Monday, January 18, 2016

Black History Month | City Notes 23 | Letters to a Birmingham Jail Part 1 of 3

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City Notes 23: Books in 30 minutes or less

City Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multi-ethnic Network of Missional CommunitiesThis City Notes includes a book that approaches a subject that is very close to my heart. I burn with a fiery passion to see Emmaus City become a transcultural and multiethnic church bringing redemption, reconciliation, and restoration in Jesus' name for the people who live in the heart of New England. Actually, I burn with a passion to see many churches doing this in our fascinatingly diverse city of Worcester, just like other pastors do in their cities. Oh God, how long?! Let justice roll in our city like the Prophet Amos spoke and Sojourn sings! May we have the privilege to see the legacy of what was accomplished in Selma continue on. In Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ten faithful pastors write back to Martin Luther King, Jr., sharing how his passion and influence have shaped their lives, how far Jesus' Church has come in America since MLK gave his life for this just and Godly cause, and how much farther we still need to go to be Jesus' Church that looks and loves like His Kingdom here on earth. 

Letters to a Birmingham Jail Edited by Bryan Loritts Review of Quotes | City Notes 23: Part 1 of 3


Foreword | Dr. Mark A. Noll: Professor of History, University of Notre Dame; Member, South Bend Christian Reformed Church

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“'Letter from a Birmingham Jail': Dr. King wrote that letter to the white Protestant clergyman of Birmingham, Alabama, in April 1963. They had expressed measured approval of civil rights in principle, but had also cautioned King and his associates about moving too fast or becoming too radical in pursuit of their goals. King responded with a classic statement defending the moral – indeed, the biblical – imperative for full civil equality for black Americans, and for obtaining that equality NOW.” – pg. 11

"Quite a few historians, including myself, believe that many of the most important events in American history have involved race in conjunction with religion. Quite a few Bible believers, including the authors in this volume, believe that the explicitly Christian struggle against racism remains to be won. ... Looked at from a strictly historical angle, the United States continues to reap great evils from the seed that was sown through centuries of slavery and a century of segregation. Yet guided by candidates eager to be elected and enabled by pundits eager to be heard, we Americans mostly ignore an alarming set of immense social problems. Whether by comparison with other Western democracies, or even by comparison with many countries in the so-called developing world, the American social order is riven with pathologies. These pathologies have arisen from many factors. Here is a short list: the United States has by far the highest rates of incarceration in the Western world; it witnesses more gun violence than any other so-called civilized country; its entertainment industry glorifies violence, misogyny, sexual promiscuity, and infantile self-indulgence; it offers less medical and family support for the poor than any other Western nation; it maintains inequalities of wealth on a par with the kleptocracies of the Third World; its rate of infant mortality is several times higher than most western countries; and, most grievously, the nation is witnessing a disastrous collapse of the two-parent family as the accepted norm for giving birth and raising children. The U.S. racial history is not solely responsible for these indices of social pathology but that history has contributed substantially to every one of them." – pg. 12

"Even more, most of us believers need to confess that at least some of the time and in some of our actions, we actively or passively nurture some of the underlying prejudice, paternalism, or attitudes that remain from our country's racist past. Christian believers who view race and religion as defining the deepest moral failing in American history should be concerned about heeding the Scriptures that we say we trust, as we approach questions of black-white racial reconciliation. In dynamic fashion, this book outlines the continuing scope of the problem. It also points to the proper medicine for our disease – deeper commitment to the biblical message that in Christ the walls of prejudice that divide people from people have been broken down once and for all." – pgs. 12-13   
  Introduction | Bryan Loritts: Pastor of Preaching and Mission at Trinity Grace Church, New York City

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

“ ... like most historical moments, no one knew what they had in their hands the moment they held it. I guess this would be the only reasonable explanation as to why King's Letter was not published until a full two months after its writing, only in the 'afterglow' of Birmingham." – pgs. 15-16

