Statement To Lebanon City Council

Presented at Lebanon City Council Meeting on Tuesday, May 26, 2020

I am The Rev. Dr. Karen Ruth Schaeffer, Pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and board member of Pleasant Square Development, LLC

During the recent Lebanon High School graduation ceremony Superintendent Yohey pointed out the motto of Lebanon City Schools, Lebanon Warriors Build Community! Today, we Lebanon Warriors have a unique opportunity for community building!I trust we will not miss this moment of opportunity.

Bethel, African Methodist Episcopal Church was irreparably damaged by fire in Dec. 2017… Nevertheless, Bethel has persevered with our strategic plan to BUILD UP GOD’S BELOVED COMMUNITY. We submitted the only unsolicited proposal in response to the city’s request for qualifications to build in the Pleasant Square neighborhood in April 2018.

Our proposal in response to RFQ#18-1821 included intergenerational space for worship, learning and empowerment  on the Cherry St. and Pleasant Square property… also a junior high sized gym/multipurpose room and classrooms as well as co-working space and… a business incubator. We proposed to build homes at the corner of New and Mechanic St.; along with outdoor green space and a community garden.

Our first “Think Pleasant Square” community input session in Oct. 2018 was attended by people who live, own homes, work or worship in the neighborhood and was also attended by city staff. As you may recall, participants expressed excitement about our plans to maximize economic vitality. Our commitment to restore homes, (owned or rented), to former beauty, and to build new high quality homes with costs defrayed by sweat equity if necessary, was welcomed and supported by neighbors…

We were told that the church could not acquire the land as proposed due to separation of church and state, (which we support), so, we formed a separate business, Pleasant Square Development, LLC. (PSD) made agreements with builders who were equipped and prepared to build homes that addressed the city’s desire to have upscale homes while maintaining alignment with the value of existing homes. We were then told that our builders, though highly qualified and experienced, were not acceptable, and that home buyers could not be given tax abatement, nor could PSD purchase the land at a reduced price …so…

We revised our plan again to meet the criteria we were told would be necessary. Then we were told our plan was too complex and we were advised to talk with a Warren County official about tax implications.

So…we had that talk with the Warren County official. City staff called the next week to say that Bethel AME Church could buy the N. Cherry St. lots at their full assessed value and the city would release the larger Mechanic and New St. property for city development through a new (now the current) RFQ process. We were told this was our only option to acquire any of the land.

So, Bethel paid $48,000.00 to acquire less than an acre of  land, and told city staff, that we remain committed to the community building restorative work described in our proposal.

In a nutshell Lebanon Warriors, to Pleasant Square Development, LLC the answer was no when it came to..

  1. our suggestion of multi-family homes;
  2. to a cost break on land;
  3. to tax abatement for builders or home buyers, and
  4. to homes in a cost range accessible to first time buyers or people who earn moderate incomes.

Now we read news that current plans include access and opportunity that was clearly denied to Pleasant Square Development, LLC and our building collaborators. We do not know this to be true, so we have come to find out whether,

  1. $300,000.00-$400,000.00  multifamily homes are to be built.
  2. Whether 1.5 acres is to be sold for $1.00.
  3. Whether there is to be a 10 year tax abatement plan…

Regardless of what builder is chosen by you, our duly elected officials, as Lebanon Warriors we are committed to building community together. We are committed to helping with the plan to revitalize the Pleasant Square neighborhood. We are here to help make sure the needs and desires of the Lebanon Warriors in Pleasant Square are front and center; to make sure that existing homes, families and organizations are included! We are excited about helping to make sure that whoever builds on the land (that, ironically, some of the families lost due to needing tax relief), will bring job opportunities to the neighborhood residents through hiring, apprenticeships, mentoring etc. We are here to help communicate in and with the neighborhood to make sure that decisions are enriched by the viewpoints of diverse Lebanon Warriors. We are here to help shape the decisions that will shape our everyday lives, …Most importantly…we are Lebanon Warriors who live or serve in the Pleasant Square neighborhood and we will continue to be present and to speak as we build up our community together.

