Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Good Advice from a Prophet a Long Way From Home

                                                                Friday, June 17, 2016
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.  James 4:10(NLT)

I have watched many documentary programs that deal with the issue of racial integration in this country.  One of the strong impressions I usually come away with is the picture of isolation experienced by a single African-American kid in a white school.  Trying to understand the difficulty of it all, I would attempt to put myself in that kid’s situation.  Of course that’s difficult – imagining what someone else is going through. 

But a few years ago I stumbled across some thoughts that made me realize I have more in common with that struggle than I previously imagined.  There are two aspects of my minority status which stick out like a sore thumb:

1.   I’m a Yankee who has served his entire ministry in the deep South!

Having been born and bred in the Northeast, and spent the last 39½ years in Dixie, there have been more than a few times when someone has pointed out how very fortunate I am to have been allowed to live below the Mason-Dixon Line.

A good friend who was born, and lived all his life, near Tallahassee, Florida once took me fishing in the Gulf of Mexico along the panhandle.  As he was driving us to the launch area we travelled through a deserted forest area and I asked him what this place was called.  In true Southern Speech (with a hint of New York Gambino family mixed-in) Joe Ball said:  Don’t rightly know the name, but we call it that place whar’ Yankees ain’t never heard from ag’in.  Needless to say, it was a long afternoon until I got back home.

It’s tough enough to be a preacher these days with the likes of snake oil salesmen, “so-called preachers” who wind up in jail for fraud or sexual scandals…or the rock stars whose TV ministries would probably make Jesus turn over some more tables in God’s house.  But add to that the problem of being a long way from home and being an alien just trying to love the locals; it’s like Amos, a good ol’ po’boy shepherd from Southern Judah being sent by God up to northern Israel to preach to them Yankee fat cat rich folks.

It’s not easy; sometimes being humble means swallowing your tongue when you encounter regional prejudice.

2.   I’m a Methodist minister who speaks with a Baptist accident

You heard right…a Baptist accident.  While I was thinking about this minority dilemma, I was speaking my thoughts into a digital recorder.  I meant to say “Baptist accent” but it came out “Baptist accident”.  I became a Methodist by accident…and that’s another, very long story.

But it works in this case; as a people-pleaser I have a natural tendency to try to fit-in with people.  A New York twang spoken from a southern-drawl pulpit gets old when you’re the week-in/week-out pastor.  The accident of losing my accent (mostly) didn’t take long. 

But it still shows up occasionally – particularly for those protectors of the border who are looking for any trace of impurity in their parsons.

I’m not sure if Amos had a different regional speech pattern than the folks who populated Israel’s capitol city, but his sheepherder’s rough-cut ways had to set him apart from the genteel manners at court.  He was a long way from home!

For You Today

The fact is all who love Jesus Christ, and wish to serve Him are a very long way from home!  Northern, Southern, Western, Eastern…all are under God’s sun. 

In reality, we are only one race – human.  And that’s a good reason to be humble.

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!

[1] Title Image: Gustave Doré [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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