Saturday, 24 August 2019

Services

Sunday Worship - 9:00 am

Sunday School - 10:30 am

 

Established May 2009, Little Rock, AR

Recent Sermons

The Time Is Coming

July 21, 2019

THE TIME IS COMING

New Millennium Church, Little Rock, Arkansas

July 21, 2019 (Sixth Sunday after Pentecost)

 

Amos 8:1-12

8This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. 2He said, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A basket of summer fruit.’Then the Lord said to me,
‘The end has come upon my people Israel;
   I will never again pass them by. 
3 The songs of the temple shall become wailings on that day,’

says the Lord God;
‘the dead bodies shall be many,
   cast out in every place. Be silent!’ 


4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
   and bring to ruin the poor of the land, 
5 saying, ‘When will the new moon be over
   so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
   so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
   and practice deceit with false balances, 
6 buying the poor for silver
   and the needy for a pair of sandals,
   and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’ 


7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. 
8 Shall not the land tremble on this account,
   and everyone mourn who lives in it,
and all of it rise like the Nile,
   and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? 


9 On that day, says the Lord God,
   I will make the sun go down at noon,
   and darken the earth in broad daylight. 
10 I will turn your feasts into mourning,
   and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on all loins,
   and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
   and the end of it like a bitter day. 


11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
   when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
   but of hearing the words of the Lord. 
12 They shall wander from sea to sea,
   and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
   but they shall not find it.

 

Psalm 52

To the leader. A Maskil of David, when Doeg the Edomite came to Saul and said to him, ‘David has come to the house of Ahimelech.’


1 Why do you boast, O mighty one,
   of mischief done against the godly?
   All day long 2you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor,
   you worker of treachery. 
3 You love evil more than good,
   and lying more than speaking the truth.
          Selah 
4 You love all words that devour,
   O deceitful tongue. 


5 But God will break you down for ever;
   he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
   he will uproot you from the land of the living.
          Selah 
6 The righteous will see, and fear,
   and will laugh at the evildoer, saying, 
7 ‘See the one who would not take
   refuge in God,
but trusted in abundant riches,
   and sought refuge in wealth!’ 


8 But I am like a green olive tree
   in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
   for ever and ever. 
9 I will thank you for ever,
   because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
   I will proclaim your name, for it is good. 

 

Ever-faithful God,
whose being is perfect righteousness:
reconcile us in your Son with the helpless and the needy,
with those we would ignore or oppress,
and with those we have called enemies,
that we may serve all people as your hands of love,
and sit at the feet of those
who need our compassionate care. Amen.

 

We often hear faithful people say “God is good all the time” followed by “all the time God is good.”  However, when we look and listen to what is happening in the world and in our society, how do faithful people hold onto belief in the goodness of God?  

 

Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) personnel with the US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are separating children from their parents as they try to cross the southern border of the United States and seek asylum from hellish conditions of war, famine, national disaster, and other threats.  Some of the children are too young to talk, walk, or otherwise care for themselves.  Those parents and children may be struggling with the notion that “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”

 

We have seen news accounts and heard firsthand reports that asylum-seeking men, women, and children are being held in cages without clean water, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, beds, mattresses, and clothing.  We know these people are living in conditions unfit for livestock, let alone humans.  People who are forced to live in their own excrement by a nation that considers itself “God-fearing” may be struggling to accept the idea that “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”

 

We know – again because we have seen news accounts – that white supremacy, white religious nationalism, and racism are major themes for President Donald Trump’s administration the same way they were themes during his presidential campaign in 2016.  Last week Trump grinned and gloated during a political rally in North Carolina as a crowd of supporters chanted “Send her back,” referring to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.  Omar was born in Somalia.  She fled Somalia with her parents to escape the terrors of war.  She became a US citizen in 2010, and was elected to Congress in 2018.  She is the person Trump’s supporters in North Carolina shouted “Send her back” about.

 

Last week Trump denounced Congresswoman Omar, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan as people who hate the United States because they went to the southern border and exposed the horrible and inhumane things the Trump administration is doing to asylum seekers.  Each of these Members of Congress is a woman of color.  Each was elected by voters in her respective district.   But because they are children of immigrants, are not white, and because they are exposing and condemning Trump administration abuse and mistreatment of asylum seeking people, Trump tweeted last Sunday that they should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors.     

 

Victims of sexual abuse inflicted and tolerated by religious people are struggling with “God is good all the time.”  

