Sunday February 13, 2022

Psalm 1; Jeremiah 17:5-10; 1st Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26

In Honor of Absalom Jones

Our Psalm is expressed in two ways. Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or and in he way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. The Hebrew word for blessing carries the idea of happiness, indicating a state of pleasurable satisfaction. A life characterized by this emotion comes to those who avoid the path of sin. The Bible assumes everyone recognizes the path of descent into sinfulness through their own inner conscience. To avoid this path we must study God’s teaching and fellowship with God’s people.

The person who does not walk, stand, or sit with the wicked is blessed. “Blessed” (Hebrew ‘ashre) here means happy. The blessed person lives within the boundary God sets out for life with Him and received observable blessings, sometimes material and always spiritual, which bring happiness. Such blessings are not so much a reward for good acts as the natural product of a life with God.

Our Lesson from Jeremiah is directed towards human relationships; though they are important, a time will come which we must choose between human relationships and a relationship with God. Way too often we place our trust in human solutions to our crises rather than trusting God. A good example of this is might be: “God you probably cannot do this, but I am praying anyway!” Can you understand when God stops listening? How about when you say, “God you probably cannot do this.” We have just told Him that we do not trust Him enough to simply pray to Him about an issue we have and then trust that He will respond to that issue. When we pray beloved, we must pray in the blessed assurance that He will listen to us and He will take care of our needs as is best for us, and then see how your prayers change and how you change with them.

Evil actions spring forth from the human heart, the center of reason and decision according to Hebrew understanding. The dominating creature of God’s very good creation became the deceitful, self-centered creature whose sin problem rages totally out of control. The nature of human wickedness is beyond all human understanding cure, but God know us better than we know ourselves and has a answer for our sin problem and our wickedness. Jeremiah struggled with God and learned the nature of his heart and the human heart in general. Without God’ s love and Spirit, the human being is so self-centered that deception and dishonesty will rule the day. We try to fool others, ourselves, and yest even God. We know we cannot succeed,; yet still we try. We must understand that confessing our own personal sinful nature, a confession shared by every human being.

In our lesson from 1st Corinthians, we learn Jesus’ resurrection proves resurrection is possible, form the center of gospel preaching, is the foundation of our faith, and gives hope for departed loved ones and us to be raised from death. To live as a Christian is to be in Christ. To die as a Christian is to fall asleep in Him. The text presents the logical reasoning that if Christ had not risen from the dead, then death would be the end for all, even believers. Here the resurrection is asserted as one of the most crucial of all doctrines, so much so that if Christ did not arise, our lives are hopeless. The resurrection of Christ insures that those fallen asleep in Him are not lost. Because the resurrection did take place, we have good news to preach and proclaim to all,, to give them hope for today, tomorrow, and forevermore.

There was a man born into house slavery in Delaware in 1746. He taught himself to read out of the New Testament, among other books. When sixteen, he was sold to a store owner in Philadelphia. There he attended a night school for Blacks, operated by Quakers. At twenty, he married another slave, and purchased her freedom with his earnings.

Jones bought his own freedom in 1784. At St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, he served as lay minister for the Black membership. The active evangelism of Jones and that of his friend, Richard Allen, greatly increased membership at St. George’s. The alarmed vestry (those who ran the business side of the church) decided to segregate Blacks into an upstairs gallery, without notifying them. During a Sunday service when users attempted to remove them, the Blacks indignantly walked out in a body.

In 1787, Black Christians organized the Free African Society, the first organized Afro-American society, and Absalom Jones and Richard Allen were elected overseers. Members of the Society pain monthly dues for the benefit of those in need. The Society established a communication with similar Black groups in others cities. In 1792, the Society began to build a church, which was dedicated on July 17, 1794.

Th African Church applied for membership in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania on the following conditions: 1) that they be received as an organized body; 2) that they have control over their local affairs; 3) that Absalom Jones be licensed as lay reader, and , if qualified, be ordained as minister. In October 1794, it was admitted as St. Thomas African Episcopal Church. Bishop ordained Jones as deacon in 1795 and as priest on September 21, 1802.

Jones was an earnest preacher. He denounced slavery, and warned the oppressors to “clean their hands of slaves.” To him, God was the Father, who was acted on behalf of the oppressed and distressed.” But it was his constant visiting and mild manner that made him beloved by his own flock, and by the community. St. Thomas Church grew to over 500 members during its firs year. Knows as “the Black Bishop of the Episcopal Church,” Jones was an example of persistent faith in God and in the church as God’s instrument. (This history comes from the Lesser Feast and Fasts of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A)

This story reminds me of another young black preacher that I admires very much, Martin Luther King. You’ll note that when the church approached the larger church, they presented conditions not commands. They asked that Absalom be allowed to be a lay reader, and if he was found to be qualified as a deacon and eventually a priest. He was a self-taught man both in reading, but also in studying the Bible and had the ability to present the Gospel of Salvation through accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. He was an effective speaker, but a humble man. His faith was much stronger than the evil that permeated our land in his time, and became a light unto the world that he lived in and would often give credit to others for work that took place under his tutelage. Each year @ February 13, we the Episcopal Church honors people of colors who have impacted the church and the world around them.


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