"It was Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish rabbi who marched with Dr. King, who told us that the only thing worse than the evil of hatred is indifference. If this be the case, then the movement's most vicious antagonists were not the policemen wielding billy clubs in the streets of Birmingham, but the clergy inviting Dr. King to join their crusade of passive indifference. Lukewarm indifference is a greater threat than white-hot hatred. Just ask the fabled frog in the kettle who became quite intimate with lukewarm. Was this not the very issue Jesus addressed through His exiled apostle John as he delivered a message to lukewarm Laodicean's? Middle of the road indifference, Jesus said, makes Him sick. It is this brand of passive racism that continues to pose a serious threat to us experiencing the eclectic community that Dr. King envisioned. ... Some have closed their eyes to the poor, others to the educational injustice and economic disparities that continue to plague our country. And, yes, some continue to close their eyes, not wanting to do the hard work of going to the other part of town getting to know someone who doesn't think like, act like, look like, or vote like me. Far too many of us know the temptation to close our eyes." – pgs. 16-17

"The death of Jesus Christ on a lonely Friday afternoon in Jerusalem was the intentional, aggressive, costly initiative of God to adopt into His family people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Jesus did not cover His eyes in the hopes that He would not feel obligated to leave His seat in heaven. Instead, He looked upon us standing sinners, and intentionally gave up His comfortable seat, embracing the discomfort of the cross so that we might sit and reign with Him for all eternity. The brutal death of Jesus negates any notion of our salvation coming by passive means. If our vertical reconciliation to God required intentionality, then our horizontal reconciliation necessitates the same intentionality. Dr. King's slain corpse on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on that April day in 1968 is a fitting image of the costly nature of reconciliation ... (this) is our attempt to inspire people to not cover their eyes in passivity, but to pursue Christ-exalting diversity." – pg. 17 

Letter from a Birmingham Jail: April 16, 1963 | Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities
"I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their 'thus saith the Lord' far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom far beyond my own hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. ... Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in the inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever effects one directly, affects all indirectly. ... It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative."
– pgs. 19-20

"Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word 'tension.' I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood." – pg. 22

"My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and non-violent pressure. Lamentably, it is a historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture, but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. ... We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights." – pgs. 23-24

"Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, 'Wait.' But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an artight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you see to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: 'Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?'; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading 'white' and 'colored'; when your first name becomes 'nigger.' your middle name becomes 'boy' (however old you are) and your last name becomes 'John,' and your wife and mother are never given the respected title 'Mrs.'; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of 'nobodiness' – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience." – pgs. 24-25

"Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? ... An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal." – pgs. 25-26

"I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice, who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress." – pgs. 27-28

" ... time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make the real promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity." – pg. 29

"But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.' Was not Amos an extremist for justice: 'Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness flow like an ever-flowing stream.' Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: 'I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.' Was not Martin Luther an extremist: 'Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.' And John Bunyan: 'I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.' And Abraham Lincoln: 'This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.' And Thomas Jefferson: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ... ' So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime – the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists." – pgs. 31-32    

"I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent, and determined action. ... I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen. ... I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: 'Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.' In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimomious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say, 'Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.' And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular." – pgs. 33-34

"There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson, and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Chirst. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists. There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being 'disturbers of the peace' and 'outside agitators.' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were 'a colony of heaven,' called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be 'astronomically intimidated.' By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladitorial contests. ... But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.– pg. 35

"If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me. I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr." – pg. 39 

Why We Can't Wait for Economic Justice | Dr. John Perkins: Civil Rights Activist, Co-Founder of CDCA

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

"I was born in 1930 in New Hebron, Mississippi. My mother died of starvation when I was seven months old. My earliest memory is hearing the words, 'Your mother is dead.' Even as a young child, I knew that there was something really wrong with a person dying because of the lack of resources to buy food. I suppose this reality set the course of my life – at least subconsciously, Martin – on a track to champion the rights of those who were disenfranchised: the poor.– pg. 41

"My brother Clyde served faithfully in World War II, fighting Hitler's war. He survived the horrors of that war only to be reminded that he still had no rights in this country as a black man. When Clyde was murdered by a white police officer in 1947, I knew that I had to leave Mississippi – to stay would have meant certain death for an angry seventeen-year-old boy. So I went to California to get a fresh start. ... (After I got married and we had the first two of our children) Our four-year-old son, Spencer, began attending a church and I was able to see a change in him, as he insisted on quoting a Bible verse before every meal. I went along to hear what he was learning. It was here that I heard the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ preached. The words of Galatians 2:20 (KJV) spoke directly to my heart: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; jet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Martin, my life changed at that very moment. I learned that I was loved by a holy God. As I look back on everything, it seems like since that moment I've been carried along by the hand of God. When I visited a prison in California to share my faith, staring at me from behind the prison bars were young black men who looked just like me. Many of them had come from the Deep South to make a new start, but just didn't make it. As I looked at those young men and interacted with them, I knew God was calling me back to Mississippi. Back to that place of bigotry and racism – there was much that was unfinished in my heart toward Mississippi. There was much that God intended to teach me about His love for people – regardless of color. So at thirty years of age I came back to Mississippi to begin the work that God was calling me to." –  pgs. 42-43