As Bethel’s pastor, and member of Pleasant Square Development. I contend that our current context is, embedded in and inextricably shaped by our historic struggle to live up to the values expressed in our Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution of the USA. This situation provides us a unique opportunity for community building.

In closing, We are Lebanon Warriors, we have the opportunity to fearlessly challenge the historic reputation of our city as a place where racism, classism and sexism divides us… and to engage together in economic, social, spiritual, and physical revitalization-We have a unique opportunity to unify.…We have a unique opportunity to put to rest historic divisions in order to demonstrate how diverse groups of people come together in a representative democracy- such as the one we are blessed to live in- in order to build “a more perfect union”…We are here to participate in a community where “liberty and justice for all” truly means “all.”  Let’s make true what we say when we recite our pledge of allegiance, let’s make it true that Lebanon Warriors believe in liberty and justice for all!  Let’s make it be true that Lebanon Warriors Build Community together!!  Thank you.

COVID-19 Center

Stay informed about the latest information from about about COVID-19 from trusted sources. Make sure your information comes from reliable sources — your local or national public health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO) website, or your local health professional

Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others, particularly older people and those with underlying medical conditions. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your health and the health of other people. Everyone can follow these recommendations. They are particularly important if you are in an area where people are known to have COVID-19.

1.  Wash your hands frequently
2.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
3.  Cover your cough
4.  Avoid crowded places and close contact with anyone that has fever or cough
5.  Stay at home if you feel unwell
6.  If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early — but call first
7.  Get information from trusted sources

Resources:

Church Preparation and Response to Potential Pandemics

Coronavirus Awareness bulletin inserts

This explores influence of underlying conditions, age and overall health in context of people who have died or recovered from COVID-19. Helpful read and scatter data graphs. Prevention and supportive care, if infected, assist in avoiding fatalities.

You may be overwhelmed w/ info. READ and DO these consistently PLEASE to reduce risk of infection to get sick, or your being a vector to take virus to others who are vulnerable. ️

https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—11-march-2020

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html

Guidance for NJ DCF-Linked Programs in Response to COVID-19


Webinars:

  1. What We Need to Know and Do: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) AMEC Webinar
  2. Webinar #2: What We Need to Know and Do: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
    1. Webinar Powerpoint Presentation:  Download Here

Websites

CDC Coronavirus Response 

Subject Matter Experts Contact Information

A . Oveta Fuller, PhD
African Studies Center, International Institute 
Microbiology and Immunology, Medical School
5618 Medical Sciences 2
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5620
734 647-3830 office;  734 276-1548 international cell

Rev. Miriam J. Burnett, MD, MDiv, MPH 
Pastor, Historic Jones Tabernacle AME Church
Medical Director, AMEC International Health Commission
Tel:  770-328-2002 

Bethel Lebanon purchases land for new church

bethel members

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Lebanon, Ohio, completed the purchase of four lots in the 300 block of N. Cherry St. Lebanon. Closing on this property marks a key milestone as the congregation continues community ministry while preparing to rebuild.

A devastating fire critically damaged Bethel AME’s building at 111 N. Cherry St. in December 2017. After initial planning to restore the historically significant structure, the congregation faced a difficult realization that their beloved building was beyond repair. While taking down the building, we saved as many bricks as possible, and put the antique marble date stone in storage. These will be used to memorialize the generations of people for whom the church that stood from 1861 until 2017 was a central feature of spiritual and community life.

Meanwhile, with the understanding that the church resides in  the people and is not the building, the congregation has persevered. We currently worship and serve the community from a rented store space at 550 Mound Ct. Suite A. We welcome all to join them for worship any Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m.

While recovering from the fire, Bethel’s members have remained committed to serving the community. In 2018 we responded to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from the city of Lebanon with a proposal to obtain and develop vacant city-owned land in the Pleasant Square neighborhood near where the original church once stood. This proposal included rebuilding the church in a new location to focus on neighborhood renewal via multi-purpose spaces for worship, life-long learning, co-working and a gym/community center.

