I come to you this week with a deep sadness and troubled spirit by the events that have unfolded over the senseless death of Mr. George Floyd. There seems to be a consistent theme of unwarranted violence against people of color in our society and in our world today. As one stated: “We recognize that sustained and systematic racism is a national and global crisis.”
In these protests, I see much anger, frustration, and pain which may be accentuated by the pandemic, but it is more deeply rooted in our inability to love one another as God has shown love to us. We often choose to love others from a distance and what we get in return is misunderstanding, marginalization and mayhem. Is it not only when we truly invest in relationship with others of a different color, creed or race, that we truly come to understand and value them?
I support the peaceful protest of those choosing to speak out. In the weekly video update, I shared what is written in Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV): Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
I must admit that I had a hard time looking past the looting and destruction of property. As always, it seems that even now those who need the most help and need to be listened to are being taken advantage of economically, politically and even socially.
Furthermore, while many police officers are trying to faithfully carry out their responsibilities, the violent act against George Floyd, which led to his death, is happening far too often. Certainly, this is not the kind of world we want to live in; filled with fear and suspicion. Surely there is a longing in our souls to seek peace and be people of love; people God has called us to be.
Is it not our call to stand for, kneel with, and speak out for the members of our Black community, all people of color, and those unable to fend for themselves? I cannot speak for you, but this week I have been doing a bit of self-reflection and I have asked God to forgive me when I have not been the person of love God has called me to be. I have asked for God to forgive me and help me make this world more like the kingdom we pray for every week in the Lord’s prayer; a kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven,” where all people have worth, value and dignity. Remember what is written in Revelation 7:9 (NIV): After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. I long for that kingdom to come, not only in the future but NOW!
Published on Thursday, June 11, 2020 @ 2:52 PM EDT
When I got home today, I heard about another incident involving a black man and a white police officer. There are a lot of different things being said, and there will be a lot more things said I am sure. No matter how you comment, there are going to be those that disagree or even misunderstand what you might be trying to say.
I just began re-reading a book by Leroy Barber titled Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World. In this book he recounts the tragic killing of eight people at the Emmanuel AME Church in South Carolina. He admits he was stunned as he heard family member after family member say “You took something very precious from me...but I forgive you, may God have mercy on your soul.” “You hurt a lot of people, but I forgive you. May God have mercy on you.” And from one woman, “I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m angry. We have no room for hate. I pray God on your soul.”
Jesus tells us to love our enemies. And even if we are unwilling to love our enemies, God’s love can still win our enemies and leave us...well, lost. Case in point is the story of Jonah. He hated the Ninevites. He wanted to see them destroyed, yet God provided them salvation, and well, we aren’t sure of how Jonah’s heart ended up. This is all I know, the book of Jonah and many other things in the Bible clearly show us that God’s love, mercy and grace have no boundaries.
As Barber puts it, “there is no such thing as a ‘Godforsaken’ place.” In our world of slogans, “black lives matter,” “Blue lives matter,” and then someone getting the group together to “#Alllivesmatter”. Well guess what? God said that a long time ago.
I don’t dare guess how this incident will turn out, but here is what I suggest: Don’t get caught up in the malicious bantering back and forth that is sure to happen. Instead pray God’s mercy on every soul. Admit you’re angry, but don’t allow room for hate – instead forgive. And pray, pray that the hard-hearted racists will come to Christ. Pray for the broken neighborhoods that turn out gangs. Pray that we don’t prejudge people because of our prejudice. And pray that when a hate crime is done, or an injustice committed, that we can know Christ and be like His followers from Emmanuel AME Church, and we can forgive and still offer the mercy of Jesus. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy...on ME. – Barry
Published on Thursday, June 4, 2020 @ 12:59 PM EDT
The quote, “I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future,” is attributed to Homer, yet many of us take our cue from similar words recorded in the Old Testament. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, wrote “For I know the plans I have for you...plans to give you a future and hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 paraphrased)
These words of assurance provide comfort and remind us WHO holds our hand as we take the next step along our separate journeys. When we trust God, though our futures may seem uncertain, God’s Truth proclaims that the outcome of each individual’s destiny is not uncertain!