"The apostle Paul called himself a prisoner of Christ, and declared that God can do great things from a prison cell: but ... the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 1;12 KJV0. Great revolutions start in jail, and just like the apostle Paul, your prison epistle, Martin, has been a rallying cry to all people, both black and white – for generations. Your letter spoke hope to us. It expressed the longings of a people for recognition, for respect, for equal access ... I too learned what it meant to be jailed unjustly – first in Mendenhall in December 1969. ... I had gone to the jail to make sure a friend was not beaten. Knowing that if I went alone they would likely beat me as well, I took three carloads of children with me. We were all put in jail. As the crowd gathered outside the jail to protest, I was able to address them from my prison cell window on the second floor. I challenged them to be calm and to not fight hate with hate. We could not win with violence. We would instead boycott the merchants. We began to see that justice was an economic issue. I made up my mind while in the Mendenhall jail this this fight for injustice was a worthy fight. There would be no turning back. Our nonviolent protest and our demands for jobs for blacks, spots on the police force, and an end to police brutality were effective in drawing attention to the plight of blacks in Mississippi. And they were also effective in enraging the white power structure. Two months later twenty-three of us were arrested and put in jail in Brandon, Mississippi. I was met by the demon of racism and hatred in that place. I was tortured in the Brandon jail almost to the point of death. I was broken – almost defeated. I saw the effect of hatred in the eyes of our torturers. They were blinded by their ambition to maintain white supremacy in the South. I saw something that cannot be humanly overcome. Only the love of God could overcome such evil. I knew that if I didn't forgive, I would be overcome by the same darkness. I purposed at that moment to preach the gospel strong enough to win whites and blacks – to burn through the bigotry and hatred of racism. Justice is birthed from the very heart of God. He revealed divine intent in the act of creation when He created man in His own image, in His own likeness. He put all people on an even plane, regardless of color – worthy of dignity and respect. And oh how people needed to know that truth, Martin! We were not second-class citizens. God did not intend for us to grovel and beg and have a subsistence living. His heart was for each individual to work and to have their needs met through that work. So, economic justice was a fair and right claim. At its core economic justice is rooted in the proper stewardship of God's resources. The psalmist David boldly declared: The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof: the world and they that dwell therein (Psalm 24:1 KJV). Our resources have been supplied by God to be used in ways that honor Him and demonstrate our love for our fellow man. But that's not the end of the story. The other side of that truth was that I had to wrap the image of the Southern racist in that same reality. The white racist also bore God's image and I had to allow God to love him through me. In the face of lynchings, beatings, murders, and all manner of inhumane treatment, this was not a man-sized challenge. This challenge could only be met with a power much greater than man: the love of God. In God's economy each individual was to be enriched by the other: our people were to benefit from the bounty of all the whites who had become enriched by free labor; the whites were to benefit from the character building truths that blacks had learned throughout and because of slavery." –  pgs. 44-46

