Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The State of the Dream

Fifty years ago today, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered what is unquestionably one of the greatest oratorical presentations of the American Ideal ever uttered. As he delivered his masterpiece, I was growing in my mother’s womb along with her dreams - and those of my father - that our nation, the United States of America, was on the threshold of seeing the written declarations of freedom for all people transform into an actualized reality of freedom in the everyday lives of every American inhabitant. By that year’s end, I myself would be a living, breathing reality and Dr. King’s speech would be the durable portrait of what true freedom should look like in the great American Society. As I reflect on the content of the speech, I feel privileged that both I and the speech turn 50 this year. Until recently, I had never contemplated the fact that I have been a frontline participant in seeing many of the yearnings Dr. Kind voiced weave their way into the normal fabric of life in these United States. I have been on the leading edge of truly integrated opportunities that had not been available on a large-scale racially integrated basis prior to my generation. I have witnessed first-hand, the joy of Caucasian elders who had longed for the day they could legally and socially pour their love into the lives of all children and I have also reaped the benefit of that love. At the same time, I have witnessed the hardened refusal of others to accept the equality of all Americans and have also suffered setbacks from time to time as the result of schemes and machinations designed to “turn back the clock” to a time where opportunities were not equal and some people liked it that way. I have experienced the reality of the dream and I have felt the dream deferred – at the same time. For that reason, whenever I hear the question, “Has Dr. King’s dream been realized?” very clear thoughts and feelings are stirred within me. First of all, the dream is not exclusively Dr. King’s. His dream is the American Dream. All true patriots yearn for the freedom of all people, in all places at all times. Dr. King’s words helped to bring a course correction to the powerful and eloquent words uttered by our Founding Fathers almost two centuries prior to his speech. They certainly understood the power and beauty of freedom, but the tolerance of the “peculiar institution” of slavery dampened the power of their words and gave their righteous tones a slightly hollow ring. Dr. King’s pronouncements helped to interpolate the Founders words, breathing new life into them and enduing them with the full impact they deserved. Now Freedom could ring! Secondly, dreams are made into reality by nothing less than Herculean effort exacted at the cost of human effort through the production of blood, sweat and tears, generation after generation. With respect to freedom and equality in our nation, there will never be a time when we, the people of the United States, will be able to rest on our haunches and say, “Now there! We’ve made it! It’s Miller Time!” Maintaining freedom within our borders and protecting our freedom from threats from without, will always call for constant vigilance, on-going sacrifice and never-ending commitment. We will continue to experience better days and dreams fulfilled only as long as we are willing the face the nightmare of the reality of evil in this world with sobriety, determination and devotion to duty as good citizens of a free land. My plea as one who has witnessed the unfolding of “the dream” “up close and personally” is this: Let us cease the idolization of Dr. King’s “Dream Speech.” While we are certainly right to study and admire this work as one of the most masterful pieces of oratory ever delivered in United States History, let us not lose the point of the speech in the awesomeness of its beauty. Dr. King knew the costs of pursuing the dream – he understood that his particular role would cost him everything. Nevertheless, he assumed and expected that others would set aside comfort, safety and privilege and join him in standing up and pressing on for a better day as well. As we listen yet again to this speech on its 50th anniversary, let those of us who dare recommit ourselves to the understanding that there is indeed a call to duty for any who would claim ownership of this dream and that this call to duty is nothing less than a Divine call. President John F. Kennedy ended his inaugural speech with a challenge clarifying the solemn and sacred nature of the call to preserve freedom: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.” My friends, let’s keep the dream alive by doing the good work – God’s work – loving Him and our neighbors that the reality of freedom might live on for years and years to come. Until next time… Sam

Friday, August 23, 2013

Day 4 - Mission Racine

Day 4 – Mission Racine The organization HALO describes their services to the homeless of Racine County in the following way on their web site: “The vision for HALO is that every man, woman, and child experiencing homelessness be provided food, clothing, and shelter while receiving tools and training designed to help them return to a stable living environment. Through this, we hope to help individuals experiencing homelessness become self-sufficient and to ensure the safety of homeless children through stable living and learning environments.” The “Little Platoons” of Grace Church continued on Mission today, serving the guests of HALO with heaping helpings of hospitality, love and encouragement. Church Life Groups, individuals, friends and families came together as representatives of Jesus to serve up supper, dinner music, and friendship to scores of folks. While getting acquainted with guests, it was difficult to wait for dinner as the aroma from the grill seeped into every crevice of space within 500 feet of the cooking. 3 jovial brothers in faith served up hot hamburgers and hot dogs as well as fired up conversation about the joys of breaking down walls of separation in Jesus’ name, and the satisfaction of helping churches around the city in ministering to children. The Brothers’ joy was intoxicating and I found their humor irresistible. I frequently laughed so hard from their adventure stories that I couldn’t breathe and started seeing stars! Nevertheless, beneath the fun of the stories was a serious and unshakeable commitment to be about God’s business in small tasks and great ones. I was stunned to hear that they had spent two years patiently interacting with a local church to convince them to give a dynamic children’s ministry curriculum a try – two years! The leadership of the church cautiously gave the program a try and is now well underway to revolutionizing their outreach to children – all because two burger-grilling brothers stayed on mission, saw a need and pursued it! Beyond the grill, others were inside preparing side dishes, interacting with guests, and singing heartily! Every individual helper I saw was beaming and so closely interacting with the guests that I had trouble distinguishing guests from the people on mission! Love abounded and joy was all around. It was a wonderful culmination to a week of service and a promising opening for continuing ministry opportunities that lie ahead for the people of Grace Church who are called to live every day on mission for the glory of God. See you on the field! Sam Jackson