Although the property included in today’s purchase is only a portion of the land from the original RFQ, Bethel will use the land acquired in the 300 block of Cherry Street to  begin the vision described in the Pleasant Square Development proposal. This work honors the legacy of the long-time neighbors who once occupied the land. The important connection of Bethel AME Church to properties on N. Cherry Street include memories of Wilbur Singleton, Richard Singleton, and Mrs. Bertie Smith, who were lifelong active members of Bethel AME Church. It is believed that other long-time friends of Bethel AME Church, also occupied some of this property over time.

The Singleton Family can trace their membership at Bethel A.M.E. Church back to when the church was first founded. Three generations of Singleton descendants are currently active members at Bethel and are highly involved in the Lebanon community.

Wilbur and Louise Singleton owned property at 321 N. Cherry Street and raised their family of 6 children there. The house was always filled with wonderful aromas from the kitchen where Louise, a self-taught master chef, prepared meals. They entertained a huge extended family of grandchildren almost every weekend. Holidays were extra special. Wilbur worked at Armco, French Bauer Diary, the old Charles Meis Shoe Factory, GHR Foundry in Dayton, and at the Lebanon Museum.

Richard Singleton along with his wife Cora raised their family just three houses away from his Uncle Wilbur at 313 N. Cherry Street. He was a faithful member of Bethel AME Church. The Annual Fish Fry was his fundraiser for the church and he, family and friends would catch all the fish served. The ladies of the church would prepare the side dishes. Richard worked for the US Postal Service in Lebanon as a Postman and he was heavily involved it the Youth Sports Programs in Lebanon.

Miss Bertie Smith lived at 319 N. Cherry Street and was a devoted member of Bethel AME Church. Other members of the Smith family lived at 315 N. Cherry Street and were also members of Bethel AME Church.

As the congregation prepares to rebuild in the neighborhood once occupied by some of their ancestors, we celebrate the opportunity to welcome and work with diverse people in order to develop spiritual, social and physical well-being in the community as a legacy for future generations. Over the next few months we expect to break ground for the initial phase of their rebuilding process.

To learn more, or to become involved in the rebuilding effort, you can leave a message for Bethel AME Church of Lebanon at 513-932-7919 or email bethellebanoname@gmail.com.

 

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Transition of Bishop McKinley Young

bishopyoung

“Servant of God well done!
Rest from thy loved employ;
The battle fought, the victory won,
Enter thy Master’s joy.”

The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church acknowledging and surrendering to the will of God, announce that Bishop McKinley Young, the Senior Bishop and the 109th Elected and Consecrated Bishop, made his transition to the church triumphant on Wednesday, January 16, 2019.

The Council of Bishops asks that the connectional church, join with us in prayer for Supervisor Dr. Dorothy Young, children, grandchildren, siblings and family that God will comfort them in their loss, and give them His peace. We also ask you to lift in prayer the Third Episcopal District as they have lost their Episcopal Leader.

Decommissioning Service

On this day, Dec. 16, 2018, as we gather to decommission the church building at 111 North Cherry Street, we give honor to God with gratitude for all those who have served at Bethel AME Church of Lebanon in the past, those who are serving now,  and those who will serve as we continue the ministries into which we are called.

Newsfeed from Dec. 13, 2017 reads as follows:

Firefighters had to battle bitter cold, an icy parking lot and flames as the 156-year-old Bethel A.M.E. Church at 111 N. Cherry St. caught fire overnight. The two-alarm fire sparked off at about 3:40 a.m. Wednesday when a patrol officer noticed smoke and fire coming from the building's second floor, according to Lebanon Fire Chief Steve Johnson. With temperatures hovering around 17 degrees, water froze almost instantly on the church parking lot, making a tricky job even more treacherous. Five additional departments lent extra manpower, and salt trucks were called in to treat the pavement. The flames were out in an hour. They were met with heavy fire conditions as soon as they opened the door, Johnson said. They were pushed back by fire. With nobody inside the building, there were no injuries. Firefighters have not yet determined a cause for the fire. Fire investigators said the building will be saved even though the second floor collapsed. [We have since learned that this last statement is not correct.]

