Brenda talked about the nature of leadership and asked whether it is something we are born with or if it is something that we can cultivate. She then added a third possibility: timing. She told us about an African expression: “What called you forth?” In other words, “Why are you here, and why now?” God has an ideal plan for you, and you are here “for such a time as this.” She challenged us all to respond to the calling on our lives!
Today we were blessed to hear the Word of God preached to us through the Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil. In Greg’s introduction of her he made several preliminary comments to set the stage.
First he listed several things that Christ’s life, death and resurrection accomplished. These included: the forgiveness of sin, the power to transform, reconciliation of human beings to God, and reconciliation of human beings to each other—that is, the reversal of what happened at the tower of Babel.
Then he discussed a bit of backlash that he received as a result of his promotion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week. Greg received an angry email that expressed frustration at WH pushing racial reconciliation.
Unfortunately, Greg responded out of his own frustration rather than out of love. Fortunately, through the wise counsel of other leaders in the church Greg wrote a follow up apology and received a much kinder note back as well. Several things to notice about all this are:
1. to acknowledge that doing the right thing sometimes means facing resistance.
2. to acknowledge that responding to resistance MUST be done out of love, even though that may be very difficult. MLK Jr. was an exemplar of this sort loving, non-violent resistance.
3. it is critical that we realize that the overt opposition of a few people who would discourage us from fighting racism is not the real problem we face. Rather, the apathy that the majority of us feel about this issue is the real problem. Racism is not primarily about the KKK or other hate groups. It is a serious structural component in our society and we are all involved in it in one way or another. It gives us a false sense of innocence when we identify “those racist types” and exclude ourselves when it comes to how this racialized society impacts us as individuals.
On to Dr. McNeil’s message:
The central question addressed in this message was, “Who? ME?” and the answer was, “YES! You.” To get us thinking Dr. McNeil talked briefly about the nature of leadership and asked whether it was something we are born with or if it is something that we can cultivate in ourselves and each other…She then added a third possibility that might not otherwise occur to us: timing. To get at the idea that timing can create leadership she told us about an African expression, “What called you forth?” By this it is meant, why are you here, why now? The idea behind this question is that God has a plan for you and you have been placed here “for such a time as this.” MLK Jr. is a good example of a leader made by timing. It could have been any number of people, but Martin was there and willing. God would have used someone else if Martin was unwilling, but Martin did not let his destiny pass him by, he responded and obeyed.
While preaching from Esther 4:4-14, Dr. McNeil made several important points for our time:
There are times when a woman needs to say “no” and walk away. King Xerxes put his wife in a position like this. He had thrown a party and then wanted to show her off to those in attendance. She refused and was banished. Dr. McNeil’s point was that when it comes to respecting yourself and retaining dignity as a child of God, walk out if someone wants to objectify you in some way.
So the king has lost his queen and seeks another. He holds a beauty contest of sorts and Esther wins. The problem is, Esther is Jewish but the king does not know this. The problem with being Jewish is that the highest of the king’s officials has put out an order to have the Jews destroyed. If it is completed, Haman will pay a handsome sum into the king’s treasuries. Mordicai, Esther’s father, becomes aware of Haman’s plans and tries to tell Esther so that she might persuade the King not to allow this destruction of the Jews. Mordicai gives Esther the ultimatum, do something to save your people or else you may pass by your destiny and your family will be destroyed (see vs. 4:14). God will still deliver the Jews through someone else, but you will have missed your chance to do your part in God’s plans.
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