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Regular words of encouragement from our pastoral leaders

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This week's eNote

May 16 & 17, 2022 Pastor Chip freed

This eNote comes to you today with a heavy heart. My body is in Cleveland but my heart is in Buffalo, NY. Something most of you probably do not know about me is that when I graduated from college, I was headed to law school. I was enrolled at Case-Western University School of Law here in Cleveland in 1985. I was consumed with a singular mission. I wanted to work for Amnesty International or the Southern Poverty Law Center and fight against white supremacist domestic terrorist groups whose enrollment had grown exponentially in the early 1980’s. Having had my eyes opened to the depth of the sin of racism and its continued tearing of the fabric of our country, I viewed these groups the way the great German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer viewed the Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer was prepared to give his life fighting against that kind of evil, and in my opinion, so was I. A call back to the family business, a deferment to law school, and the rest is history. God had a different path and call upon my life.

The passion to thwart evil in the building of God’s Beloved Community has not waned, however. When I joined Christ’s Church as a teenager, I took a vow “to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, repent of my sin [and] …to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever form they present themselves.” These vows are as significant to me as my marriage vows. You, who are members of Garfield Memorial Church, made this same vow when joining the church. To “resist” is not passive. It is not simply offering “thoughts and prayers” when continual acts of evil and hate repeat themselves again and again and again. 

There are churches across our country where conspiracy theories like White Replacement Theory and other articulations of Christian Nationalism and White Supremacy are, at worst, endorsed, and at best passively ignored. In Matthew 13 & Luke 13, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a woman putting yeast in the dough. “Yeast” was never used positively in the scriptures of the Old & New Testaments. It was a “corrupting” element to be avoided. So, for example, Jesus warned to “beware the yeast of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:6). Even in Jesus’ parable, where Matthew writes that the woman did this until the flour was “permeated” and Luke says until it was “leavened” – both of those words can literally mean “corrupted.”  I hear Jesus saying, “I want my people to go out and corrupt the corruption of the gospel and the corruption of the world.” Our 10 Year Vision at GMCUMC states that “We want to be the yeast in our communities, the single-cell that exponentially grows to bring new life, leading to lasting peace.”

The only way to lasting peace is through the active resistance of evil and hate. These acts are not finally about mental illness. There is mental illness all over the world that does not end up with manifestos being written with the same themes, thoughts and language again and again. This is the direct action of willful men (and almost always men) seeking to indoctrinate and manipulate vulnerable young men into an ideology that is from hell itself. Do not be deceived. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [only!] …but against spiritual forces of evil in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). So as we walk, work and worship together as one… resist. Resist with conversations, actions and attitudes with acquaintances, family members, co-workers, etc. Dr. King said on August 31, 1967; “If America does not respond creatively to the challenge to banish racism, some future historian will have to say, that a great civilization died because it lacked the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all people."

I pray that the then, “future,” and now current historians, are not writing our history in Charleston, Charlottesville, El Paso, Pittsburgh and now Buffalo. Jesus said, “The time is at hand, the kingdom has come near. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). “Lord, I renew my vow to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” I pray that you will join me.

May 17 - eNote Part 2

In yesterday's eNote, I shared my pain, distress and lament over the recent events in Buffalo (and subsequently Laguna Hills, CA). I stressed the need for people of faith to resist evil, injustice, oppression and hate "in whatever forms they present themselves.". This is one of our core membership vows at Garfield Memorial Church and The United Methodist Church.

Today, I want to lift up the flip side to the spiritual discipline of resisting what is evil; and that is affirming what is good and right and pleasing to God. There is much injustice and evil in our world, country and society; but there is also much good. That is why Paul, speaking to a community that was already experiencing unjust persecution, implored them saying, "Let us not grow weary in doing good" (Galatians 6:9).

While we have had great reason to lament over the weekend, tomorrow we have an amazing opportunity to rejoice. In our most recent call out for baptisms at our South Euclid campus, all of those who responded were youth from our Kid Club ministry. In that their "church" is on Wednesday afternoons versus Sunday mornings, we are having our first ever "Baptism Wednesday" tomorrow at South Euclid. With the permission of their parents and the celebration of their families and church family, several youth will be baptised at 4:30 PM tomorrow toward the end of Kid Club!

This is the antithesis of that which requires us to resist... this requires us to AFFIRM. As the father of the prodigal said to the stingy elder brother "We had to celebrate!" If you need a lift like I do, come join Terri and I and others at our South Euclid campus (1534 S Green Rd, South Euclid) and celebrate at 4:30 PM. The service will be short, so come promptly. Come celebrate as we fight back against the forces of darkness and continue to build the kingdom of love and light.