"In America we have witnessed the god of materialism sink his teeth into the fabric of the human soul. He has unleashed a spirit of rugged individualism fueled by selfish greed. This has become normalized behavior that discourages a care for the other, and especially for the poor. The hope for America is that we will see our responsibility to care for the least among us in recognition of the truth that every person is created in the very image of God. No, we cannot expect America to abide by the principles of love and justice of our Creator. America is not a Christian nation. But you were right, Martin, to voice strong disappointment in the church. The church should have been our strongest allies in the freedom movement and should have spoken truth to power. But instead they divorced themselves from the responsibility to bear witness to the world through the modeling of biblical love and care for one another. As you said, 'they committed themselves to a completely other worldly religion which made a strange, unbiblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.' Sadly, that debate still rages in the church today, fifty years later. The church is still today unsure whether we are called to be fully engaged in the social needs of people. It grieves my heart to see how we have missed the opportunity to be fully engaged in the battle for economic justice. We have abundant resources yet have failed to properly steward those resources because we have accommodated an apartheid church. The church was to the vehicle that would represent the kingdom of God in the world. We were to be a model of oneness, sharing the love of Jesus Christ one to another, and meeting the needs of one another. The church in Acts 2 is a beautiful model of this oneness: Jews and Greeks having all things in common. Yet there is hope for the church. My greatest hope is in the new emerging church leaders who have caught the vision for true biblical oneness: multicultural churches. They operate in an almost postracial context, not seeing each other as black, white, or brown just as brothers and sisters in Christ. This is wonderful news! The vision is for many others to partner together in planting similar churches. Large churches may choose to plant churches in the inner city and become intentional about their engagement together: going as a group to the inner-city church once a month, providing a percentage of their tithe to support the inner-city church. The gospel is meant to reconcile people to God and then to each other across cultural, ethnic, and social barriers. And all of this is so the world will know we are Christians because of that oneness. That's dynamic!" – pgs. 46-47

"Trusting His hand to lead in ways that would bring Him honor and help our people in Mendenhall, we fell in with the people and sensed needs that demanded a response. With meager resources and no political clout, God multiplied every investment of time, heart, and energy. Little became much in His hands. What began to emerge were three principles that would be foundational in the formation of ministry to hurting people. They are what I call the three Rs: relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution. These three components are essential in restoring dignity to the poor and needy. ... Living among the people allows us to live out the gospel by sharing in the suffering and pain of others. Their needs become our needs, and we have the opportunity to better the quality of their lives spiritually, physically, and emotionally as we better our own. The best picture of relocation is when Jesus took on the form of man and dwelt among us in order to give us a picture of righteousness and justice. His ultimate sacrifice of dying on the cross is the supreme example of bettering the lives of those we come to live among. ... The heart of reconciliation is for the people to be reconciled first to God and then to one another. When we began preaching the Word in West Jackson to a few dozen people, our numbers multiplied quickly and Voice of Calvary Fellowship was formed. It became a place where white and black Christians worshiped side by side. It was one of the few congregations in the South where a black pastor and white pastor shared the same pulpit. I rejoice to see this happening more and more these days. In an atmosphere where people have relocated to tend to the needs of others and where reconciliation has taken place, redistribution is a natural response. It is easy to share one's wealth and resources with people you truly love and care for. There was an abundance of needs in Mendenhall and in West Jackson and God provided direction for how those needs were to be met. The People's Development, Inc. was a charity that purchased homes and sold them to the poor to help them become homeowners. Samaritan Inn was organized to provide shelter for those in distress. The first persons to stay in Samaritan Inn were white." – pgs. 48-49

"The One who is the ultimate owner of everything the Creator God has entrusted the management of His world to us as stewards. We've been charged to subdue the earth, develop its potential, and to provide for one another out of its bounty. And just like the master in Matthew 25, He is coming back to settle the accounts. When He returns His standards may make some of us uncomfortable: But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you have Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you have Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me' (Matthew 25:31-36 NASB). So time is running out for those who have opportunities to do justice. But it's also running out for those who are in desperate need. ... And yes, Martin, please forgive my being so personal on this last point. Time is running out for me. God has been good to me. I've lived a good life. The psalmist perhaps said it best in Psalm 90 (KJV): Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations ...  For all our days are passed away in thy wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow ...  So, teach us to number our days, that we might apply our hearts unto wisdom. I'm eighty-three years old now. I can begin to see the setting of the sun and there is a sense of urgency to pass along to coming generations the principles and teachings that have kept me all these years. If I had to boil it down to the simplest of truths, it would be this one thing: Jesus – Jesus alone. He is the pearl of great price. Without Him nothing else matters; with Him you need nothing else. ... Marin, I'm satisfied with my Savior and His leading. I'm satisfied that a life spent serving Him is a life worth living. And, yes, I'm satisfied that serving our fellow man with the glorious gospel is the only thing that really matters in life." – pgs. 53-54 

Waiting for and Hastening the Day of Multiethnic Beauty | Dr. John Piper: Author, Theologian, Co-Founder of Desiring God Ministries

