I originally preached this sermon sometime in the Spring of 1994 (I think). The original title was We Were Once Slaves, Now What?. I modified this sermon and changed a few things (tho not enough, I found out) to make it more current. Basically I just changed the end, but pretty much, it's the same sermon from a while ago. And when I first preached, this was one of the "political sermons" that people used to complain about. Go figure.
Good morning, my scripture this morning will be taken from the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, verses 7 through 12 and verses 20 through 25. That's Deuteronomy, the 6th chapter, verses 7 through 12 and verses 20 through 25. And it reads:
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you-- a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant-- then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (MOVING TO THE 20TH VERSE) In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?" tell him: "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders-- great and terrible-- upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness."
Our topic this morning is:
Let us pray:
Dear heavenly father. We come to you this morning on a never ending quest. A quest to become closer to you. A quest to learn more about your nature. A quest to learn why, in spite of all that we have done against you, you continue to bestow your graciousness and loving spirit upon us. We are on a quest this morning, to find out why you love us as you do. We are on a quest to discover more about ourselves, the abilities and powers you gave us. We are on a quest to uncover that which is covered before us. We wish to release those things that have tied us down in the past. We wish to let go of those things that nag at us and keep us from being the type of people that you want us to be. You have made all things possible, Father, and we as your children act ungrateful at times. But we are here to say this morning that we are eternally grateful, for giving the opportunity to exist in a world where your goodness abounds and your just nature prevails even in the times when we can see only darkness. We are grateful that you allowed us to have a free will, allowing to make our own mistakes and rejoice in our successes. We are grateful that you give us that little push, when we need to get going, and a pull when we need to slow down. Father we ask this morning that you not let your sacrifice, the sacrifice of your son Jesus the Christ be in vain. Help us to how that we were, are, and can yet be worthy of that gift. Help us in our quest this morning, Lord. You have brought us and our people out of a lot of problems, and we realize that there are other problems yet to come. But you said that all we have to do is believe in your son, and all will be right. So we ask you this morning, while we are on our quest, while we are on our search for knowledge, that you continue to work, with, in and through us. We ask that you give us the sight to let us see, the will so that we will do, and the words to say, so that we have ever glorify you and your Son, Jesus the Christ. All of this we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.
We have here Moses handing down instructions to the people of Israel, once again telling them how they should not only act in accordance with themselves, but how they should view and treat God. God, by way of Moses, is constantly giving the people of Israel new commandments, in addition to the ten commandments that God gave Moses.
One has to wonder why is it necessary for God to keep giving the people the commandments. You would think that he told them once, and really shouldn't have had to tell these people more than once. But for some reason, the Israelites kept whining and complaining about there state. But had indeed delivered them from a situation that kept praying to be delivered from. Then once it happened, God had to remind them of all that He had done for them.
God, through Moses, directs the children of Israel to keep steadfast to his commandments. He tells them that in order to have and enjoy a long life, all they must do is keep his commandments. They are commanded, as Jesus commanded us in the New Testament scriptures, to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul and might. We are commanded to love the Lord with every ounce of love and faithfulness that we have inside of us.
He also gives them another direction in order to insure that their lives are profitable and happy. He directs them to pass the information onto their children, so that they will understand and appreciate all that God has done for them. He tells them to talk about the goodness and grace of God wherever they go and in everything that they do.
But the 20th verse gives definite direction in passing on information to the children. The children were to be told of how they were once slaves and how God performed miracles in order so that they might have the land that God promised to the forefathers. Then the scripture says "The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness."
Sometimes, in Christianity, there is a tendency to throw out the Old testament as outdated and irrelevant. But we must realize that there is a lot in the Old Testament that applies directly to black people in this country and situations that we have found ourselves in as a group. We see the correlation to being a chosen people, the correlation to slavery and the freedom from slavery, the correlation to having been put through the ringer time and time again, but yet in still, God always brings us through.
