusalem and destroy it causing the total collapse of the nation. Fortunately, with the promise of destruction came also the promise of restoration. In fact, we see evidence of this in the chapter just before our focus text. Jeremiah 18:7-8 reveals God’s heart where it reads “The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.” In other words, God warns, but at the same time, God provides a means of escape.

 

As I reflect upon the story of Jeremiah the prophet and the fate of Israel, our present situation in America is eerily parallel. The false god of patriotism has blinded the people to the real issues of human flourishing. Our enemies to the north are a serious threat to our destruction. Patriotism has preempted the ability for the constitutional exercise of free speech. The patriotism that is promoted is one of totalitarian, dictatorial, imperialistic and ideological populism. The leadership of this nation stokes the fire of white nationalism, the KKK, and neo-Nazi terror. This administration rewards the alt-right with high level positions – literally forming principalities in high places. Child molesters, sexual abusers practicing fraudulent and dangerous individualism dictate the ethos of this country. Hatemongers run the Justice Department, the inept is in charge of education, the ill-informed in charge of Housing and Urban Development and all of this is against the backdrop of greed and avarice in the halls of Congress, many state houses and municipal governments. 

Just like in the valley of the son of Hinnom or Tophet, south of Jerusalem, where human victims were offered, and children made to pass through the fire, in honor of Molech, the children of America are subjected to (gun)fire (Sandy Hook), torture in sex trafficking, and morbidity in the face of CHIP and other sources for their healthcare being threatened. Moreover, if they are Dreamers, they are threatened with deportation to places, which in some cases, they have not visited since arriving here decades ago. In the face of this type of behavior, God sends a warning to Israel that promises to make the ears of those who hear it tingle. 

 

Now in Jeremiah 9, the solution put forth by God was to call for mourning and lamentation. In that instance, Israel was told to call for the mourning women to lament. These were professional mourners whose job it was to bring forth public grief and shouts of passionate sorrow at the conditions. But, as the situation of Israel’s sinful behavior persisted in chapter 19, there was no call for the mourners. It reminds me of the song “Stand.” “After you have done all you can, stand.” The songwriter says after you have “prayed and cried and prayed and cried; then, you just stand.” Well, in chapter 19, the time had come for God that the actions of a sinful nation, Israel, could not be assuaged with the wailing women.  I do not know about you, but I am tired of crying. It’s time now for a contest. It is time for a fight. It’s time to rumble! I am tired of seeing mothers crying over dead children laying in the streets with holes from gunshots riddling their bodies. (In the case of LaQuan McDonald in Chicago, the government engaged in a cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the death of a young man who was walking away from the police when the officer unloaded a clip of 16 bullets in his body). I am tired of crying over so many of our children caged in prisons all over America. I am tired of crying over modern-day lynching in the form of vehicular homicide dispatched to pick off counter-protests of white supremacists. I am tired of the possibility that a lone gunman could walk into a church and kill 9 worshippers including the pastor. I am tired of losing the contest between good and evil. It’s time for a fight; a street fight. And, like the Super Bowl you will watch today, there is a need for some specialty teams to be sent in to the contest. The question becomes who will you send in? Send in the women.

 

In football, the role of specialty teams is four-fold. First, they handle punts, kickoffs, and punt returns. Second, they handle field goals and extra point attempts. Third, they take care of kickoff returns; and fourth, they are the teams that attempt to block field goals and extra point attempts. Specialty teams are sent in to turn the situation around.   Specialty teams help to maintain good field position for their team and to keep the opposition in bad field position. In the contest we face as a nation, I stand in prophetic authority to say to you Send in the Women!


I am convinced that America is in a Kairos moment. We are in need of some specialty teams to turn this situation around. Send in the Women. Send in the ones who, history shows us, are full of the Spirit of God and able to carry the ball. I am reminded of the memoir of Old Elizabeth – a slave woman born on or about 1766. Old Elizabeth tells the story of her life at age 97 in a writing that she dictated entitled Memoir of Old Elizabeth, Coloured Woman. On the cover is printed Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” I am sure Old Elizabeth had to seal that truth in her heart as she walked out her vocation and conviction. 