Over time we have learned that the structural damage to the building is beyond our means to repair. Therefore, it is with great sadness and resolve that we say goodbye to the historically significant building that served as a sacred gathering place for worship, fellowship and ministry for a century and a half. Nevertheless, on this Third Sunday of Advent one year after the fire, we thank God for the capacity for joy as we praise God for bringing us through this experience stronger and better prepared to build up God’s Beloved Community in a new sanctuary that by faith we will build as we continue to serve in Jesus’ Holy name.

The mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is to minister to the social, spiritual, and physical development of all people by spreading Christ’s liberating gospel through word and deed.

Bethel AME Church
Temporarily Located at
550 Mound Ct.
Lebanon, Ohio
(513) 932-7919
www.BethelLebanon.org
bethellebanoname@gmail.com

Update from Bethel

Dear Friends,

We hope this letter finds you and your family doing well. We are so excited to share with you the amazing things happening at Bethel AME Church.

As we approach the 6 month anniversary of the church fire, Bethel has persevered. We have landed on our feet and have maintained our worship services despite the fire. The Lebanon United Methodist Church assisted us the day of the fire by letting officers of the church meet with First Responders and contractors to secure our church. They also hosted a prayer service the evening of the fire with Bethel members and community. The Lebanon Theater Company (LTC) extended their facility during the weeks just after the fire. We were able, with the help of the community, to hold our Christmas Food Drive. We had worship services, celebrated Christmas with our Children’s play and held important meetings at LTC. We celebrated the New Year with our sister church, Bethel AME Church of Middletown, for communion. We held our own Bethel AME worship services every week at various locations including Lebanon Presbyterian Church, Resurrection Lutheran Church and the Black Barn greenhouse while we searched for a rental property for our temporary church home. We would like to thank all the churches who extended invitations for us to worship with them during this challenging time.

We were blessed to find a location next to Hair-N-Now on Mound Ct. near Colony Square, not too far from our neighborhood. We have worshiped at 550 Mound Ct. for over 2 months with our first service held on Easter Sunday.

Updates from our church officers

TRUSTEES

Our trustees have worked tirelessly with our insurance company and contractors during the abatement and demolition process. Due to the severely high levels of asbestos found in various materials and fibers in the building, the contents inside of the church were not able to be salvaged. It is truly sad and tragic to have lost the use of the building and to no longer have the items that we treasured is extremely heart breaking.

Although we have suffered many losses, Bethel was blessed to have a faith-based insurance company that has held our hand, prayed with us and assisted us at every point of this process. We are happy to report that our insurance was current at the time of the fire.

FINANCE COMMISSION

The finance committee continues to manage the day to day business of Bethel’s church operations by taking care of monthly bills and expenses. The committee is also overseeing the fire fund account as well as sending out thank you cards to all of our donors. In addition, the committee has created a number of events to help raise money for the rebuilding of Bethel including the Applebee’s Flapjack Fundraiser and Acapulco fundraisers. We have several more fundraising events scheduled for this year at Dairy Queen, Buffalo Wild Wings, Village Parlor and LMM Railroad.

STEWARDS

Our stewards have kept the missions of Bethel running during our displacement. We continue to support the Prodigal Son Ministries community meal on the 4th Tuesday evening of each month. Bethel and a team of volunteers serve the meals to our neighbors and friends at the temporary location of Lebanon Presbyterian Church. Although the Blessing Box was removed during the abatement and demolition project, it will return to Bethel once the renovation is complete. Removal was necessary to prevent anyone from entering the hard hat area and becoming injured. We do encourage everyone to support the Lebanon Food Pantry Blessing Box sponsored by the Girl Scouts located at New Street. Bethel has been blessed during this time to retain its membership. We also welcomed a new member to our church.

Community Support

From providing a space for worship service, to donating food during our holiday food drive, to providing needed items to help with our ministries, our local and regional friends and churches have extended tremendous assistance during this crisis. Recently, Bethany United Church of Christ organized a city wide fundraiser to raise money for our fire fund. The spaghetti dinner was held at the new Lebanon Junior High school where over 500 people attended. Funds from the dinner along with offerings and donations generated that evening brought in $7,000 for Bethel’s fire fund. We are so grateful for the support of local churches and the community. We can’t thank Bethany United Church of Christ enough for their hard work. God has truly blessed us with a great community here in Lebanon.

