Archive for the ‘Ministry’ Category

Elisha’s Tears – Part I

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

“I weep because I see what you will do to Israel . . .”

–2 Kings 8

2 Kings 8:7-29

 

At times we  are called on to deliver messages we do not want to deliver.  When Elisha was sent to Syria By God, he met Hazael.  As he looked into the face of this future rule of Syria, Elisha saw how much Israel would suffer at Hazael’s hand in the future.  No wonder the prophet, who loved his people, wept.  It is always good news to hear that a sick man will be well . . . unless the man who gets well will kill your children.

Elisha wept . . .

After September 11, 2001,  we in America are especially somber.  I am not in anyway mitigating the horrendous crime that was committed on September 11, 2001.  It was a great disaster.  However, may I suggest, that we have looked into the face of Hazael.  We are both the perpetrators and the victim in our present situation.

In our own country, at the beginning of the millennium, in spite of unprecedented prosperity, we see the seeds of our destruction everywhere.  Increased crime, poverty, and unemployment.  Hopelessness and domestic violence. Some of us wonder whether our American covenant is being recklessly compromised by some leaders who are choosing to condone practices that we see as immoral. We see Hazael.  He will survive . . . but will we?  Will the American dream survive?

Edward Gibbon in his seminal work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire says that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end.  First, a mounting love of affluence.  Second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor.  Third, an obsession with sex.  Fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity.  Fifth, an increased desire to live on welfare.  Sound familiar?  Are we looking at Hazael?

That must have been the way the disciples felt.  Only three years with Him.  Three short years.  And while his work seemed to fall on deaf ears, the evil Romans prospered.  Caiphas prospered.  Herod prospered.  Evil would win after all . . . and Elisha wept.

Jesus wept too.  In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus spent the last night of His life. Alone.  He had to die.  He knew it.  And He was so afraid that He wept blood.  Sometimes I think we make the cross into something less than it was.  It was a horrible death.  To wear a cross, for instance, in Jesus’ day, around one’s neck was like wearing an electric chair around our neck today.  No, Hazael will live.  Jesus will die.  And Elisha wept. . .

Elisha began his ministry during the last half of the ninth century B.C.  Leaving his parents’ farm in the upper Jordan valley, he trained under Elijah for several years, then served in the northern kingdom for over fifty years.

Elisha was not isolated and unpredictable as Elijah often was.  Instead, he spent time with people, sharing meals and staying in their homes.  He traveled throughout the kingdom on a donkey, visiting villages and the communities.  Elisha’s miracles among these people reflected a deep compassion for the poor and needy.

Despite his loyalty to Israel, Elisha relentlessly fought against the idol worship of her kings.  Obedience to God’s instructions took him as far north as Damascus, where he appointed the Syrian king who would eventually oppress Israel.  A similar mission in Israel brought the downfall of her evil kings and a massacre of the prophets.

But, Elisha knew all too well, that Hazael would live and someday he would destroy his nation.  The rich and the poor alike would suffer.  They would suffer because the nation was evil. . .  was unfaithful to God.  And Elisha wept . . .

MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH TO FAMILIES – Part 2

Friday, December 18th, 2009

C. CHURCH RETURNS TO THE CENTER OF THE CITY
America needs the church to reclaim its systemic importance. Early in its history, the church was the major conduit of social welfare. Several historians have emphasized how critical the church was to the social welfare of the city. In circa 1830 Utica, New York, after a Charles Finney Revival, the women’s welfare society at the local downtown church was the strongest social welfare system extent in the city. And it was extremely effective! Its budget surpassed the city’s social welfare budget–an impressive $3000. With no cost to the city and in the name of Jesus Christ, before the New Deal the downtown church was taking care of the poor and the needy in churches all over the country.

With the collapse of the positive liberal state, and the abandonment by state and federal governments, the city needs its churches again. We who seek to serve God in the city must do social work without being social workers. We must remain the Body of Jesus Christ but we must not flinch in the face of social problems.

William Julius Wilson in The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy argues that Roosevelt’s New Deal, and Johnson’s The Great Society failed because they ignored the most fundamental need of all disadvantaged people: employment. The downtown church is in a strategic place to affect this problem. With our often under-utilized church bureaucracy–secretaries, office managers, and their equipment–we are able to stimulate and to create many small businesses. For example, in my former church, we started a small business that employed forty seasonal employees. Furthermore, we were able to do this business/ministry with no cost to the local Church. It is through these creative ventures/ministries that the Church will reclaim its proper place in the community.