 

It is amazing to me the number of people who still do not regard women as worthy to mount the sacred desk. I had a minister challenge me once on the subject. He pointed me to the passage where the Apostle Paul required women to be silent and not be given the privilege to exercise a pastoral position over a man. I told the brother it was evident that he was reading the Bible, but to come back to me when he was finished. When it comes to women preachers we cannot cherry pick the scriptures. Old Elizabeth in the 18th c. understood this. She understood the Joel prophecy “and it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And, also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” (Joel 2: 28-29)

 

Old Elizabeth relates that she was born to enslaved parents. At age 11 she was traded to another plantation away from her parents and siblings. One time she ran away from that plantation and walked twenty miles to find her parents. When she returned to the plantation from which she had run, she was tied with a rope and given some stripes which lingered for several weeks. While visiting her mother Old Elizabeth reports that her mother told her she had “nobody in the wide world to look to but God.”  That stuck with Old Elizabeth and she developed a relationship with God that led her to preaching. Old Elizabeth survived slavery and lived to be 100 years old. Old Elizabeth is a great example of the prophetic tradition that represents truth-telling, resistance, survival, and redemption. Based upon her example, “Send in the Women” because they are prepared with the Spirit of God to fight, to block the assignment of the enemy, which is “to kill, to steal, and to destroy.” Old Elizabeth tells the story of a meeting she was holding in a house when an overseer/watchman came in to break up the meeting. 

 

A feeling of weakness came over me for a short time, but I soon grew warm and courageous in the Spirit. The man then said to me, "I was sent here to break up your meeting. Complaint has been made to me that the people round here cannot sleep for the racket." I replied, "a good racket is better than a bad racket. How do they rest when the ungodly are dancing and fiddling till midnight? Why are not they molested by the watchmen? and why should we be for praising God, our Maker? Are we worthy of greater punishment for praying to Him? and are we to be prohibited from doing so, that sinners may remain slumbering in their sins?" While speaking these few words I grew warm with heavenly zeal, and laid my hand upon him and addressed him with gospel truth, "how do sinners sleep in hell, after slumbering in their sins here, and crying, 'let me rest, let me rest,' while sporting on the very brink of hell? Is the cause of God to be destroyed for this purpose?" Speaking several words more to this amount, he turned pale and trembled, and begged my pardon, acknowledging that it was not his wish to interrupt us, and that he would never disturb a religious assembly again. He then took leave of me in a comely manner and wished us success.


This morning I want to encourage your heart that the battle is not ours, but it’s the Lord’s. You have to suit up and show up on the field. (Put on your whole armor – your breastplate of righteousness…Ephesians 6:10-19) and God will fight our battles against evil.  If you show up, God will hold you up so that you can stand-up and fight. Our fight is in need of some specialty teams to block the punts of the enemy; to push the opponent back. I charge us to Send in the Women. 

 

Old Elizabeth represents a long legacy of women who have studied to show themselves approved. She is an example of what it means to be empowered by the Spirit of God to stand against tyranny. She survived enslavement and taught others because she had a deep and abiding relationship with God that was fostered as a child at 11 years old. And the prophetic voice of those like Old Elizabeth should inspire us. The same way that Ida B. Wells-Barnette rose up to fight that lynching be abolished by drawing national attention to it, that same Spirt can help the team today. Send in the women. Send in those like Harriet Tubman whose underground railroad transported folks to freedom. She took them voluntarily and sometimes by show of force with that rifle she carried. Send in the women like Ella Baker who took the blows to her head for the right for her people to vote. Send in the women like Nannie Helen Burroughs who understood the need to educate her people. Send in the women. Send in the women who will stand flat-footed and prophesy deliverance. Send in the women who will speak truth to power and not back down over a donation to the building fund. Send in the women who are capable of turning the situation around and changing the position we have on the field. For we are on the battlefield for our Lord, “we have to fight, although we have to fight. We have to hold-up the bloodstained banner, we have to hold it up until we die.” If we are to be victors, and indeed, we are already victors, we must send in the women.