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

"Again you were right about the folly of passive waiting. Biblical waiting is not passive. It does not compromise. Nothing that needs changing changes without effort. Some may have quoted, 'Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!' (Psalm 27:14). But this call to wait for the Lord never meant stop doing what He commanded us to do in pursuit of holy goals. Waiting for the Lord means our action is essential, but His is decisive. The farmer must wait for the harvest. But no one works harder than the farmer. Thank you for your sacrifices. May our Lord Jesus hasten the day when the terms 'white church' and 'black church' will be unintelligible.– pg. 56

" ... Martin Luther King wrote Letter from a Birmingham Jail; Stephen Oates called it, 'the most eloquent and learned expression of the goals and philosophy of the nonviolent movement ever written.' ... But alas, the world – especially the white American world of the 1950s and '60s – had drifted from a World War passion against the horrors of German Nazism and Japanese expansionism to an insulated stupor of suburban security. ... When Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel) wrote his song 'I Am a Rock' in 1965, it was not a celebration. It was an indictment. It indicted those who would isolate themselves from others, who would not deal with the important yet uncomfortable issues of life. To avoid conflict, the person would 'touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock. I am an island.'" – pg. 57

"The victory of full acceptance for African Americans into all the corners of American life is still in the making. It was a slow and painful beginning. Two years after the Civil War in 1867, 535 African Americans were lynched. A dozen years after the Civil War, the efforts of reconstruction were spent, and the solidification of segregation and disenfranchisement was underway. There were flashes of hope followed by enduring darkness. By 1890, the former Confederate states had written new constitutions that put in place the same two-tiered system of justice that had existed in the slave era. Jim Crow was established and things often went backwards. For example, in 1897 Louisiana had 137,000 registered black voters. Three years later, that number had been reduced to 5,000. ... (Later in history) In spite of all the rationalizations, it was not 'separate but equal.' I never say one equal provision for blacks in churches when I was growing up in the South. And not only was it not equal, it was not respectful, it was not just, and it was not loving; therefore, it was not Christian. It was ugly and demeaning. It was a way of keeping the waves of reform from breaking over the peace and comfort of our island. ... I didn't know a single black person – except Lucy. And my relationship with Lucy taught me, in a surprising way, that it is possible to like someone, and even feel deep affection for someone and treat her graciously, while considering her inferior and as someone to be kept at a distance. This in turn has taught me that those who defend the noble spirit of some Southern slaveholders by pointing to how nice they were to their slaves seem to be naive about what makes a relationship degrading. ... The first black slaves had been brought to American in 1565 as part of the colonization of St. Augustine, Florida. So, when Martin Luther King came on the scene, black-white relations, based on perceived racial inferiority and rooted in man-stealing and slavery, had been part of American life for four hundred years. The Civil War had removed slavery, but not oppression. By the 1960s that centuries-long oppression had produced two forces in the African American communities: one complacent, the other seething on the brink of violence. Martin Luther King saw himself as a middle way, not an extremist. He believed if it were not for the nonviolent protests he was leading, the streets of America would soon be 'flowing with blood' in a 'frightening racial nightmare.' I think he was probably right about that." – pgs. 59-62

"When I first read the words from 'Letters from a Birmingham Jail' many years ago, they stunned me. I had never read anything about racial relations or the civil rights movement more moving than the words from 'Letters.' Every word rang true. And the cumulative force was devastating. One can sense the wonder that, in the providence of God, such a voice had been heard above the cries of those days. King was not done explaining. He used his method because he truly believed that waiting would be forever without it. ... When Peter, Paul, and Mary sang 'Blowin' in the Wind' in March 1963, it bumped 'Puppy Love' from the top of the charts. What this symbolized was that a lot of young John Pipers were about to be shaken loose from their immature, insulated, petty insecurities and catapulted into a bigger world. The personal islands of isolation and ignorance and indifference, and the cultural islands of segregation and suspicion and derision were all sinking in the sea. For me it was the sea of gospel awakening. A Jesus awakening. For all of King's theological and personal flaws (that we all possess in varying degrees, but his were on display), he pointed us in the right direction: to Jesus rather than self, to love rather than hate, and to the sacrificial church rather than the religious social club." – pgs. 65-67