 

Our LGBTQ sisters and brothers who suffer mistreatment and discrimination from so-called “evangelical Christians” are struggling with “God is good all the time.”  

 

People who worry if their health care protections will continue in the face of constant attempts by Trump and his political allies to abolish the Affordable Care Act may have strongly question if “God is good all the time.”  

 

We join these people and many others who are offended because 81 percent of the people who call themselves “evangelical Christians” voted to elect Trump.  As liberation-minded followers of Jesus – the immigrant who came the farthest distance to become one with us and show us what it means to live for God – we are also distressed.  

 

We are distressed because people who claim to love God and say they are living for God voted to elect Trump, support his hateful policies, and are cheering his racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-woman outbursts.  

 

We are distressed because people who say they love God and are living for Jesus support Trump knowing that he is a racist bigot, sexual predator, pathological liar, and that he has a lifelong reputation for cheating others.  

 

How can we, with the Psalmist at Psalm 52, declare that we “are like a green olive tree in the house of God” (Ps. 52:8)?  How can we, with the Psalmist” declare “trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever”?  

 

How can we say “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good”?  

 

In the face of all the hatefulness, wickedness, and religiously sponsored and condoned inhumanity we are seeing, how can people hold onto a faith that allows them to say concerning God, “I will thank you forever, because of what you have done”?  How do we say “Amen” to this thought we find at Psalm 52:9?  “In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.”

 

We can do so when we read the earlier verses in Psalm 52.  David, the author of this Psalm, wasn’t naïve or stupid.  David wrote this Psalm to reflect on God’s goodness after he barely escaped an attempt on his life by King Saul.  At 1 Samuel 22:9, we read that Doeg, a man from Edom who was loyal to Saul, reported to Saul that David had made his way to Nob (the city where the priests resided) and that the priest Ahimelech (great grandson of the priest Eli) had petitioned God on David’s behalf.  Before David extolled God’s goodness we read these strong words.

 

1 Why do you boast, O mighty one,
   of mischief done against the godly?
   All day long 
2you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor,
   you worker of treachery. 
3 You love evil more than good,
   and lying more than speaking the truth.
          
Selah 
4 You love all words that devour,
   O deceitful tongue.

 

Before the Psalmist declared that he was a green olive tree in the house of God, we find these words.

 

5 But God will break you down for ever;
   he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
   he will uproot you from the land of the living.
          
Selah 
6 The righteous will see, and fear,
   and will laugh at the evildoer, saying, 
7 ‘See the one who would not take
   refuge in God,
but trusted in abundant riches,
   and sought refuge in wealth!’

 

People who say “God is good all the time and all the time God is good” aren’t walking around with our heads in the clouds or in the dirt.  We see, hear, feel, know, and are distressed about the suffering being caused by people who use wealth, power, and influence to oppress others.

  

We also know that hatefulness is being condoned by people who claim to love God, but who merely are using God’s name so they can feel self-righteous about being greedy, self-righteous about being vicious, self-righteous about being racist,, self-righteous about mistreating women, girls, persons who are LGBTQ, and persons who are vulnerable and oppressed in other ways.  

 

Yet, we draw strength and faithful courage when we consider the following words at Amos 8.

 

 

 

 

8This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. 2He said, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A basket of summer fruit.’Then the Lord said to me,
‘The end has come upon my people Israel;
   I will never again pass them by. 
3 The songs of the temple shall become wailings on that day,’

says the Lord God;

4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
   and bring to ruin the poor of the land, 
5 saying, ‘When will the new moon be over
   so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
   so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
   and practice deceit with false balances, 
6 buying the poor for silver
   and the needy for a pair of sandals,
   and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’ 

Our faith in God’s goodness is tied to God’s promise to exact judgment on the kind rampant and shameful wickedness we see at every turn.  We find strength because God has promised judgment on that wickedness, as Amos declared.

7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

God has a good memory about hatefulness and hypocrisy.  God is not fooled by the lies and hypocrisies of our time.  God is not  fooled by Trump and the religious cheerleaders and counselors who back his hateful and wicked policies.  

 

Our faith has never been based on tyrants such as Trump and those that flock after them.  Our faith in God’s goodness rests on God’s good memory and something else Amos said.

 

9 On that day, says the Lord God,
   I will make the sun go down at noon,
   and darken the earth in broad daylight. 
10 I will turn your feasts into mourning,
   and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on all loins,
   and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
   and the end of it like a bitter day.

 

11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
   when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
   but of hearing the words of the Lord. 
12 They shall wander from sea to sea,
   and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
   but they shall not find it. 