I am not naive. I know that the women association, as laudatory and important their work may be, will not end homelessness in the South Bronx. But working with government, the church can help. Or tongue in cheek–dare I suggest–working in spite of the government, perhaps the church can do the job. Illegitimacy is only one of the many social ills undermining American society. It the government is really serious in its drive against illegitimacy, it perhaps should abolish the welfare system rather than reform it! This is suggested by authors like Charles Murray and Charles Krauthammer. Essentially, personal accountabliity and social responsibility simply cannot be passed on to the state.

Two public policies, according to Charles Murray and William McGowan (a journalist)–welfare for unwed mothers and racial and ethnic quotas–are moving us toward dystopia, a condition in which the quality of life are dreadful.”

As a point in fact, a church in the poorest part of the country, New Horizon, Mississippi, has started a vigorous and successful social welfare intervention in its congregation. Ronnie Crudup, pastor of New Horizon Baptist Church, has shown that churches had make a greater impact than government with less cost to the taxpayer. Clearly, though, to Crudup, spiritual nurturing is a vital part of welfare reform. His church has “adopted” 10 welfare families. New Horizon helped with monthly grocery money, finding employment, caring for the children’s Christmas needs via the church’s Angel Tree project, and meting any back-to-school expenses. In return, the church asks permission to counsel families with drug habits and requires them to attend church. It is working.

Most people agree, that, in the foreseeable future, single family numbers will increase. And most are female led. But, instead of enabling problems–as the government seems to do–the church should encourage families to grow stronger. A mom may be the key.

Most family therapists agree that a mother is critical to the success of a family system. In fact, family counselors are taught that if they can shore up the mother they can probably help the whole family.

Israel needed a mother in the time of Deborah. The city needs mothers. In fact, as we urban pastors know all too well, it is the mothers in our innnercity neighborhoods who hold together the very fabric of our society. The Cotton Patch Gospel interprets Judges 5:7 as “Things were bad until a woman arose . . . we needed a mother!” In 1995 we need a lot of good mothers!

A woman in Deborah’s day had no property or value herself without her husband. If she was infertile she could be divorced. And, in any event, most women died before age thirty. They were married about age 13 and delivered an average of sixteen children (but only five survived). In fact, most women died in childbirth. This was a terrible time to be a woman.

But God again chose the most unlikely candidate to do His work and I am convinced that He could do the same again. A person with no status, with no honor. He knew that she would be flexible in His hand. He knew that Deborah would be easier to use than some self-reliant person who was self-important. No, Deborah was willing to follow the Lord no matter what the cost. Afterall, what did she have to lose? She was unimpressed with the Canaanites because she was impressed by who God is. The Church needs to create moms who are not afraid to take on the whole world. Or, as Dobson is fond of saying, moms who “do not lose their nerve in the face of evil.”

In general Deborah’s community was prehistoric–writing was not yet developed. Traditions, history, and morality was maintained through legends, myths, stories, and songs. In early England these traditions and history were maintained by traveling minstrels, story tellers called Scops. Early English poems were memorized rather than written and were recited by scops, wandering poets who chanted their poems. These minstrels maintained English culture for several generations.

Communities–like churches–need minstrels, men and women of God who tell our story over and over again. When I came to my downtown church, I immediately looked for these minstrels, these preservers of history. I found them. A mother arose among them . . .

Deborah was a singer, a culture creator. But she also was a woman who understood power. Understanding that true power arises from God, not humankind, she led her anemic nation to victory. She was not to be deterred. We need to create these kind of moms in our society.

Today, we need Moms who will not be thwarted from raising their children in Godly ways. Who will not be impressed by the power in the world. Not overwhelmed by the obstacles that exist in our society, real though they may be. But will take control in the name of Christ of their children’s future. And teach them to be impressed and to respect power–but not power and rulers of this world–but God’s authority and His word.

Deborah encouraged her community to defy Baal. To stand against the forces of darkness and to win . . .”Souls are like athletes,” Thomas Merton writes. “And they need opponents worthy of them.” Deborah challenged her community to reach beyond themselves and to find the strength to be and to do all that God wanted them to do and to be.