Day 3 - Mission Racine

This rainy Thursday, members of the Grace Church family converged on the Hospitality Center located at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, rolled up their sleeves and dived into numerous opportunities to serve ranging from sorting through clothes in a hot attic to preparing meals over a hot stove. Other members held babies, chatted with guests, prayed for needs, encouraged believers and shared the Gospel with others who had not heard it. The leadership and staff of the Hospitality Center were especially excited. The Grace connection there has been growing over the past few months, and today’s intensified presence of Grace family members is a sharp contrast to the “one and done” philosophy that can sometimes characterize those who participate in the center’s ministry. The Hospitiality Center is committed to reaching those who have “fallen through the cracks” of other sources of assistance and welcomes the help from brothers and sisters in Christ from around the city. Grace Church is making our presence known at exactly the right time and is filling a significant void in ministering to those who have needs that don’t quite fit other sources of assistance! The Grace Church contingent who represented our Family of faith were youthful and seasoned, male and female, and from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Their service provided a wonderful display of the power of the Gospel to unify, mobilize and bless others to the glory of God! After today’s ministry, the guests and staff of the Hospitiality Center look forward to meeting more of the Grace Church family. I look forward to the opportunities we will have to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with even more people through this ministry! What a great day for the Lord and what great opportunties lie ahead for us to share the Good News and to love our neighbors in Jesus’ Name! Joyfully pressing on, Sam

Day 2 - Mission Racine

The late Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, frequently celebrated the beauty of what he called the church’s “little platoons”. He loved to share the loving exploits of small groups of Christians devoted to sharing the Good News in word and deed, often out of sight and without recognition, yet always impacting countless lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After the second day of Mission Racine, I feel compelled to do the same! Today, Grace Church had many “little platoons” in action throughout the city of Racine serving through the ministries of Care Net and House Full of Grace. Life Groups and individual members of the Grace Family sorted clothes, picked up and delivered furniture and encouraged those who serve others in need with cheerful spirits and very busy hands! It was especially satisfying to see the Grace Family giving their best – in their physical efforts and in the offerings of the goods and items being donated to those in need. Items were scrutinized with care and precision to make sure that every donated item offered was an item of quality and beauty. It is a powerful thing to witness first-hand how God’s wonderful grace moves the hearts of those who have recieved it to give the very best that they have! All who participated are looking forward to other opportunities to give their best. I can’t wait to see how the blessings will flow as Grace’s “Little Platoons” continue to be deployed in our community and beyond! Sam

Day 1 - Mission Racine

Day 1 – Mission Racine On the first day of ministry for Mission Racine the term, “Small but Mighty” comes to mind as 6 of us joined the Lord in a conversation that spanned 2 and a half hours. In addition, there was Life Group involvement off site too. We utilized the ACTS prayer acrostic – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication to guide our time, which began inside Zoe’s building and wound up with a trek along Racine Street, praying publicly for the requests Pastor Hargrove delivered to us as well as for other areas the Lord brought to our minds. Among the items Pastor Hargrove asked us to lift in prayer were: A Capital Campaign for new construction The Restoration Ministry which is a comprehensive effort that addresses many practical ministry needs in the community Leader Ship Development and Commitment Spiritual Growth for the entire congregation We also discussed and prayed for wisdom and insight for developing our partnership with Zoe in a way that will enhance the Kingdom Impact of both of our congregations and serve as a mighty testimony to the unity we have in Christ. This prayer focused on partnering in our holiday outreach efforts, summer camp opportunities and international mission outreaches as well. As we wrapped up our prayer time, one church member shared her testimony with a group of local men, took prayer requests and prayed with them as we continued in prayer on the corner – a strong finish to beautiful season of prayer. “…For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them…” Matthew 18:20 Sam