Elder Alan Clapsaddles LovePeaceJustice.org BLOG

www.LovePeaceJustice.org is a web forum hosted by Alan Clapsaddle, Teaching Elder of Westgate Tabernacle Church. This is a forum called together to bring in to practice God's Love, God's Peace, and God's Justice in a time of Pharasaical Legalism.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Love is an action verb – not a sentiment.

An athlete practices over and over to develop strength and muscle memory.

Last night I saw All Star Athletes of Agape Love in Action.

They could not have been a more diverse group.

Last night, Friday August 19th, Bishop Thomas Masters, called a meeting of a group called the “Palm Beach County Coalition to Stop The Violence”.

Avis and I left the church and headed there at about 6:30, we got there at about 7:15, after having to call for directions, since we managed to drive by and miss the church. I thank God that we called and found it, for missing this evening would have been terrible.

We arrived to find about 25 people sitting in a circle, on folding chairs in a large room, cooled by one overworked window air conditioner. There were perhaps 6 black women, wearing white T-Shirts with “Mothers Against Murders” on their shirts, their were others dressed in African American church going attire complete with hats, Bishop Masters was wearing a Purple Bishops hat (a berretta), Avis and I were dressed in casual clothing, the national denominational president of the Church of Christ, Scientist, was there, along with two white senior citizens from the Church of Christ, Scientist of West Palm Beach, along with Bishop Shel Schwartz in a T-shirt.

The meeting began with a mother who son was shot and killed by an off duty police officer sharing her grief and pain. This was apparently the first time she had shared this so openly and publicly. It had quite an effect on some of the other mothers of murdered children.

Avis got up, hugged and embraced and prayed with and comforted a mother who was crying, the moment was spontaneous, and intense, and powerful. There is a Balm at Gilead, but last night Gilead was a hot room in Riviera Beach.

Bishop Masters shared the purpose of the meeting, to form a healing circle, to cover the victims with prayer. Perhaps it was more than that, it was to cover the whole community with the healing balm of coming together as a community of faith.

Bishop Masters asked me if I had anything to say. I shared that the happenings put me in mind of the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 6. In that case the enemy was attacking Israel in gorilla warfare like attacks, but then Elisha began to have vision of foreknowledge of where the enemy would strike, and he passed that information on to the Israelis so they could take appropriate action. King Beth Haddad became incensed at the decreased effectiveness of his forces attacks against Israel. He asked his people, who was spying for Israel, but they told him that God had given knowledge of their plans to Elisha the prophet who lived in Dothan. King Beth Haddad ordered his troops to Dothan to surround and capture Elsiha.
Elisha’s servant awoke in the morning, went outside and looked around, and saw that the town was surrounded by the enemy’s army. He went in to the house and awoke Elisha, and told him of the encircling armies. Elisha told him not to worry, because “There are more with us than there are with them.” Elisha then prayed to have his servants eyes opened, and when his servant went back outside, he saw that the enemy army was itself surrounded by the Armies of God, with chariots of fire, by Archangels. This is where the lectionary text usually ends. But we miss an important message if we do not read onward.

You would think at this point, the forces opposing the enemy would have killed them. But NO, Elisha prayed that God would strike them blind. He then led them into the midst of their enemies. He then prayed that God would restore their sight. The King of Israel asked Elisha if he could kill the enemies, he asked him twice. But Elijah told him No. He told him to meet and eat with them, to share bread; then to send them on their way. And from their the scripture tells us that they did not come back to bother the Israelis again.

I would ask who or what are the enemies who are sniping at us? Poverty? Lack of Education? Would the young men who were shot have been hanging around to be in harms way if we had funded community centers? Would the 23 year old been in the line of fire if he had been allowed a college education and a chance? If the law enforcement officer had received better training, sensitivity training, immersion in a culture alien to him, would the trigger have been pulled?

Dr. Martin Luther King, in his letter from the Birmingham Jail wrote “… I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities.”. “…Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Last evening gave powerful testimony to our interrelatedness. When the national president of the Christian Scientists, gave her testimony of her abduction at gunpoint, of her fear, of her anger, of her trust in God through Christ, and her forgiveness, Chicago fifteen years ago, became the garment worn in Riviera Beach last night. Her terrifying experience of fifteen years ago became the Balm of Gilead for that time and place.

Another mother spoke, she spoke of talking and sharing with the friends of her deceased son. Of listening to “his” music, how it comforted her. She spoke to one of the other mourning mothers, telling how she realized that their sons had known each other. More evidence to the insight of Dr. King’s words, More Balm, more sharing of the ‘garment of destiny”.

I see Bishop Masters stepping into the Elsiha like role, sounding the alarm as to the coming assaults on the Grace and Peace of a community. But the difference here is, I am not sure the “King”, the powers that be today, the commissioners, mayors, developers, CRA people want to receive the message. Its almost like their actions say, so what if some of those people get shot, are displaced, aren’t educated, what do we care about them. Shhh, be quiet, don’t embarrass us.

We need to pray along with Bishop Masters that everyone’s eyes will be opened, so they can see past the enemies encircling them to allow them to see the Armies of God, standing ready to give them the victory. A victory paid for with tears, God’s tears; a victory paid for with blood, God’s Blood.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole

There is a balm in Gilead 

To heal the sin-sick soul
Sometimes I feel discouraged

And think my work's in vain

But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again
Don't ever feel discouraged

For Jesus is your friend

And if you lack of knowledge

He'll ne'er refuse to lend
If you cannot preach like Peter

If you cannot pray like Paul

You can tell the love of Jesus

And say, "He died for all".

Sole Deo Gloria
Alan Clapsaddle

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Talking Points.


Gay Rights.

That's what we're fighting. Right?