In summary, as Robert Linthicum writes in his seminal work on the city, God deeply loves the city. Many scriptures evidence this fact (e.g., Ezekiel 16:1-14, Psalm 48). Linthicum, and other Christian writers, remind us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities. In that sense, the church is an important system, or organization, in the city and it needs to act like it. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer urges the church in his last book, “I wish to see the city church return to the center of the city.”

MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH TO FAMILIES

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

A. FAMILY MINISTRIES
Walter Brueggemann, in his book The Land, suggests that there is a pervasive “lostness” in American life. In fact this alienation from one another, threatens all aspects of American culture. The reestablishment of the two-parent home would go a long way to bring back stability into our culture.

In that sense, then, church programs must take into account the broken relationships, the loss of relationships, that an Ellen or Elizabeth are experiencing. For instance, in our church we have a Youth Club, intergenerational experience every Wednesday night. A sort of “family” night, everyone is invited. Everyone is part of a “family” at least once a week. The Church should never lower its standards. On the contrary the Church should unabashedly promote a Christian perspective of family–fidelity to Christian morality.

Likewise, the church must recognize that the actual number of Murphy Browns in America (single mothers by choice with incomes over $50,000 a year) is not even .1% of unwed mothers. The fact is, they need our financial support. They need free childcare provided or all events. And so forth.

But it is true, though, that nontraditional family numbers are growing. Single parents should not be discouraged. We all know inspiring stories of how single parent families have prospered.

Another group that needs our attention is blended families. Now that 46% of all American marriages involve at least one partner who has at least one partner who has been married before, we need to recognize that blended families need special programming and attention.

B. DON’T FORGET TO BE RELIGIOUS
Next, the church must be unequivocable in its ethical stand that the Word of God must not be compromised. While we celebrate pluralism, without being moralistic or harsh, we need to recognize that not all family forms are right nor equal for the task of raising children.

Churches must accept openly and without prejudice the full range of single families, stepfamilies, and cohabiting families (while making clear such a life style is sinful!).

The church should challenge its families and young people to have higher standards than the world.

Our youth programs should emphasize preparation for life in the egalitarian postmodern family. Since one of the major trends of family life in America is the absence of fathers, boys and young men should be spoken to seriously about commitment and parenting.

Evoking the Spirit of Isaiah

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

The task ahead of us is to live and evoke the spirit of Isaiah in our community. As the theologian Walter Brueggemann, and others like him, argue, our task is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a conscious­ness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us. And increasingly that culture is become inimical to the Gospel. Either way, a community rooted in the Lordship of Jesus Christ is a curiosity and a threat in such a culture. No wonder Isaiah’s argument that one should rely on a faithful, historical God was such a threatening message to His generation. And to ours. Our world does not understand, much less believe in our history. God is not to be trusted because He cannot be quantified. He is not to be controlled. This God makes self-proclaimed kings of the earth uncomfortable. And this God of ours, therefore, has been making kings like Herod, Ahab, and Nero uncomfortable for ages. I remember a simple, powerful Gospel Song that all of us in our 1966 Southern church sang. This was the song of the redeemed. But we scarcely knew it. “Jesus loves the little children. . . red and yellow black and white, they are precious in His sight.” Since I was still too young to doubt the veracity of my parents and teachers, I actually believed that song. And, when I started living that song it changed my world. And when enough people live that message we will change our world. Our cause will become holy, our witness worthy of the Gospel. There will be opposition. But our song brings hope, life, and salvation. So it is worth it. Be bold and courageous, young people, and sing a new song. Do your best on the SAT to bring glory to Him. And become a light to this new generation!

The Trapeze Artist

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I sometimes find our struggle is letting go of yesterday’s blessing in order to have room in our hands to hold tomorrow. Like yourself, I do not know what tomorrow brings, but if our God is still faithful–and we know He is–then tomorrow will hold a bigger blessing as we trust Him to move us from glory unto glory.

I liken this chapter in our lives to the trapeze artist. The truly remarkable displays are when the trapezist has let go of one bar and is flying in mid air, trusting the next bar will be there just in time–not a moment sooner or later.

