Better thinking, Better speaking, a Better me

This week it was announced that Papa John’s founder John Schnatter resigned as chairman of the board of his Pizza company after admitting and apologizing for using the N-word during a May conference call.

The fall from grace for the popular and telegenic personality illustrates the power of words and how they impact people.

This week I was asked about the qualifications to become a hospital chaplain. After my explanation the person smiled and said, “I can’t become a hospital chaplain because I have been told that Muslims cannot become chaplains.”

Once she was assured that all faiths are welcomed as hospital chaplains; I wondered what other misinformation have been spread to her and others. Misinformation that was spread because of a failure to think and explore beyond our comfort zones. Misinformation because we lack the political curiosity to consume media that only conforms to our liberal or conservative beliefs. Misinformation that is deeply ingrained because we have chosen to live, interact and worship with people who think like us, act like us, and look like us.

And in my wondering I thought how much of that misinformation have I spread in my sermons, blogs and conversations?

2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to do everything we can to present ourselves to God as a fully genuine person. A worker unashamed and capable of the mission of leading others along the correct path defined by the word of truth.

God wants us to know that thinking matters, that being open to people, ideas and new ways of doing things matter and yes that words matter. While this revelation is hardly new it does remind me that as a pastor and leader in the faith, I must be open to understanding the contexts of our times while holding on to the principals of faith.

As the pitchman for the pizza chain that bears his name John Schnatter better known as Papa John, would end his highly successful commercials with the slogan; better ingredients, better pizza, Papa John’s. This week as a pastor and a leader of faith I have adopted a new slogan. A slogan that I invite you to consider as we look for ways to be more expansive in our thoughts, more inclusive in our actions, and more tender with our words. Better thinking, Better speaking, a better me.

Honoring The Trinity On Memorial Day

Sermon delivered – May 27, 2018, Hall Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church Sparta, Georgia
Posted By Request

This is Memorial Day Weekend a time set aside to honor those who died in defense of the United States of America.

Across the country flags are placed on graves of our war dead
Across the country people visit memorials erected to honor those who die.
And across the county the flag our nation flies at half-staff in
recognition and tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice

The defense department reports more that 1.1 million Americans have been killed in all of the wars that we have fought.

We would like to believe that these men and women died in defense of the freedoms we cherish so dearly as Americans. Freedoms enshrined in the Delectation of Independence and the Constitution.
Freedoms expanded and clarified by the Bill of Rights, The Emancipation Proclamation, The 19th Amendment (Extending the right to vote to women) The Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Voting Rights Act of 1965, The Americans With Disabilities Act, and many more laws, court decisions and executive orders all designed to make us a more perfect union.

However, the freedoms those 1.1 million Americans died for are more than just amendments, laws, court decisions and executive orders.

The American freedoms that the 1.1 million Americans died for are the everyday values that we practice that make our union truly a beloved society where brotherhood is crowned from sea to shining sea.

-Values where we find the proper balance between the right to bear arms and the rights of our citizens not to killed in a wave of gun violence caused by conditions of poverty, disperse, lawlessness and mental illness. Fueled by a hyper sensitive National Rifle Association who have extorted elected officials in to protecting at all cost the companies that make guns. At the expense of common sense laws that would give some protection to innocent children in our schools from being slaughtered by guns designed for war instead of a peaceful society.

  • Values where we understand that access to affordable healthcare is a right for all. And that it cost our country far too much in money, suffering and shorten lives when we refused to find solutions that provide greater health equality.

-Values where we understand that honoring American is not demanding that its citizens stand when the national anthem is played – but rather protecting the free speech rights of those who chose to protest by not standing.

That honoring America is not constructing a new Jim Crow system of second class life for the estimated 12.2 million people who have been in the county illegally, but rather it is finding a just and speedy path to citizenship along with an humane revision of immigration laws that reflect the realities of a 21st century world without borders, while understanding that the United States of American still holds a special place for as a land of shelter, hope and progress.

While this weekend is Memorial Day in the United States, this Sunday in the life of the Christian Church is Called Trinity Sunday.

Trinity Sunday celebrates the Christian doctrine of what we call the Trinity, the three Persons of God:

God the Father,
God the Son, and
God the Holy Spirit

Although the word “trinity” does not appear in Scripture. The concept of:
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit Is taught in the Bible.