By God’s grace I have had the privilege of sharing unforgettable memories with many of you over the past seven years. I will miss my First-Centenary Church family, and it is with my deepest gratitude that I say “thank you” for every moment we have shared. Together, surrounded by great clouds of witnesses, we’ve experienced the kind of joys and sorrows that will shape us for years to come.
As we continue during these trying times, I pray that our Lord’s presence will provide infinite ‘Balm for every Gilead’ you encounter. May you prayerfully enter each day ‘knowing who holds the future,’ and claiming God’s assurance as your mantra (more powerfully than before). I pray that you discern “Spiritual Sabbath” from “Spiritual Isolation,” while understanding that physical distancing has its place.
I will be retiring this year at Annual Conference. Please know that as I begin a new phase beyond First-Centenary, my ministry here will always be a time of special reflection and source of inspiration. You are forever loved and especially cherished!
Shalom and Amen – Dr. Linda I. McDaniel
Published on Thursday, May 28, 2020 @ 1:40 PM EDT
Hello everyone! I hope you all are staying safe and are still remaining rock solid in your faith. Wow! Who would have thought we would have already had 8 online worship experiences?! Please remember that we will still be worshipping online at least through May 31 and possibly longer. All activities at the church will be suspended at least through May 31 as well.
I have leaned on the following persons and groups for support and guidance: Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor, Governor Bill Lee, local government officials, scientific data from the CDC, the Executive Team of FCUMC, and one scripture in particular; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NRSV)
As one wrote: “During this pandemic, love for ourselves is expressed in the ways we protect ourselves from getting infected. In the same way, love for our neighbor is expressed in the ways we protect them from getting infected.”
As you know, things are changing on a daily basis and this virus seems to be choosing new candidates to attack like our children. I am going to share a possible strategy for re-opening the church when that time comes but please know that this may change depending on the level of infection in the Chattanooga area.
I am proposing a four phased plan. We are already in Phase One with online services only and all activities at the church suspended. In Phase Two, we hope to have small groups with specified numbers gather and limited numbers in Worship. This phase is dependent on the guidance we receive from the Bishop and from state and local officials.
In Phase Two we will practice social distancing and wear face masks while on the FCUMC campus. Why? See Matthew 22:37-39 again please. Phase Three will be less restrictive and Phase Four will allow us to resume in person ministries.
Of course we move backwards or forward from one phase to the next with prayer and guidance from all available sources. I hope this information helps. I will provide a more detailed plan in the near future. In the meantime, I offer the following prayer from ll Thessalonians 1:11-12 for you: “To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Published on Friday, May 22, 2020 @ 2:05 PM EDT
For our anniversary this year Judy had some old Kodak slides (yes, the one you put in a slide projector) and sent them off to be converted into pictures. Does anyone still have a slide projector? Anyway, the slides were of me when I was very young. I had a burr haircut and was always the smallest one in the picture. I also saw pictures of my grandparents, my dad and mom. They all look so young but when I was growing up they all looked so old!
I had time to reflect on my mom. She was young and healthy. Unfortunately the last few years of her life were filled with pain and suffering. There was a new drug on the market that was to be a miracle drug but also had a severe side effect which was addiction. Add to this a battle with weight and my mom was often facing struggle after struggle. Yet, through all these struggles she still kept her faith and hope alive! She had a deep faith that God was good and would not let her go. I learned so much about faith from watching her face the battle of life each day with the grace of God. Sometimes she did well and other times she failed miserably but she always faced each day, trusting God and depending on God’s grace.
One of her favorite Bible verses was Lamentations 3:19-26: The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. I come to remind you that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases! God’s mercies never come to an end! We have a God whose love will not let us go!
Please note that Worship services will be online April 26 and May 3. All activities at the church have been suspended thru April 30. The Holston Conference has been postponed (date to be determined). Keep Hope alive this week.
Published on Friday, April 24, 2020 @ 2:49 PM EDT