 

God not only has a good memory.  God has a strong message of judgment about the hateful wickedness that oppresses so many people.  That message is summed up in five words:  The time is surely coming…

 

The time is surely coming, says the Lord God…  when the lies and other wickedness of tyrants will be exposed and condemned by the unwavering truth and judgment of God.  There is a time for confession, forgiveness, and repentance.  There is a time when God withholds judgment to allow people the chance to see the error of their ways.  There is a time for people to make amends for past mistakes, to make reparations for past injustices, and to right past wrongs.  

 

But when that doesn’t happen there comes another time.  When people refuse to repent despite many opportunities, there comes another time.  When people choose to praise wickedness and support oppression rather than reject and condemn it, despite strong and long pleas for repentance, there comes another time.

 

The time is surely coming when people who associate the name, power, and love of God with white supremacy, nationalism, and bigotry toward immigrants, women, people of color, people without wealth, and hatred of other religions will be judged and condemned by God as false prophets.  

 

The time is surely coming when God will judge this society for refusing to listen to prophets such as Amos, Clarence Jordan, Martyn Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Marcus Garvey, Fannie Lou Hamer, Barbara Jordan, Jimmy Carter, Jeremiah Wright, Jr., James A. Cone, Katie Cannon, Samuel DeWitt Proctor, Gardner Taylor, Vincent Harding, Cornel West, James Baldwin, and Michelle Alexander.  

 

The time is surely coming when God will bring judgment on religionists who glorified Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other “fundamentalists” for avoiding prophetic criticism about greedy capitalism, the relationship between national greed and military adventurism, and for being silent discrimination and bigotry, while they criticized Martin Luther King, Jr.,  Walter Rauschenbusch, Walter Brueggemann, William Sloane Coffin, and other prophets who opposed unjust wars, racism, and capitalist greed for being “liberals.”   

 

The time is surely coming for divine judgment on the Chamber of Commerce lies that everyone will prosper if wages for workers are held down while profits for wealthy people go through the roof.  

 

The time is surely coming for divine judgment for the lies that lead to wars and the deaths of brave and beautiful young men and women around the world, and that left countless others permanently scarred physically and mentally because of the so-called “war against terrorism.”

 

The time is surely coming for divine judgment on the “war on drugs” that has always been a lie manufactured and repeated to keep black, brown, and poor people unable to vote, unable to complain, and unable to protect themselves and their families.  

 

The time is surely coming …” when God will bring judgment against racist, sexist, imperialistic, war-mongering, and nationalistic religion.

 

The time is surely coming” when people who have long believed lies will be unable to find truth.  People who have walked in the darkness of greed, bigotry, and oppression will not be able to find truth.  

 

“The time is surely coming” when people who listened to and believed Fox News lies and liars will, to borrow from the words of Isaiah, “wait for light, and lo! There is darkness; and for brightness, but … walk in gloom.”  The time is surely coming when they will “grope like those who have no eyes… [and] stumble at noon as in the twilight.”  The time is coming when they will “wait for justice, but [find] there is none” (Isaiah 59:9-11).

 

And “the time is surely coming” when the perfect memory of God concerning the long and wicked history of this society will turn from indictment to judgment.  God will no longer be patient.  God will not flinch.  God cannot be bribed.  God will not be fooled by claims of revival and last minute promises of repentance uttered by self-serving hypocrites and commercial frauds after centuries of shameless violations of the divine command that we live in love, humility, and justice with others, and show kindness, hospitality, and generosity towards immigrants, people who are weak and unprotected, and people who are otherwise vulnerable.  

 

“The time is surely coming” when what was said of another society will be said concerning this society:  “[D]o not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.”  (Jeremiah 7:16)

 

“…[D]o not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.” (Jeremiah 11:14)

 

The LORD said to me:  “Do not pray for the welfare of this people.  Although they fast, I do not hear their cry, and although they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I do not accept them…” (Jeremiah 14:11-12)

 

“Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people” (Jeremiah 15:1).  

 

“The time is surely coming…” when people who flocked to Trump and his false prophets shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it. (Amos 8:12)

 

People who know this can look on the hatefulness and wickedness of this time and say, with the Psalmist, 

 

9 I will thank you for ever,
   because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
   I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

 

So continue to say “God is good all the time.  All the time God is good.”  

 

At the same time, let us also say this prophetic word:  “The time is surely coming…”

 

Amen.

 

©Wendell Griffen, 2019