After being raised from the dead Jesus spent forty days or more on the earth meeting with and teaching the disciples.

Acts chapter 1 verse 3 (New Living Translation) tells us:
3 During the forty days after Jesus suffered and died, Jesus appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

And after spending time with the disciples Jesus then ascended into heaven: Matthew chapter 28: verse 18 through 20 not only tells the story of his return to haven but introduces us to the trinity God the Father
God the Son and God the Holy Spirt

Listen to what Jesus said to the disciples before returning to heaven.

18 And Jesus came to the disciples the and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Here is the point

Soldiers die – in fact this weekend we are commentating the 1.1 million Americans who died. With flags on graves, flags flying at half-staff and erecting memorials and monuments.
Jesus died – in a painful and cruel death on the cross.
– But there is no flag on his grave
– The flags on Good Friday are not at half-staff in honor of his passing
– There are no memorials and monuments erected to his memory.
Why?

Because Jesus is alive, Jesus has ascended into heaven and Jesus sits on the right hand of God.
And while Jesus is in heaven Jesus the Father and Jesus the Son of God has promise to return: Listen to Jesus’s promise in John chapter 14 verse 1-4

“Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (NLT, John 14:1-4)

As we wait for the return of the Father and the Son – Jesus has made another promise – the promise of leaving us with the holy spirit as a comforter and a teacher.

Jesus said in John Chapter 14 verses 15-17 15 “If you love me, obey my commandments
. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.

God the father
God the son
And God the Holy Spirt

The Trinity

And it is the truth of the trinity that correct America and make the county worthy of the deaths of 1.1 million of its citizens that we think about on this Memorial Day weekend.
It is the truth of the trinity that will make this nation rise up and live out the true meaning of it creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all of God’s people are created and are to be treated equally.

  • So with the truth of the trinity we will stand up the NRA and crazies and thugs to stop the senseless Gun violence.
  • So with the truth of the trinity we will bring 12 million of our brothers and sisters living in this county working, worshiping, and paying taxes out of the dark and into the light of full US citizenship – while proving a pathway for others to enter this country legally
  • So with the truth of the trinity we will provide affordable high quality health care for everyone.

This week in Georgia the impossible happened – A Black woman Stacy Abrams is now an election away from become Governor.

Her nomination should remind all of us that with the trinity
God the father
God the son
And God the holy sprit
Nothing is impossible!

Let us pray together –

Continue reading Honoring The Trinity On Memorial Day

The Man In Room 306

From Montgomery, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee, he had checked into countless hotels rooms. In 1963, he checked into a hotel room in Washington, D.C. went to the Lincoln Memorial and gave the world his dream. In 1964, he checked into a hotel room in Oslo, Norway to accept a prize for his message of peace and equality. In 1965, he checked into a hotel room in Montgomery, Alabama after a long, exhausting march from Selma that finally moved the Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act.

On Wednesday April 3, 1968 at 11:20 AM he checked into one last hotel room. It was Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, a two-story downtown hotel catering to the black traveler. He was there to complete some unfinished business. In February of the same year, garbage workers in Memphis had gone on strike, demanding a raise and protection from dangerous working conditions. Moved by their plight and the death of two men, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who were fatally injured in garbage compactor accident, he agreed to help.

This was his second visit to Memphis within a week. On his previous trip, a march that he led in support of the garbage workers had turned violent and was stopped. The man known for nonviolence had to retreat because of violence in his own ranks. Determined to right this wrong, he came back to Memphis to march again in peace for the marchers, in solidarity for the striking garbage workers and redemption for his reputation as a nonviolent leader advocating for justice.
Later in the day, he left Room 306 to attend strategy meetings for the upcoming march. Weary from meetings, press conferences, and the early morning flight from Atlanta, he returned to Room 306 to rest for the night. However, before he could rest, his associate and best friend the Reverend, Ralph David Abernathy persuaded him to leave Room 306 to speak at the local Mason Temple Church of God in Christ.

That night he exclaimed:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything, I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

After a this powerful address and greeting several supporters from the audience, he was relieved to finally return to Room 306 to rest before the next day creeped upon him.
On the early morning of April 4, 1968, he left Room 306 for more meetings only to return later in the afternoon to rest before attending a dinner at the home of the Revered Samuel Billy Kyles.