"Carl Ellis and his book, Free at Last: Nothing I have read eclipses the insights of this book in understanding what has happened in black and white churches since the civil rights movement and how they relate to each other. What Ellis sees so clearly is that the so-called white and black churches have both been compromised theologically. Ellis's vision for the rebuilding of a God-centered black culture is profoundly relevant for the rebuilding of a God-centered white American evangelicalism. One sentence took hold of me in 2001 when I first read this book. Ellis wrote, 'White historians had sold us a bill of goods by leaving Black folks out; Black secularists sold us a bill of goods by leaving God out.' ... Ellis's aim is the rebuilding of a God-centered Christianity, not 'Christianityism.' He calls for authentic, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated Christianity out of white and black and every other color. You feel Ellis's two-edged sword in sentences like these: Black is truly beautiful, but it is not beautiful as a god. As a god it is too small. Afrocentrism is truly magnificent, but it is not magnificent as an absolute. As an absolute, it will infect us with the kind of bigotry we've struggled against in others for centuries ...  Whenever we seek to understand our situation without (the) transcendent reference point (of the Word of God) we fail to find the answer to our crisis. The white man's religion has failed us (namely, Christianity-ism). The Arab ethnic religion has failed us and will fail us again. White systems that adapt the gospel's radical message to the spirit of the age have failed. Efforts at establishing churches and movements on 'black is beautiful' have failed. We need a bigger vision, a deeper vision. We need a transcendent reference point! We need the supremacy of God! The centrality of God! The Word of God! The radical gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullest and deepest biblical proportions." – pgs. 69-70

"When I first read Ellis's book in July 2001, everything in me was crying, 'Amen,' not about the weaknesses of the black church but about the so-called white church my own puny-god, market-driven, materialistic, middle-class, comfort-seeking, truth-compromising, wishy-washy, white, evangelical, American church. What became clearer to me then than ever was that what both communities need is a transcendent reference point in the sovereignty of God and the supremacy of God and the centrality of God in all things, expressed supremely in the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the implications of this radical, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, gospel-cherishing passion is that the pursuit of increasingly natural and beautiful racial diversity and justice and harmony will happen first in the churches where these values are loved. ... the community where God is central, and Christ is exalted, and the Bible is believed, and the gospel is cherished – this is where God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, gospel-cherishing racial diversity and harmony can be advanced. And from these churches, only God knows how deep and vast the wider cultural transformation might be. ... the goal to lead churches into the beauty of ethnic and racial diversity and justice and harmony that Christ purchased by His blood (Revelation 5:9); this primary goal is urgent. It will not arrive by waiting for it passively. Martin Luther King was right that traditions that are blind to the need for change do not change without effort. Mere waiting does not work. There must be pursuit." pgs. 70-71

"Recall that when Israel murmured against Moses that they were trapped by Pharaoh at the Red Sea, he said, Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. ... The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent (Exodus 14:13-14). That sounds like the right thing to do was wait and nothing else. But God comes and says to Moses, Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:15-16). God was not telling the people to stop waiting for Him. He was showing them how to wait for Him. God was going to work a miracle for them. He was going to divide the sea. That would be a miracle. They could not make that happen. They could only look for it. But God was going to use Moses to do it. And He was going to do it for a people on the march. This is how it always is. Waiting for the Lord means acting with the confidence and expectation that the only way your action will bear fruit is that God will show up. I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul waited for the grace of God as he worked. Or again he said, I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed (Romans 15:18). Paul spoke, Paul acted, but God brought about the obedience of the Gentiles. Or again, I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6). James wrote farmers must be patient and wait for the harvest (James 5:7). But in the meantime, no one works harder than the farmer. So yes, we must wait for God. Only God can accomplish the glorious miracle of God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, gospel-cherishing ethnic and racial diversity, justice, and harmony in our churches. But this waiting on God's miraculous in-breaking is intensely active. As with the day of God, so with the day of racial glory: What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God (2 Peter 3:11-12). There is a holiness that hastens. Lord, teach us how to wait for You in such a faith-filled, Spirit-dependent, radically active way that we hasten the day when the terms 'white church' and 'black church' will be unintelligible." pgs. 71-73

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

Some additional Multi-Ethnic Church and Transcultural Kingdom resources and reflections:

| 1  Recommended Books:  