In the coming months…

Bethel is at a point of making decisions about our historic church. We are so blessed to have friends like you during this challenging time and request your continued prayers. We welcome you to worship with us anytime. Sunday worship begins at 11:00 at 550 Mound Ct. Lebanon Ohio. We have also enclosed a RightNow Media Card were you can access over 15,000 Bible studies libraries with content from over 250 top Christian publishers and ministries for you to use freely. Click here to access RightNow Media.

We thank you for your prayers, generosity and continued support.

Gratitude

The officers and members of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Lebanon, Ohio, extend perpetual gratitude to the first responders of our city and neighboring communities for outstanding professionalism. We are thankful to our connectional AME Church, our town, the ecumenical and interfaith community, our business organizations and civic groups. The many caring individuals and organizations that have donated of time, talent and resources are bringing the potential for restoration and growth into reality! We thank you!

Build Community Now!

Immediately after worship last Sunday…in fact, no sooner then we had exited the sanctuary, a man from our community confronted me. He shot verbal arrows at one of my weak spots. He said he had started to come in earlier but heard “yelling” and left.

Now, the Hebrew scripture lesson on which the sermon of the hour was grounded began with the resounding verse:

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.                                                  Isaiah 58:1 (NRSV)

There’s no secret that passionate prophetic preaching is not the preference of this era. Therefore, I’m certainly not surprised by the man’s complaint, but I am deeply concerned about the spiritual ramifications and the struggle to discern God’s will in the way I live my life and how I act in obedience to God’s Word.

The if-then message that I spoke is roughly summarized below.

BUILD NOW!

God told the prophet Isaiah to shout out…if

…if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.                                                                                                     Isaiah 58:10-12(NRSV)

Isaiah…the prophet writing of the 6th century B.C.E., stood on the shoulders of generations of prophets striving to faithfully proclaim the Word of the Lord. Generation by generation the Holy Spirit inspires the prophet…demands of the prophet a choice…choose this day whom you will serve…The prophet must decide whether or not to give voice to the “if-then” proclamation of God. So today I cry out!

Who among us has been listening to the prophetic voice of Rev. Dr. William Barber II of “Repairing The Breach Ministry” in North Carolina? He challenges God’s people to take a stand. I join him in declaring: this is a time when we cannot allow Christ’s church to be defined by false prophets who claim to speak in Jesus’ name, but speak words directly opposite of what Jesus taught!

Regardless of political persuasion….forget about denominational lines, worship style preferences, theological perspective…liberal, conservative, liberation, progressive, traditional!!! This is a time for all Christians to refuse to allow Christianity to be coopted by haters, to take a good close look at the breach, and to figure out what it is going to take to repair it!

In “Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus”, author, Bishop Michael B. Curry, points out that the commission Jesus has given us is IMPOSSIBLE…we likely agree…Lord how can we? We are weak. We don’t have funds….we are few…others are better equipped…. Our children, our seniors, our weak and vulnerable are at risk!

Well…thank God our ancestors trusted God enough to do the impossible! “We’ve Come this Far by Faith”….Now its time for our generation to Build!

Since waiting until we are strong and free to start building is not an option, God’ Word today provides us with a 3-part blueprint for building now!!!

 

First, to repair the breach; we must build up our spiritual strength… HOW? Cry out to God!

We are connected to one another! All of creation is interconnected…when one suffers, all suffer…we must cry out for each other!

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392

Our participation in healing the breach requires our willingness to CRY OUT! Cry out to God…to seek the way to share with the needy…the way to speak on behalf of the oppressed!

Second build up our spiritual courage (to repair the breach) HOW? Turn back to the law of God.

In this building now adventure we are called to be courageous Christians, recognizing that as we build up God’s beloved community…we will meet with opposition …and we must face our own fears in order to do so.

At first when we read or speak publically, when we testify, when we bring a message or teach a lesson, when we sit at a board room table…we tremble, we fear we won’t get it right…then after a while we figure out…that’s true…we will fail, we will get it wrong sometimes…we won’t make a great impression every time…and realizing that we grow in humble appreciation of the Holy Spirit that continues to urge us on anyway!