Meanwhile, at the boarding house across the street from the Lorraine Motel a man checks into Room B5. The man rifle in hand enters the boarding house common bathroom and opens a window with a clear sightline to room 306.
There the man from B5 waits with a rifle for the man in 306 to leave his room. And when he does, shoots him dead.

A half a century has now passed since that fatal shot was fired.
Much has changed.

Much more has remined the same.

Regardless of the triumphs and tragedies, the elections won and the elections lost, the three steps forward for equality coupled with the two steps backward, something stills ring true from that the man who spent his last night alive in Room 306:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I agree with Bill Gates – Let’s Cure Alzheimer’s

Recently, Bill Gates pledged fifty million dollars of his own money in a quest to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. Mr. Gates cited the growing economic and emotional toll Alzheimer’s has on families worldwide for the reason for his contribution.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2017 Americans spent $259 billion caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The Alzheimer’s Association also estimates that you have a nearly 50 percent chance of developing the disease if you live into your mid-80s. Research indicates African Americans and Latinos are more likely than whites to develop Alzheimer’s.

I am certain many of you reading this post know of a friend or family member with Alzheimer’s.

In my family both of my grandmothers and an aunt have died of complications from Alzheimer’s. My mother is in the final stages of a decade long battle with the disease which has now also gripped two of her sisters.

As Mr. Gates noted despite the increase in disease scientists have yet to figure out what exactly causes Alzheimer’s or how to stop the disease from destroying the brain.

Finding A Cure – Three Things We Can We Do?

The 50 million given by Mr. Gates will go to the Dementia Discovery Fund a private fund working to diversify the clinical pipeline for Alzheimer’s treatment.

While you and I may not be able to drop 50 million we can become part of drive for a cure. Check out three things we can do.

One: Inform Yourself About Alzheimer’s

Our friends at Alzheimers.net have a wonderful infographic that you can share on your favorite social media site — simply use the one-click buttons at the top of the page. The infographic includes effective ways you can join the fight against the disease, from joining clinical trials to writing your congressperson. We hope you’ll find it a great tool for raising awareness. And, after learning and sharing, it’s just one more step to start doing.

Two: Participate in National Memory Screening

The National Memory Screening event aims to provide free memory tests with the goal of early detection and treatment for those showing signs of cognitive impairment. You can be a source of encouragement and strength for friends, family and loved ones simply by participating, but if you would like to do more to raise awareness, host or visit a site near you. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America provides the materials, and you locate a willing health care professional to administer the testing. Visit their website for more information.

Three: Make a Donation to an Alzheimer’s Organization

There are truly so many ways to donate, and there are numerous opportunities listed on the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America web pages, if you need a place to start. You can simply donate money online and it will go towards the fight to end Alzheimer’s, but there are other ways to donate, too — you can donate stock or an old car and receive some tax benefits to boot; you can donate to the cause of a participant in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s; you can plan a bequest in your will; and much more.

It’s Time For A Cure

Alzheimer’s is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States and it is the only one without any meaningful treatments that are reversing the trend.

Bill Gates knows that a person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia spends five times more every year out-of-pocket on healthcare than a senior without a neurodegenerative condition.

Bill Gates knows that unlike those with many chronic diseases, people with Alzheimer’s incur long-term care costs as well as direct medical expenses that will last for decades.

Bill Gates knows how difficult it is to watch a loved ones suffer from cognitive decline and slowly disappear.

I agree with Bill Gates, let’s cure Alzheimer’s

Marben Bland, is the pastor of Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Sparta, Georgia and is the Chairperson for the Handcock Health Improvement Partnership. Read more of his posts at www.marbenbland.com

Sexual Harassment

Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly – the very names of these very accomplished men have become linked to sexual harassment, a heinous act that these men callously did over and over again.

For the very few famous men who have been caught, there are many more silent situations where women and some men have been, and continue to be subjected to, unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

The deployable habits of these men, clergy, coaches, teachers, supervisors, and even presidents, who use positions of power, positions of trust, and positions of superior physical strength to impose their demented form of pleasure on others, is in no way condoned by God.

Many may be surprised that the word of God is not silent about the wrongness of sexual harassment, the evilness of sexual assault, and the depravity of rape. God makes it abundantly clear that when these malicious acts are committed, ultimately, they will not go unpunished.