We need to fight for the rights of the unborn and protect the family unit, keep it intact. Right?

You know, subscribing to that, it seems pretty easy to be right, and not have to engage in real conversation.

Jesus is a Radical. Jesus is a Revolutionary.

He said Radical things about Compassion, about Loving God, about Loving Others, and the Huge impact that has on a life that dares to strive to those values.

Jesus talked about the homeless and the poor... He didn't talk much about these issues that some people have made "core values" or "litmus tests" to be a "Christian".

We need to Live into Revival!

Revival of and for Justice. I know that abortion as a means of birth control is a tragedy. However, I would never support the government taking away a woman's right to choose. So many "Christians" see abortion as their only concern. I think so many of these people are only "Pro-Life" until the "Life" enters this world.

Tens of thousands of children die every day around the world because they do not have access to clean water.

In response to Matthew 25 - when Jesus said he "was hungry, sick, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, a stranger, and you did not take care of me". He says "when you failed to help the least of these, you have done it to me." I can just here the people on the "right" say - Lord, if you insist, I guess we can form a committee to come up with a measured response, within strict parameters with limits.

After all "God helps those who help themselves" - that's Biblical....Isn't it?

Not from the Gospel I know.

Jesus never asked anyone what they thought about the legal definition of marriage.

I believe that the sanctity of all life is of the highest importance.

I believe you have never looked into the eyes of anyone Jesus doesn't love, you have never encountered anyone Christ did not die to save. No one.

I believe we have a sacred duty, a Gospel based calling to help ALL the members of God's family, especially the poor.

We need to claim the truth of Jesus' Nazareth Manifesto - Luke 4 - He said " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor." Let's put it this plainly - whatever we preach, whatever we do, if it is not good news to the poor - It Is NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Living water... It takes one US Dollar to provide clean water for an African for a year. Harken back to the crucifixion, the manifest sign of Christs' sacrifice when Water and Blood flowed.

It is this "outpouring", this passion, that will water the seeds of Revival. It is germinating in people who are unable to find relevance in denominational, safe, Westernized Christianity. It has no cost, it's not Radical, it's not Revolutionary. This emasculated form of being church is, by in large, failing to change hearts, it fails to transform. The Revival and the geyser of energy that erupts from it comes through those who discern the truth "through the lens of the Cross" - viewing all things mindful of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Our nation has been so richly blessed, why is it we think 'might makes right', why is it we feel the need to be validated by a form of church designed to make us feel Righteous and Right versus Needing and Yearning for a Gospel that will transform us, change us, our minds, our priorities, our politics, of the direction of the Nation.

Who are we? How do we identify ourselves - by being right? By being part of a political party?

That is not what Jesus calls us to. Jesus is so Radical, he calls us together in community, to come along side 'parakletos', to join hands together to fight injustice.

We are a New Testament people, we are past the condemnation of the Law. We are freed by saving grace! This knowledge can free us to do awesome things.

Robert Jarvik said - "Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them. They make the impossible happen."

We need to be leaders of faith! We need to do what we know Jesus has called us to do, and not be concerned how we will be viewed in some groups eyes. We need to be free to take risks and abandon ourselves to practice Agape love.

I was blessed to be part of the community and serve at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama. This is one of the churches Dr. Martin Luther King addressed his letter from the Birmingham Jail to the pastors of. Where the Elders opened the doors to everyone. That church today is a thriving example of a Downtown Church, of Urban Justice Ministry. The church lost a large number of members when it took that position, and was subject to a lot of negativity from people who knew they were "right". But the church followed the call of Christ. Parenthetically, none of the churches to whom King wrote the letter, who failed to heed his call survive today.

The stance they took was not easy at the time, but following Christ is a Revolutionary thing to do. There is nothing more radical than the "Sermon on the Mount." It turns the whole of social order upside down, it changed everything, and us with it. Economics, Social Status, Spirituality, Personal Relations, and Politics, as they were understood, were reordered.

Blessed are the Poor.
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for Justice.
Blessed are the Peacemakers.

The Spirit of Revival is bubbling up from a group of predominantly younger people, who are tired of luke-warm Christianity. Of being told they are better than someone else, or living the lie that they are always right.

Being White, Male, Suburban, and Right-wing Republican wasn't the only blessed status God had in mind. But the Left doesn't get it either. The Left is terrified of out loud Spirituality. They are afraid of a faith that changes everything through the power of a Servant Leader. They don't like a faith that is neither in their camp, or the other, and owes it allegiance to God alone. How can we learn to communicate such a Radical Vision, if we can't figure out how to talk about how it has changed our lives?

I think the answer begins with Confession and Repentance. We need to Confess the Sin of depending on the Government rather than God to protect us, to care for us when we get old. When we do this its the same as saying "Jesus - we don't think you are capable of caring for us. Lord, I believe in you, but..."

We need to look for our validation in Jesus - not in being judged right by the right people in society. We need to not do things just to have ourselves acknowleged as worthy by these people - Doing so is an affront to the Gospel. We need to own and live into the assurance that what Jesus did was enough. Enough to purchase my freedom. Enough to free me up for amazing things. Even enough to free me up to care about and for people in Africa.

Christ's Mission needs to be our mission. His Priority needs to be our Priority.

His Grace is Sufficient.

We are a church tradition born out of Social Activism. Do you know where the term 'altar call' comes from?

It comes from 19th Century Evangelist Charles Finney calling people forward to sign petitions to abolish slavery.

We need to make the Cause To End Poverty and Homelessness the New Altar Call.

It should be the cause that brings us together to the Altar.

We need to show our Conversion, our Love of Christ, by Living Out our concern for those who Jesus talked about The Most.

Sole Deo Gloria