The apostle Paul didn’t say it was easy for him to teach the gospel, he said that he trembled…why should we expect not to tremble when we take a stand for what is right and just…

So today! We are called in a time of great uneasiness to take a stand for the truth of God…that is, as the prophet Micah 6:8 said, “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God”…To speak out when injustice is apparently directed toward any of God’s creation! To realize that without kindness there is nothing holy regardless of who is speaking or acting!

Jesus…Mahatma Gandhi…Martin Luther King, Jr. …All taught that the power of love must be the power that is used to overcome evil. Otherwise, the power shift is simply from one manifestation of evil to another manifestation of evil…If we depend upon the unenlightened human concepts of “right” we will always fall into the trap of political or military coup after coup…with perhaps the faces of the oppressed changing from one racial or ethnic group (one tribe) to another depending upon which time period or which part of the globe, but always “wars and rumors of wars”…putting our faith in Jesus Christ means putting our faith in the One whose sword is the Word of God (the Word which is God’s Law!)…The One whose power is in the power to speak worlds into being out of nothing…the One whose power is committed to love and justice for all!

Putting our faith in God’s Word…in Jesus Christ, is putting our faith in the One who will usher in the era in which we will “beat our swords and weapons into plowshares…”

OUR CHARGE TO BUILD NOW requires us to ….feel the fear and do what is right anyway…to speak truth to power in love even when trembling! God’s Word, God’s law promises God will be with us when we do so.

Third build up our spiritual praxis (to repair the breach)

When we cry out to God and turn to God’s law (The Word of God) God will empower us to be repairers of the breach…THE TASK IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR US…BUT WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!

No amount of rote or habitual practice of Christian behaviors will earn us salvation…the only salvation is in genuine embodiment of the Christ …drinking the whole cup…eating the whole loaf…living as Jesus teaches us to live. Embodying love and justice.

Bruce Birch and Richard Wilke, in Disciple II, the chapter on “Protecting the Powerless” discuss how the law of God and the civil laws enacted by the people of Ex. & Duet. were purposed to set them apart from the power mongering surrounding top-down authoritarian governments…to organize them as communities situated to remember that they came out of slavery…that they were to commit to compassion…caring for the poor…bringing many voices into decision making…insuring that their legal systems were modeled on commitment to social justice. The structures they put into place were shaped intentionally to, as the commentator said, “turn the world upside down.”

The hungry man who came to our discipleship discussion/fellowship last week…”turned our way of perceiving upside down.” He pointed us toward the love chapter in Cor. What good does it do if we give all we have to feed the poor…but have not love? …What did he see that was loving in the space we have responsibility for? What did he see that was unloving? Where do we have turning to do?

This in a sense “turns our world upside down.” Who would have predicted it would be one of the most vulnerable in our community, one who comes here for food and shelter, who would have predicted he would become our teacher of God’s Word on last Sunday?”

If we are to be healers of the breach, we must turn to God’s law and feed the hungry with love and compassion!

          As we come to the conclusion of this message…. Just as it has always, in every generation, been socially, politically, economically, and often physically dangerous to work toward healing the divides between the tribes…Why?… Because it threatens the power base of the powerful and the powerful never give up their power without marshaling all of their forces against the opposition…This is true whether it’s a domestic situation of oppression within the home, or a global situation of oppression across the planet!

Keeping wars going is to the advantage of those who gain power from the wars! Keeping drugs in the bodies of our children is to the advantage of the sellers. Keeping the poor working for less than subsistence wages is to the advantage of the power mongers and the greedy…yet, in the face of the powerful of this world….in the face of the powers that oppose this-our Holy scriptural text instructs us:

Build Community Now!

Share bread!

Share home!

Share blankets & clothes!

Share fellowship in love!

So…To Build Community Now! Cry out! Live by God’s law And Receive the Power to close the gap in Jesus’ Holy name Amen!

…………

          Afterword Yes, my voice rang out! …I realize that this seems out of place in the present era, I often feel uncomfortable with the passionate “country woman” preaching style that emerges when God places a prophetic Word in my mouth. Nevertheless, I continue to say; “Yes, Lord.” Although I can make no claim to appear or to speak in ways that ingratiate me in the eyes and ears of this world, yet I surrender my will to the will and purpose of God my Savior.

