United We Serve

by Anna Hartge

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Genesis 12:1-4

Second Sunday in Lent
There are blessings in obedience. There are blessings in stretching our wings beyond what we know and trusting God to lead and guide us. Those blessings extend for generations to come.

Yet, there is comfort and security in the familiar. When I go to church and sing songs from my youth, I feel that I am both honoring a sacred tradition of my immediate ancestors and passing down an important legacy to my children: one that they will remember in good times and bad just as I remember them in good times and bad.

Sometimes when we sing collectively, I feel a connection to an enslaved people whose only source of hope and comfort was faith in an eternal God who promised deliverance as well as to those who took matters in their own hands and sang coded messages in a field before attempting to escape and risking capture and death in the process. The reflections invigorate and empower me. If they could survive that, who am I to complain?

But perhaps God is calling me, and others like me, to move beyond a painful past to a more glorious future in a land that I cannot imagine, a land only He can show me. That place may be where worship is not about my cultural preferences but about His glory and forgiveness which shines upon us all. Who knows what blessings await us there?

Abram left all that was familiar to him and most of those he loved without so much as a question to God. He never asked why, he just went.

Integrated schools with a high percentage of minorities among those who fail have demonstrated that the answer isn’t just to sit next to each other. If I’m sitting on the pew next to you and you are full and satisfied while I’m hungry and frustrated before we return to our separated neighborhoods, what good have we accomplished? Even if we live in the same neighborhood and my true wealth is a fraction of yours, have we arrived?

But when the church becomes the church and we dare to sit next to one another, perhaps we will be unable to worship in comfort knowing “up close and personal” that our neighbor doesn’t have enough to eat without feeding him first. Perhaps I will let go of a painful legacy if I greet another with a holy hug weekly and am truly called to share burdens that I may have discounted before.

We also need to press our examination of what it means to be the church beyond 11:00 AM on Sunday mornings and ask what it means to serve together day in and day out. The NAACP was founded by a multiracial coalition, the Civil Rights Movement was supported by people of all “races” and remains an inspiration to those engaged in global struggle in our times. As Dr. King said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

After answering the initial call to Christ, we should all be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in choosing our church home. God’s charge to us after we have been nourished by worship and empowered by the Holy Spirit is to leave our houses of worship and come together and bless and change the world in service.

As Christians, we are one body with a variety of gifts who are charged to work together to bring about the Kingdom of God. If we worship Him in spirit and in truth we must serve Him in unity.

Abram became Abraham in the process and like him we must be willing to take risks that will lead to our own spiritual transformation which might just change our identification from our separate racial categories into children of God who reflect His glory in and on the world. The Kingdom of God as Jesus declared is within you. (Luke 17:21)

Min. Lela Harris

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Rev. Starlette McNeill March 20, 2011 - 6:51 pm

Minister Harris, thank you for your insightful words and the much- needed reminder that “(w)e also need to press our examination of what it means to be the church beyond 11:00 AM on Sunday mornings.” I couldn’t agree with you more. Amen, my sister. Amen!

Brenda March 21, 2011 - 5:30 pm

Thank you for this high – energy, engaging reflection. Serving together does make a difference. I would welcome the opportunity to brainstorm how we might find ways to serve with others across differenc to meet some commuity need.


Lela Harris March 21, 2011 - 6:04 pm

You’re welcome Rev. Brenda and Rev. Starlette. I welcome the opportunity to brainstorm too. I shared this on Facebook and Rev. Arnette had some ideas and so did Faye. We should meet to discuss.

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Grace and Race Ministries