I think this more biblical example might encourage you. I was leading a bible study through Exodus a few months ago. And as you know, leading a study often does as much for the teacher as the listener. I spent time researching geographical satellite maps and photographs of the real location of Mt Sinai and the real journey Israel took versus the typical ones in many bible maps. Exod 13:17 says, “God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near.” When you look at the geography, this was the shortest distance between Egypt and the promised land. But God did not choose the easy road. Instead He took them through the “scenic route” at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

Then Exod 13:20 says they camped “… at the edge of the wilderness.” After lining up the historic locations in scripture with the photographic maps, the evidence was clear: God led them to a dead end. The wilderness is to the north and the west. The Red Sea is to the east. The only clear path is to the south from which they came. After God had them camp at this dead end–just to let the situation really sink in–He then told them to turn back (14:2), basically retracing their journey to the south. When they did, Pharoah met them head on.

Isn’t it interesting that God put them in a situation where they clearly saw the ends of their means–the edge of the wilderness, the Red Sea, and trapped by the enemy? So it no surprise in 14:11 when Israel is scared and cries out, “Why did you bring us here to die?” Only when they saw the hopelessness of the situation was the stage perfectly set for God to display Himself in miraculous power.

So friend, here’s to watching and waiting for our God to display His mighty hand once again! Indeed, I will pray for you and your family and ask you do the same for me and my family.

In Him,

David

Fishing At King Tut

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Dear Friends and prayer partners,

My 49 year old dad died 27 years ago on Father’s Day. He was one of my best friends. He died so young – and I miss him so much.

Dad loved to fish. He taught me to fish in deep waters. To fish in places where others avoided. My friends and their dads fished at Possum Fork or Kate Elder Lake where there were inviting loading docks and paved roads to river banks. Their fishing was profitable and easy. They never caught a trophy bass or a crappie limit, but they caught enough to eat. Average fish, true, nothing extraordinary, but adequate. And that was good enough for them.

Not for my dad. He did not want merely to catch enough to eat. A stringer of forgettable but eatable 2 pound black bass were not enough for him. He didn’t merely want to catch the limit. He wanted the 4 pound lunker. The trophy. The unusual. So we went to Ditch Bayou or King Tut or Anthrax Slough. Slippery river banks and inhospitable muddy water for us. Why? Because no one else went there and that is where the monsters lived. The really great fish. The granddaddy crappie. The behemoth bass. That is where we went.

The allure of catching one trophy fish in a neglected Anthrax Slough was worth more to Dad than all the crappie in Possum Fork.

As a result, we did not catch as many throw backs as my friends, and they fried a lot more crappie and bass than we did, but when we did catch a fish, it was a trophy. A memorable catch. And more times than not my soft hearted dad threw the trophy back – it wasn’t the consummation of the fact that thrilled him so much as the faith event, the thrill of the journey.

I learned that the biggest fish lived in the back water bayous of Whiskey Shoot or Boggie Bayou, not in hospitable Lake Chicot or Paradise Lake.

I remembered my dad and as I fish for the big fish. Metaphorically speaking I went fishing at King Tut yesterday. I went fishing in the deeper waters yesterday. I reached for the trophy catch. I decided I wasn’t merely satisfied with catching my limit. I want the biggest and the best.

I resigned yesterday from my safe, profitable, public teaching job. It is not that I don’t like teaching – I do. And I am not opposed to public education (although it is an oxymoron). For the first time in my life I am not sure how my bills will be paid. This is my Anthrax Slough, my Whiskey Shoot. It is the only way I can fully obey the calling God has placed on my life.

Karen seems to be ok about it–I don’t know if she is Joan of Arc or just walking in faith (probably the later). I love that woman. She has been fishing in Boggie Bayou so long she has learned to be patient and to wait for the trophy bass. Not I though. It is still real scary to me.

I am, I admit, Doubting Dan. I wonder if I will actually catch that big fish.

Perhaps only I, or any 50+ year old husband , can understand how this feels–I have devoted my entire adult life to providing for my wife and children. And I just resigned from a good paying job in a Recession? A good job. But not what God wanted me to do (darn it). He wants me to fish in more treacherous, but more promising waters. Waters where I can land a whopper.

The problem is, and I admit it, in spite of my dad’s best efforts, I am at heart a Possum Fork fisherman. I like to ease my boat down a ramp and not get dirty. I like to catch a few fish and go home. It is no fun dodging cotton mouths and mosquitos at King Tut. But that is the only place the monster bass live. It is the only way this saint can fully obey his Lord!

I have seen the outcome of this faithfulness. In my distance learning program there is Julia who will someday write better than Willa Cather. There is Lucy my 2003 distance learning student who graduated from Columbia Law School and is arguing hard in Congress against the inevitable approval of the pro-choice Supreme Court nominee. Chris used my SAT Prep program and scored 2000+. I have stayed on the lake long enough already to be assured the big fish are out there.