The man who complained probably didn’t know that the criticism he offered was one that hit me in a personal weak spot, but thankfully, it is not my weak human abilities that we depend on, but upon the strength of Almighty God!

          Prayer Lord, I cry out to you! Please use each of us, each of our voices, according to your will and your way. Please guide us into the Divine purpose established for our generation as we seek to build up your Beloved Community. Strengthen us in our weak places. Let us cry out with upraised voices and passionate pleas to the benefit of God’s people. Lord please forgive us for our sins and teach us your ways so that we can walk in them. We lift this prayer to you in Jesus’ name, Amen.

          Coming Soon This prayer seeking instruction in God’s ways points toward the text for this coming Sunday…Psalm 119: 1-9…please read it, meditate on it, and come prepared to rejoice!

Liberty & Justice for All!

Hundreds of people driven by hatred gathered in Charlottesville, VA this week. They gathered with the aim of taking away liberty and justice from diverse peoples. Their desire is to establish an all white nation and to strip all rights and liberties from all races and ethnicities other than their own. Their gathering resulted in violence, injuries and loss of life. Learn more about these events at : http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/torch-wielding-white-supremacists-march-university-virginia-n792021

Bethel AME Church of Lebanon Ohio stands on the Word of God as we proclaim our determination to work for love and justice as biblically defined. We understand that all God’s children are beloved and we stand for liberty and justice for all where all truly means all!

We pray for everyone who has been touched by these riots. We pray for the peace that comes with genuine enactment of love and justice. We pray for all leaders in our faith communities and in our government at all levels. We seek God’s Holy intervention lending us wisdom and courage so that all people of good will can stand together united for the common good.

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment…  He said to him, “‘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

Jesus went on to teach that the love required of us includes loving our enemies. This is the radical love that we are being called to embody. Now is the time for every person of good will to courageously stand up, speak out and be visible as we insist on caring as much about the wellbeing of those we may perceive as “others” as we care about the wellbeing of those we may think of as “ourselves.”

Join us at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday Morning for biblically grounded small group discussions of this and related topics.

Living Bones

Links to encourage your “Living Bones”. 

 

Today I’m sharing a couple of links that have been a great blessing to me. I hope they will also bring you joy and remind you that God is able to put life back into dry bones!

 

The Bible texts for this week at  http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=28#hebrew_reading , took me back a few years to a day in 2008 when I preached a youth message on the topic of  “Living Bones” at Weyman Chapel AME Church in Dayton, Ohio. I’ll paste a portion of that message in the text below. I hope this will be a source of encouragment to those who find this blog post.

 

To prepare for listening in context, I encourage you to check out a creative overview of the prophetic book of Ezekial at this site: https://www.bible.com/videos/2002/series .

 

If the links give you trouble, please copy and paste them into your search bar.

 

Living Bones

The prophet Ezekiel lived more than 2,500 years ago. Ezekiel was a priest, a preacher, and a prophet. He was captured by the enemy and taken to Babylon with other priests and leaders. Up until then he seems to have been a lot like other priests, serving according to the law.

After he was taken to Babylon, he was called to prophesy in a new way. He saw visions of what would happen if people did not realize that God is Lord and stop worshipping idols. He tried very hard to get the people to listen. He became like a performance artist and acted out what was about to happen. He drew pictures of what was going to happen. He tried to show the people that following these false gods (those things made by human hands) leads to death, but most of the people didn’t pay attention. Many people grew old and died in captivity and many died in war.

Ezekiel kept telling them to turn to God and God would help them. The people had given up hope. All that they held dear was lost, they could see no way out.

Then-Ezekiel had a new vision. This story about the vision in the valley of dry bones has something to teach us about LIVING BONES.

We read about this vision-this hopeless place of dry bones-sad-helpless-lifeless bones lying in a valley- what a sad-sad hopeless place- God showed Ezekiel the valley of hopelessness and sadness that the people were in. But the vision did not end there.

