"On the Pulse of Morning" was written for the first inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993. It cautioned the new leader to think first about the long view of history.

As we enter into patriotic reflections this weekend, it is good to remember that there are three things that we cannot change; the past, the truth, and other people. The church and her people need to be involved with social change. This involves honoring the past, speaking truth, allowing change to begin within our own walls, and then reaching out to be change agents. The AME Zion church has walked this path. President Obama’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, one of the Charleston martyrs, contains some lines that are helpful and inspiring:

If your life or your congregation is in transition, you would do well to study the Exodus cycle that runs through the fall season of the Common Lectionary. As a story teller, I’m mindful of the four parts of a good plot-line: 1) Character introduction, 2) Conflict, 3) Development, and 4) Resolution. At the end of Genesis, we are introduced to Joseph and Jacob/Israel. We are also given insights into the motivations and Character of God’s people (through Joseph’s brothers) and of their Egyptian hosts. Exodus throws us into the conflict between an immigrant people and their fearful neighbors. A break occurs. The answer God provides is a transitional process where Israel recovers identity and acquires the tools they need to overcome life’s adversities, while in the wilderness. The Thanksgiving Celebration of Deuteronomy 26 (the Lectionary misses this by a few chapters) and the entry into the promised land concludes the cycle. 


Exodus begins with a Pharaoh who forgets. Santayana had only half the story when he said that a people who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. The truth is, a people cannot progress spiritually until the come to grips with their history. Both slave and master are subject to irresolvable conflict and internal loss of soul, until they remember who they are and how life has brought them to this place. Transitional process always begins with a look in the rearview mirror.

August 19, 2014
Exodus 1:8-2:10
Pentecost 16

Take your kids or youth group into McDonald's. When they pile back into the car, have each person tell what they saw. Phrase it: “What’s one thing did you see that you didn’t expect to see?” or  “What is something you saw that no one else saw?” The punchline of the story of the stoning of Stephen is found in what he saw. Stephen says, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” This wasn’t what others expected Stephen to see. It wasn’t what they saw. The young pharisee named Saul, for one, saw to it that no one stole anyone’s coats. He saw an execution go according to plan. Good thing for Stephen, this wasn’t Texas.


It may be fun to remind today’s church goers how similar their vision is to that of the crowd that stoned Stephen. What the elders of Israel saw were the political realities. The Romans needed to be assured that Judaism was a stable religion and that its holy city could be kept under Sanhedrin control. They saw Christianity as a disruptive force, similar to the zealot movement causing trouble in the highlands. They saw people of the town speaking well of these Christians because they were feeding the poor and bringing healing to those who were distressed.


May 18, 2014
Acts 7:55-60
Easter 5
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