1. NIV God's Justice Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil 
2. The Mission of God's People: A Biblical Theology of the Church's Mission by Christopher J.H. Wright 
3. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah 
4. Where the Cross Meets the Street: What Happens to the Neighborhood When God is at the Center by Noel Castellanos 
5. Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield  
+ City (Cliff) Notes Part 1 of 32 of 3and 3 of 3 for Assimilate or Go Home 
6. Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Brenda Salter McNeil 
7. Is the Bible Good for Women?: Seeking Clarity and Confidence Through a Jesus-Centered Understanding of Scripture by Wendy Alsup 
8. Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. by Bryan Loritts  
+ City (Cliff) Notes Part 1 of 32 of 3and 3 of 3 for Letters to a Birmingham Jail  
9. Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission by Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl 
10. Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation by Mark Deymaz  
+ City (Cliff) Notes Part 1 of 3, 2 of 3, and 3 of 3 of Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church 
11. The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance by Bethany Hanke Hoang and and Kristen Deede Johnson  
+ Introduction Part 1 of 2 and 2 of 2
12. Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community by Charles Marsh and John M. Perkins 

| 2  Recommended Conferences Blog Posts Notes

| 3  A Sample of Initial Practices for Emmaus City Church

1. We regularly pray for other churches in Worcester during Emmaus City services of worship, including churches led by ethnic minority pastors who are friends like Christian Community Church (Pastor Jose Encarnacion), Belmont A.M.E. Zion (Pastor Clyde Talley), The Bridge Church (Pastor Ritchie Gonzalez), and more. 
2.  We intentionally recognize and honor the pastors above as seasoned mentors we can learn from in how they declare and demonstrate the Gospel in Worcester. 
3. We intentionally quote ethnic minority pastors and theologians from throughout history in sermons as key leaders who provide us with insight we need to hear and consider about the great Gospel of Jesus for people from every tribe, tongue, nation. 
4. We are intentional in prayerfully and financially partnering with ethnic minority-led church plants in urban settings like Restoration Community Church (Pastor Rich Rivera, South Bronx), Epiphany Fellowship Camden (Pastor Ernie Grant, Camden), Epiphany Baltimore (Pastor Charlie Mitchell and Pastor Trevor Chin, Baltimore), Cruciform Church (Pastor David Rosa Jr., Miami), Epiphany Church Wilmington (Pastor Derrick Parks), and more. 
5. We have the pastors who live closest above come, preach for us, and have their families stay with us in our homes (Pastor Rich Rivera preached for us in May 2017, Pastor Ernie Grant preached for us in November 2017). 
6. We commit to going to and highly recommending ethnic minority-led conferences like Thriving's Frequency Conference in Philadelphia (2017 will be the 5th year straight). 
7. We are intentional in learning and singing songs in our services that are not majority culture songs and/or focus on God's righteousness and justice like Que Seas El Autor by Urban Doxology, Awesome by Charles Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago, Break Every Chain and Fill Me Up by Tasha Cobb, Heal Us by Indelible Grace and Blessing Offor, Most High God by Kofi Thompson and Crown of Glory, I'll Say Yes by Shirley Caesar, Let Justice Roll by Sojourn, The Worship Medley by Tye Tribbett, and more. 
8. We set up residencies to invite ethnic-minority leaders to help inform us, serve our city, and grow with us. 
9. We continue to read books and learn from articles that focus on a more robust history of the Church than is often taught in white-led and captive seminaries (ex. The Faith of Our Fathers: Reclaiming the (North AfricanChurch Fathers" by Jason O. Evans; How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity by Thomas C. Oden; Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Bryan Loritts; The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytmsa; Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community (Resources for Reconciliation) by Dr. Charles Marsh and Dr. John Perkins; Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil; "Freeing the Captive Church" by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah; "A Life of Conversations" with Richard Twiss; "Are You Starting an Urban Church Plant or Plantation?" by Dr. Christena Cleveland; "How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently" by Kate Shellnutt, etc.). 
10. We continue to pray and cry out to God to bring His righteousness and justice to Worcester, and to give us the privilege to be a church that is not only for Worcester, but in and of Worcester, as He continues to shape us to be more like Jesus in the city.

Next post: Black History Month: Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Part 2 of 3

Christ is all,

+ Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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