God told Ezekiel to prophesy-preach God’s Word to the hopeless-dry-lifeless-sad old bones- What happened then? Did Ezekiel say-OH NO God, I can’t do that, those bones are dead and dry they will not hear me prophesy? Folks will think I have lost my mind if I start preaching to bones and talking about hope in the middle of this valley of hopeless bones.

NO! Ezekiel did not say that. Ezekiel said-Yes Lord, Yes! Ezekiel obeyed God.

Ezekiel told the bones they were to Stand Up! And God-being God-kept the promise Those bones stood up. They made noise. Flesh and skin and tendons came on them. But they were not yet alive. God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the wind.

Did Ezekiel say Oh No! It makes no sense to prophesy to the wind. The wind cannot hear me? No, in this vision Ezekiel obeyed God.

Ezekiel prophesied and spoke the Word of God to the wind, and God- being God- kept the promise and put the breath of life into the bones so the people would know that God is Lord!

Today some of us might not be paying attention to what God is trying to tell us in Ezekiel’s story. Some of us are worrying about getting more money or things or clothes, or thinking about oh the places we will go. Some of us have our minds on a fight or an argument that we have going on. Some of us are in a hurry to do so many things that we aren’t paying attention to what is important.

When we have our minds on things and worries instead of on hearing God’s Word and trying to understand it, trying to do what God is calling us to do, we can find ourselves in over our heads, confused, depressed, hopeless and feeling as if our situation is impossible. We might feel like giving up and giving in.

Today I am here to say that nothing is impossible with God. Just as God promised Ezekiel that the nation of Israel would rise again and that they would know it was because God did it, God is saying to you today that you are being prepared to do incredible work beyond your wildest dreams, and you will know that God has done it.

You need to listen to God’s Word and Do What God is calling on you to do because today you are the living bones. Know that it is by God’s power, mercy and grace that we are here together today with life and breath and freedom in Christ. I bear witness to you that no matter what our problems may be, where there is the breath of life there is hope and indeed God has given us life.

Just in case you might doubt it, feel your arm and touch your knee, I assure you there are living bones in there. Look at your skin and feel the muscle underneath. Absolutely there is flesh and muscle and sinew (tendons that hold the muscle to the bone). What we need to be sure of today is that we know and understand that it is God who gives us life. When we get confused about this basic point we lose our way.

The same God, who brought the nation of Israel out of Babylon, can bring us through any situation we face today. Whether it is the fact that we feel overwhelmed with the demands of school, a job, a family or friend situation. There is nothing too big or too small for God to take care of. Any pain that we have, any worry on our minds, God can see us through.

Ezekiel listened and did what God told him to do. Then the story tells us what it all meant. It meant that the nation of Israel that had been captured and destroyed was going to rise again. It meant that those who had given up hope were going to have their hope restored.

God still speaks to us through Ezekiel’s visions and stories, and we still need to listen carefully and comprehend what God’s Word is telling us.

If there is anyone today without hope, sad, discouraged and ready to give up. Understand, God is telling us that nothing is impossible with the giver of life.

You are the living bones, God gave you life, and God is in Charge, Listen and Obey God’s Word God has breathed life into you. (Feel your breath, go ahead, and breathe in and out.)

You are being called on to stand up, like the bones in the valley, to be a mighty army on behalf of the Kingdom of God. You are being called to be teachers, and judges, presidents and leaders of all sorts, musicians and lawyers, coaches and accountants and financial advisors (you fill in the blank). You are being prepared to be trustees and stewards and deacons and pastors.

Know that God gives you breath and will supply your every need. Stand up and prepare yourselves to be a blessing to your community. Stand up no matter who tells you that it is impossible, or that you can’t do it. What God says is possible is possible.

God set the captives free and God breathed the breath of life into you. You are the living bones!

God asked Ezekiel in the vision: “Son of Man can these bones live?” and Ezekiel answered: “Oh Sovereign Lord, You alone know”. God alone knows, God alone decides.

          Give your life to God. Let God use you, develop and prepare your mind with study and your heart with service and you will be blessed.

Let Us All Give God the Glory In Jesus Name Amen!