Well, I am sure it is my problem. I am a “scenario” guy. Which means I think of “potential” scenarios and I use that as my compass. A bad plan I admit. Too often this plan is a self-fulfilled prophecy to mediocre fishing. Pray for me! Pray that I will learn to ignore the scenario and to follow the Lord. Pray that I will patiently take the necessary risks and to fish in the dangerous places. Pray that I will take joy in the journey and not to worry about the angry water snakes stalking my john boat..

So onward and upward! And think of me while I am fishing in the deeper waters. Looking for the trophy. And join me if you can!

Thank you for your prayers.

Jim Stobaugh

Sister Mary

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Several years ago, in Chicago, Illinois, an elderly lady died.

When she was discovered by her neighbors, no one seemed to know who she was. She was called “Sister Mary” because she was a nun and member of the Cenacle Sisters (Roman Catholic Church). But no one knew her last name.

So, the police investigated. It was more difficult than they thought it would be.

You see, Sister Mary, owned almost nothing. She had no credit cards, no automobile, no televison. People knew and loved her though. She was well known at the local food bank. And almost every homeless person in the neighborhood knew her. But, the police could not identify her until they contacted the Cenacle Sisters and sent them a photograph.

“I have no need of credentials,” the Apostle Paul writes the Corinthian Church. “My life is written on your hearts.” Paul owned almost nothing, but his value as a person was to be found in the persons with whom he had shared Jesus Christ. Those were the riches he carried with him to the Roman gallows.

What do people say about us parents? “He buys a new car every year.” Or, “His front yard is beautiful . . .” If we died tomorrow, what would people say about us?

In America, unfortunately, we are most often known by what we own. By our job. Our success is determined by how much wealth we collect. You know the old joke–”Success is determined by how many toys we have at the end of our lives.” Sister Mary owned very little. So she could not be identified by outsiders. But her life was written on the hearts of thousands of people. And you can bet that God will know her when she gets to heaven!

Karen, my wife, and the mother of my children, is a culture creator. A faithful servant of God. Her life is indelibly written on all our lives!

Parental Examples

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Oh, if more of us could realize that we are not in charge. The Christian life begins with a recognition that we are not in charge–God is! Jesus is declaring to the disciples: Go into the world knowing who is in charge and what it will mean to act upon that knowledge!

What a different world we would have if parents were raising their children with=2 0the uncompromising knowledge that God is in control of the world and can be in control of their lives. If their children are willing to submit their lives to His care. Baptism is about who owns whom–God presumably owns us. But we do not always act like it.

Ah, there is the rub–we do not like to be under anyone’s authority–even under the loving authority of God who sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins. But we can. We must.

It must be done. William Willimon warns Christian parents not “to lose nerve.” We need to stand up for what is right–and what is right is what is in the Bible–and to make sure that our children honor that truth. And, in time, hopefully, embrace that truth.

My own father is on my own mind a lot these days–he died on Father’s Day, 1982. My Dad made me go to church. He loved our unpretentious small, Methodist Church. No matter how often we hunted or fished on Sunday morning–and we often did–we always managed to return before Sunday school. On many of my childhood Sunday mornings I had to exorcise huge black bass from my mind and to rub sleep from my eyes. But I came. And I was there. And it was in Sunday school that I learned that God was in control. It was by watching my father that I learned that God was in control. That some things were more important that our agendas.

It did not come easily. I remember one infamous Sunday morning when I mistakenly deposited some crappie=2 0bass fish entrails on Mrs. Higginbotham’s expensive fox fur during the Assurance of Pardon. While her quiet scream was interpreted by most of the congregation as an exuberant expression of gratefulness for God’s forgiveness, my father, at least, knew, that I had improperly washed my hands earlier in the morning. My admiration for my dad’s dedication to church attendance was somewhat compromised when I realized that there were limits to his tolerance of childhood improprieties.

But, between early morning fishing trips and late night frog gigging expeditions, I fell in love with the man’s God. I knew that if God was half as considerate, consistent, fair, and, at times, mischievous as my dad . . . well, then, He was the kind of God I wanted to trust my life to. So, when I was 17 years old I gave my life to my earthly father’s God. And I have never regretted my decision.

