There is much excitement in the scriptures for today as we witness God followers moving from fledglings into maturity. David owns his kingship, St Paul is acknowledged his fullness as an apostle and the disciples are growing in their Christ driven power. Dreams are now becoming reality and faith is now leading to action.
My friends, over the past couple weeks we have been exploring a need for greater awareness of the disease of mental illness within our urban communities. The goal is to move it from the shadows into the open with the hope of providing greater support to victims and their families.
Jesus, and by extension the church, willingly participated in bringing a sense of meaning and purpose to those who were struggling to maintain some semblance of sanity in the midst of all the disappointing fragmentation of life. There is more than enough proof that racism and it socio-economic fallout effect has created a huge disparity in the way that healing is applied to our urban communities.
The question therefore is; how can one’s faith become a counterweight to that of prevailing culture? One of the deep struggles one must come to terms with is the understanding t the not so subtle nuances of culture (i.e. systemic racism and poverty) are pervasive and their impact can be so deep-seated that we unconsciously participate in our own self destruction as a people. And, much of today’s addictive pop-cultural aspects (i.e. music, sports, entertainment) can create distractions from the goal of discovering what I call God power.
God power is that energy that drives us to achieve what early philosophers titled as Summum bonum (Summum bonum is a Latin expression meaning "the highest good", which was introduced by the Roman philosopher, Cicero. The summum bonum is generally thought of as being an end in itself, and at the same time containing all other goods.) But, for me the greatest good is the greatest expression of the goodness of God. Christianity proclaims that the goal of our lives is to reflect the glory of God. Culture can often times stand in the way or even seek to replace it with its own effigies.
My friends, today’s scripture seems to be leading into something deeper that just David becoming king but the role of those who ministered to him to help him out of his state of deep depression. David was overwhelmed by life’s disappointments. The gory bloodshed, betrayal and the settling of old scores, a scenario easily visible in our urban communities can be extremely depressing. Jesus himself came face to face with rejection. Paul was facing many serious challenges to the legitimacy of his call as an apostle. They could have collectively accepted the cultural rejection that they encountered and believed it was the last word. The early church was struggling to survive in a world motivated by greed and power.
Many victims and care givers of patients struggling with mental illness speak of struggling to breathe in a dark oppressive tunnel with suicide seeming to be the only way out. Many folks sitting in our pews struggle through the oppressive weight of mounting bills. Black churches struggle to keep their doors open as a sanctuary to the broken spirited.
Within our urban communities many seem to surrender to the oppressive pressure of living with the twin evils of corporate greed and racism. Each day we witness those who use religion, law, and economic greed as the manual for keeping David depressed, St Paul fettered and Jesus rejected. Each day we allow the noise of the world to tell us of our incompleteness, our incompetence, our laziness and all the other negatives that stand in the way of our ability to let God shine through us. We seem to be struggling against a cultural manual that seeks to imprison our very souls.
Yet the readings resonate loudly with defiance against the odds. All the biblical characters found themselves surrounded by a community who was not willing accept the world’s manual for their lives. The role of the church is to guide us into looking beyond self and culture and seek that which God has in store for those who are willing to discover their true worth and value. The growing desire to build a mental health support group within our church family is built upon the same power of the disciples accepting the fullness of their call. The call of the church bell on a Sunday is a reminder of the need to teach our souls using a different manual. In this manual we highlight things that matter in life, death and eternity. At the heart of the manual one can discover this truth: “For God so love the world that he refuses to give up or surrender.
He sent His son Jesus as an act of love.” David was surrounded by a community who saw his worth not just as a replacement for Saul but one who would build a foundation for an everlasting kingdom. Paul was able to speak of someone who was made so free by God that he was lifted up to the highest of heights. This was not to proclaim himself but to be able to say to the world that in spite all my handicaps I am worthy to be an apostle of Christ. This all finds it strength when Jesus, facing all the weight of a culture unwilling to accept their own frailty and need for God, unleashed his power on His disciples. To those sitting in dark tunnels we offer the light of Christ “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5. This is the light that was able to piece through the very darkness which surrounded David, Paul and the disciples freeing them from the mental pain and anguish that kept them imprisoned.
My friends in Christ, at the very heart of the message of Jesus is an invitation to view our lives beyond all the cultural boundaries of the world. It is about being able to hear above the cultural noise the voice of God saying “I love you so deeply.” He invites us to become so God centered that we like the bleeding woman can declare our identity is greater than our illness. I am called to reflect God’s love and power in the world.
Many of our children are preparing to go off to college where they will be bombarded by new teachings, practices and influences which may threaten to overwhelm all they knew and understood about life. Our young men are maturing and must learn how to survive in a world where black bodies, minds and lips are still viewed as threats. We dwell in a culture where the black man is still expected to be silent or learn to whisper in conspiratorial tones. The brilliance of our black daughter is yet to be valued on the same level as her body. Many have cracked under the pressure of living in this racist cauldron.
Today we offer them a faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus calls us to live out our true nature of being the agent through which God reveals his glory in the world. This may often times lead us to live in new settings and build different family structures and worship God in new ways. That was what he attempted to teach when he declared “whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven are now his mother and father and brother and sister.”(Mathew 12:50)
For us Christ Jesus is the very key which unlocks the door to what he called the kingdom of heaven. This is about living a life filled with value and purpose sustained by God’s love. That is the gift that Christianity offers to us, having the ability to live as God desires. It is that understanding of faith in God which allowed David while deep in depression to first believe in his capability for kingship. It is that faith which gave Paul the ability to say I have all kinds of stuff that I wrestle with yet I am able to be an apostle of Jesus. It is that faith that motivated the disciples to launch independently into the world. It is that Jesus power which empowered the bleeding woman to find healing. It is that Jesus power which was able to reach Jairus’ daughter who was in the grip of death. It is that power which we use to encounter those caught in the grip of mental illness. It is the same power which Jesus offers to each of us today.
The power of love!
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