In Genesis 34, when Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, was violated by the son of a neighboring ruler, her brothers murdered the rapist, killed his father, and all the men of his city out of revenge.

Joshua 19-21 tells the story of the unnamed concubine was gang-raped, and left for dead by men of the tribe of Benjamin. In hearing of this injustice, the other tribes went to war against them destroying houses and taking land.

After Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon, 2 Samuel 13 tells us that Tamar’s Brother, Absalom killed Amnon, and incited a rebellion against his father, King David.

God is grieved by sexual harassment, and all forms of injustice. While many have suffered and many more will suffer from sexual harassment, we, the disciples of Christ must know that God sees what is going on.

As we have seen in Scripture, these acts of evil will be avenged one day. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but hopefully in the lifetime of my Granddaughters. As Martin Luther King, Jr. would often say paraphrasing Amos 5:24 “Justice will roll down like waters,”
and righteousness will come like an ever-flowing stream.

In the meantime, as disciples of Christ we should consider doing these four things:

  1. Go to the Lord in prayer, and ask for healing for the victims, deliverance for those who are bound, and forgiveness for those who are the harassers.

  2. Demand zero tolerance for any acts of sexual harassment in our churches, our workplaces, our schools, and our lives.

  3. Search ourselves to identify any tendencies of sexual harassment, hate and bigotry, and when we find them, ask the Lord to blot them out.

  4. Speak out whenever we witness, or are victims of sexual harassment. “Me too” must become more than a hashtag. It must become the mantra for all our actions.

Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly – these are the names we know, but there are many more who we do not know. The past, and even our present may seem dark as allegations of sexual harassment continue to mount. However, we can take comfort that God is in control, and one day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess the evil acts of sexual harassment and that Jesus Christ is Lord!

I am Going To Take A Knee

There has been a whole lot of talk lately about people taking a knee.

Some folks including a big important man who lives in a white house, who makes big speeches all over in places like the United Nations and Alabama, and then tweets about it.

This big important man is saying that folks should not take a knee especially if they are a football player, especially if they are exercising a first amendment right that service members including this writer served for, especially if they do it while national anthem is being played.

Psalm 95:6 tells us Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

So today before a speech or a tweet can catch up with me I am going to take a knee.

I am going to take a knee and pray for the people of Puerto Rico. United States Citizens who could be without power for months ahead, all while the commander in chief keeps tweeting that everything is going well.

I am going to take a knee and pray for the saints at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, near Nashville, where a man opened fire as church was letting out last week, killing one person and injuring seven others.

I am going to take a knee to ask God’s guidance and intercession regarding the opioid crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 90 Americans die day every day, after overdosing on opioids.  

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin along with prescription pain relievers as fentanyl, oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.

I am going to take a knee and pray to thank the Lord for his goodness, his grace and his love.

I am going to take a knee often today and every day:

To pray for people in need.
To pray for situations of despair
To pray for justice
To pray for peace
To pray for the man in the white house who likes to tweet

I am going to take a knee because the Word of the Lord says in Romans 14:11-12
 
For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

I am going to take a knee
I am going to take a knee.

Please like and more importantly share this post! Marben Bland is the pastor of Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel AME Church in Sparta, Georgia. He is also a second year seminarian at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Go to www.marbenbland.com for more of his commentary

9 -11 And Irma

Sixteen years ago today, 2,996 people were killed during the September 11 attacks.

Today, we are feeling the power of now, Tropical Storm Irma with strong winds and heavy rain damaging buildings, knocking down trees and wiping out power.

Philippians 4:4 tells us to Rejoice in the Lord always.

So, on a day when many may feel sad because of the loss of life on 9/11, on a day when many may feel scared as the winds blow and the lights flicker,
I will rejoice!

Despite attacks from abroad, and political slip-ups at home, we are still The United States of America.
Therefore, I will rejoice!

Through the wind and the rain, I know the rainbow of the Lord is on its way. Therefore, I will rejoice!

I serve a God that is bigger than a terrorist attack, bigger than a President, bigger than any storm, and bigger than my worry and my fear; Therefore, I will rejoice!

So, choose to rejoice in the Lord always, and know that everything will be all right.