There is one big difference however. The Israelites were the chosen people of the Bible at the time. God was communicating directly to them in order that they might have patience until the time that they were delivered from the hands of Pharaoh.
But once God delivered them from Egypt, some of the Israelites began to act ungrateful. They began whining about how good they had it under Pharaoh, and how there was always something to eat and drink. Never mind that they were persecuted because of their religion, never mind the fact that they were beaten on a regular basis, and never mind that they prayed to God on a daily basis to ask to be removed from the situation that they were in. For some reason they still found time to complain.
But God promised that they would be delivered from Pharaoh and that he would give them a land just for them. A land that will be prosperous and will suit the purposes of the Israelites perfectly. Somehow, that still wasn't enough.
The scriptures here remind us to always pay homage to Him that brought us out of our misery. Previous to the 20th verse, God, again by way of Moses, tells us that they should tell everyone about the miracles that God has given them. He tells them that they should proclaim God's greatness by hanging the news on their doorstep, on their place of business, in their house, anywhere where someone would be able to see testimony of the goodness that God has done for them.
And the children are to be reminded and told about how it once was, how they came through it, who brought them through and how they should be thankful for God bringing their fathers and forefathers out of Egypt.
The situation of the Israelites reveals many similarities between them and the black people of America. We too are a people that have been delivered from the wretched toils of slavery. We too are a disjointed people still complaining about all that God has not given us when he in fact has given us so much. We too are a people who are divided not only in our religious circles, but in our general communities as well. For us, slavery ended many, many years ago, yet for some reason, a lot of us still act like we are slaves.
Black people in America carry around the evils of slavery like a badge. Despite the fact that none of us today were ever slaves, despite the fact that our ancestors were freed from slavery over 120 years ago, we still act like the quote unquote white man still has us enslaved.
Now, instead of learning from the mistakes of slavery, we use it to make people, especially white people, feel guilty for the ills that have begotten our community. Never mind the fact that we all hold some sort of responsibility for our own actions. Never mind the fact that we hold the keys to our own individual salvation. It is much easier to blame someone else for our problems than to admit that we had something to do with it ourselves.
So we are no longer slaves, now what? What do we do? How do we throw off the shackles of mental and economic slavery. How do we escape the evils that we see on our nightly news reports and read in our newspapers? What are we to do?
One would ask in response to these questions, well, where is the black leadership? Where are the Martin Kings, Malcolm X's, the DuBois', the Marcus Garvey's and other vanguards who lead our communities so beautifully from the 30's through the early 70's? Obviously they must be around, be we don't know where they are.
One problem is that there is no blatant enemy any more. The evil white man who kept us from voting, who kept us from sitting in the front of the bus, who kept us from eating where we wanted to or from drinking from whatever water fountain we chose. That white man is gone. He is no more. As an old saying goes, you cannot fight an enemy you cannot see.
Since there is no obvious enemy any more, our so called black leadership jumps around from issue to issue trying to find one to hold on to and hopefully, one that will serve as a rallying cry for the masses of black people.
That rallying cry used to be heard on our street corners and in our churches. That rallying cry used to be preached from the pulpits of the black churches. But it seems now that the masses of black church members are no longer interested in hearing what is affecting our communities. It seems that once politics are addressed in the church, all of the sudden people's attention begins to get diverted, conversations get louder and Bibles begin to open. Maybe it's just me, but I think it's time to tell the truth.
The truth is we have an apathetic community. A community who is more interested in hearing rhetoric than the actualities of our situations. We would rather hear someone spew forth lines about what they claim they do, than to actually go out with that person and walk with them in their efforts. We would rather complain and make slanderous remarks about what we think that someone is doing, rather that going up to that person and asking them what we can do to help them. But maybe it's just me.
We would rather hear the good things that are in the Bible. Things that will make us laugh. things that will make us love, things that won't make us think too much. But Rev. Brown said to me once that maybe we need to bring Hell back into the church. Minister Louis Farrakhan said that maybe we need to start shaking up the black community and force it to face the realities of what is going on. Other ministers and public leaders will say that it is time to remove ourselves from our comfortable positions, watching the ills of the ghettos from our television screens instead of seeing them from our comfortable living rooms. People say that it is time to make people uncomfortable, force them to think about what they have and how they got it, and how other people, especially our children, our not getting it. Maybe it's me, but I think they're right.