How about you, parents? Will your children want to give their lives to the God you serve?

Think about it . . . and come, let us glorify the Lord and magnify His name forever . . .

Who’s in Charge?

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Os Guinness, scholar and author, in his new book Beyond the Culture Wars, argues that America is in trouble. He says that America is undergoing the fourth major crisis in its history. “Under the impact of modernity, the beliefs, ideals and traditions that have been central to Americans and to American democracy . . . are losing their compelling cultural power.” Guiness reaches a disturbing conclusion: America’s problem is much deeper than certain discrete problems such as family breakdown, the deficit, drugs, AIDS, discipline in the schools, or crime. . . there is a crisis of cultural authority which means that once inspired, disciplined, and restrained Americans have lost their binding addresses, their inner compelling power to shape culture. “One of America’s greatest achievements and special needs has been to create . . . a widely shared, almost universal, agreement on what accords with the common ideals and interests of America and Americans . . . shared ideals, such as honesty and loyalty; shared commitments, such as the place of public service; and shared understandings, such as the relation of religion and public life.” In short, Guinness argues that America has lost its soul; has lost its ability to affect in a productive way.

Why? The most recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly (a secular publication) argues that the problem may lie in the demise of the American family. Some people believe, in fact, that the American family is a oxymoron: a contradiction in terms. And some folks trace that demise to poor parenting . . .

Parenting concerns, before everything else, authority: who is in charge? The preacher Tom Boyd illustrates this point well. In a church in which Boyd served in Tennessee he knew a faithful, Godly woman who impressed him both with her fervency and intelligence. One evening at a dinner party in her home they were discussing some theological point. In the midst of the discussion, her somewhat rebellious teenage daughter scornfully reflected, “Oh, Mom, why are you so religious?”

The whole company waited for the mother’s reply.

“Every morning before you are awake,” she said, “I rise and walk into the living room. I lift my arms and ask, ‘Who is in charge here?’ The answer always returns, ‘Not you!’ That is why I am religious. Because I am not in charge!”

Finding Unity

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

College-educated and wealthy, seventy-five-year-old Martha has been attending our church for fifty years, but Martha can’t stand Shaky Sam, who joined less than a year ago. “My Lord,” she loudly whispers, “why does he have to come to our church?” Martha dislikes Sam’s street etiquette and his shaking, a casualty of too many Thunderbird bottles. Shaky, on the other hand, can’t stand Martha’s upper-middle-class breeding. But they found a way to work together at our food bank.

“Do you have to smoke here?” Martha coughs. Shaky smiles and continues to blow smoke rings. Last Thanksgiving Sam and Martha served hot turkey dinners to 125 families. . .

Andy returned from a denominational study tour of Nicaragua last week. “It is clearly immoral to support the contras,” Andy informed Douglas during Sunday’s coffee hour. Doug nearly dropped his jelly doughnut on his new Florsheim wingtips. Douglas had cabled his congressman two days earlier and urged him to support the contra-aid bill. Only this morning he’d told his wife, “I wish we would just bomb the out of those communists.”

Normally Andy and Doug avoid politics. But they are team teachers for a Bible study at a drop-in center for the homeless, they hugged and wept together six months ago when Paul who lives in a discarded refrigerator box on South Atlantic Avenue, committed his life to Christ.

We are the church. Not a Disneyland version, but the real church, with real problems, in a real place. The urgency of our task has driven us to find a higher unity.

In his book The Holocaust, Martin Gilbert describes a man named Hichalowski. Michalowski, a Polish Jew, escaped from the Nazis shortly before he was to be executed. He fled to the home of a widow he knew.

“Let me in!” he pleaded. She slammed the door in his face. In desperation he knocked again.

“I am your Lord, Jesus Christ,” he cried. “I came down from the cross. Look at me- the blood, the pain, the suffering of the innocent. Let me in.” . . .In our diversity we are nothing more than an anemic version of other social organizations. But in our unity, base on love, we are the body of Jesus Christ–literally the hope for all Creation.
——————–
In the days ahead we will be called to the cross of Jesus Christ to find a higher unity than we now presently enjoy. It will take everything we have . . . but we must do it. We must join together in our diversity under the authority of Christ, submitted to the Word of God, so that we can b e the hope for all creation! Johnstown is at our doorstep with outstretched arms asked us to be his “Hope of all Creation. . .”

Come let us praise the Lord and glorify His name forever!