We need to become more pro-active instead of reactive. We need to address the potential for problems instead of redress the incidents that have already happened. It is not good enough to say how much of a shame it is when of our children gets killed. It is not enough to say that we ought to be doing more for the community and our children after one of them gets into trouble. We need to stop talking about doing something and just do it. We need to stop saying that we will give our support to something and not give that support. We need to stop giving lip service to our problems. We need to stop complaining about the problems and start coming up with solutions.
So what are the solutions? What can we do to prevent certain things from happening? Well, in the scriptures we have God telling us through Moses that we should tell our children about what has been done for us. We are told to sit down with our children and communicate with them and tell them about what has transpired. We are also instructed to post God's commandments on our hands, on our head and on our homes. We are also instructed to remember God in all of the things that we have been given that we ourselves did not cultivate. Because we all try to say, "I did this, and I did that" and "I did it all myself." But we do nothing of and by ourselves. It is God who gives us the means. It is God who gives us the ability. It is God that gives us the method and reasoning to do anything and everything that we do. And for us to assume that we do any of it of and by ourselves is abhorrent.
So the solution to our problems is first and foremost a preventative one. We all quote the scripture, Train up a child in the way that they should go. But we need have more communication with our children. We need to listen more and talk less. We need to stop treating our children and others as if they don't have a brain in their heads.
We need to instill in our children a firm commitment to God. We need to fill them with the knowledge of the mistakes of the past so that they can begin to make the strides of our future. We need to explain to them, in blaring detail, what our people have done in our past to get us where we are now. We need to stop letting television and radio being substitute parents and begin to have open, honest dialogues with our children.
We also need to stop going for the rhetoric that we hear, not only in our churches but in our everyday life. We need to stop paying homage to the person to tells us only what we want to hear, and start listening to the person who may hurt our feelings a bit and make us uncomfortable. After all, we must realize that one of the reasons that Jesus was persecuted in the manner in which he was is because Jesus was not afraid to make the Romans uncomfortable. Jesus was not afraid to rattle feathers here and there. Jesus was not afraid to cause trouble to those who opposed him.
Because Jesus had the commandments and decrees of the law not only written on his head and on his hands, but on his tongue and more importantly in his heart. Jesus never went in for the rhetoric that people enjoyed hearing or that was being put forth by the Roman government.
So I challenge you this morning to stop listening to the rhetoric. I challenge you to establish a relationship with God and Jesus based on honesty, based on truthfulness. I challenge you to establish a relationship with God and Jesus that is devoid of self- delusion and self-denial. I challenge you to be willing to take on those issues that are not very easy to deal with, I challenge you this morning to do that which is not easy, simple or comfortable to do. For Jesus did not take the easy road, nor did he take the safe road. Jesus did what was necessary, sometimes going way out of his way to do that which was in accordance with God's commandments.
So instead of complaining about what you don't have, give God the praise for what you do have. Give God the praise for bringing you this far along the way. Give God the praise for bringing from where you were to where you are now. Give God the praise for all of the little things that He has done for you. Give Him the praise for looking out for you when you couldn't look out for yourself.
Then tell everyone. Tell everyone about the marvelous things that have happened to you. Tell them about the blessings you received even when you did not deserve it. Tell your children how God has changed your life. Tell your children how anything can be done with God. And don't just stop there. Tell the stranger on the street, your co- worker, your neighbor, anyone you can about the goodness and grace of God. Then invite them to be a part of God's kingdom. Invite them to be a part of the saving grace that we know in Christ Jesus. Invite every one you see to come to know the Lord like we know the Lord. Invite them to be a witness to the miraculous things that God is going to accomplish for us. Invite them to become a part of God's family. (Do invitation)
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