The first amendment of the Constitution of the United States maintains that there is a separation between church and state; however, it is not uncommon to hear elected officials quote scripture from the bible or to see clergy and lay people support a political candidate for a local, state or national office. Recently, I heard a public figure, Attorney General Jefferson Sessions, quote a passage of scripture to provide moral justification for a policy that is antithetical to the Christian message. In an attempt to justify his support of President Trump’s “Zero Tolerance Policy” concerning immigration, Mr. Sessions stated that God expects hard-working, suffering, traumatized, impoverished, disenfranchised, afraid, confused and possibly injured men, women and/or children seeking safety in the United States to obey “the law” as stated in Romans 13. In many instances, these families are requesting asylum in the United States to escape the violence in their countries. As these poor and vulnerable families seeking a better way of life cross into the United States, children are forcibly taken away from their parents and both parties are taken to two different locations. Contact between children and parents comes to an abrupt halt, and it is unclear when the families will be reunited. There are also news reports from the major networks which suggest that the parents may be deported without their children.
There is no question that the United Stated is in need of immigration reform; however, a policy which is designed to deter immigration to the United States by creating traumatized children and parents is both morally reprehensible and inhumane. I am the parent of three children, and I cannot imagine the shock and horror of being indefinitely separated from them, without the ability to contact them, in a foreign country. The normative, Judeo-Christian ethic that emanates from the New Testament as it concerns the life of Jesus is undeniably about love. We should show love toward God, our neighbors, ourselves (see Mark 12:30-31) and even our enemies (Matthew 5:43). Creating a family crisis and inflecting trauma is not showing love. When the highest ranking law enforcement official uses the bible to justify the inhumane treatment of families seeking refuge in the United States, the country has indeed lost its moral compass. A nation which enjoys its current status because of immigrant labor and claims to be built upon Christian principles has lost its moral credibility as a beacon light of hope, freedom and safely for people throughout the world.
The current administration’s policy position on immigration is sure to indicate that America was on the wrong side of history. We must vote in the upcoming elections to attempt to addresses this egregious error in national judgment.
I know many people who were looking forward to a break, and they were equally excited about spending it in New Orleans. The music, food and carnival associated with Mardi Gras are legendary, and the students of today are as interested in experiencing this cultural event with the same enthusiasm and excitement of previous generation. As a University Chaplain, I’ve expressed my reservations about their decision to attend the event, but, given the magnetic pull that the festival has on creative imaginations, my ten minute conversations with them are primarily limited to safely issue and the religious significance of the event. The Carnival Season has come to an end, and Ash Wednesday began on Wednesday, February 14, 2018. In a previous year, I heard a student say: “Yeah Dean, I’m going to have as much fun as I can because Lent is right around the corner, and I won’t able to do anything.” I reminded him that it was possible to have fun and refrain from sin, but more importantly, I was pleased to see that he remembered that Ash Wednesday was a scared day because it marks the beginning of a new Christian season in preparation for remembering that blessed Easter morning.
Many churches continue to recognize the significance of Ash Wednesday by holding morning or evening worship services. Several years ago, I remember attending a worship service during which the pastor the church used ashes to paint a cross on my forehead. Historically, the ashes were made from the unused and burnt palms from the previous Palm Sunday. Ash Wednesday denotes a time of penance in which we ask forgiveness from God for the sins that we have committed by omission or commission. As the first day in the season of Lent, it marks the beginning of a spiritual season of fasting, praying and reflecting on the meaning of Easter for our daily lives. Ash Wednesday unites us with church all over the world, and it affords us the opportunity to become closer to Christ by placing the symbol of the cross on our foreheads. I agree with Paul who said in Romans 1:16, Paul says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” As we prepare to enter the season of Lent, let us remembers the historical and spiritual significance of Ash Wednesday. If our schedules will not afford us the opportunity to have a cross of ashes painted on our foreheads, let us hold fast to the cross of redemption in our hearts and we pause to consider the great price that Jesus paid for us. Amen.
Black History Month is indeed a time in which we pause to celebrate the tremendous, unprecedented and unparalleled achievements of African-Americans who are alive as well as those who have moved on from labor to reward. Throughout the month of February, we both recognize and celebrate the achievements of people of African-Americans such as Venus Williams in the arena of athletics, Oprah Winfrey in the field of business, former President Barack Obama in politics, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole in education, Roberta Flack in music, Paul Roberson in acting and a host of other people of African descent in various areas. History declares that they worked incessantly to maximize the human potential that God provided them, and in doing so, they have inspired generations of people of all ethnicities who reside in the United States as well as abroad. To be sure, the accomplishments of the African-American that we celebrate this month, in particular, and throughout the year, in general, are rooted in the tremendous sacrifices made by African-Americans and others in this country and abroad. For example, we remain indebted to Fannie Lou Hamer for helping African-American exercise their right to vote and to François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture for resisting European imperialism in Haiti. We stand today on their shoulders. We are, however, unable to pay adequate homage to those to have achieved and sacrificed so much to promote African-American progress without remembering those who endured the ultimate sacrifice for our collective well-being. During the month of February, we remember those who were killed seeking to improve the lives of Black people throughout the world such as Malcolm X (el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz), the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Patrice Lumumba, Stephen Bantu Biko, Harry and Harriette Moore, the Reverend George Lee, and Fred Hampton.
Biblical scholars have informed us that most of Jesus 12 disciples were martyred. The Christian faith that we now embrace was propelled throughout history through the “ink” (e.g., the printing press and scribes who copied by the bible by hand) and blood of the martyrs. In Matthew 23:29, Jesus eloquently captured how many prophets, who spoke truth to power, were viewed once they were gone. In this passage of scripture, Jesus said: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.” In short, people who were once hated as agitators are now recognized as contributors to society.It is important to keep the memory of those who were martyred alive. It is also important to remember their legacy by becoming champions of justice, beacon lights of hope and change-agents that seek to promote democracy and a life-sustaining environment worldwide.
The Reverend Dr. Vincent E. Stokes II is a 2009 graduate of Fisk University. Throughout the course of his matriculation at Fisk, Dr. Stokes served the Fisk Family as a Fisk Memorial Chapel Assistant and as the President of the Student Government Association. After graduating from Fisk, Dr. Stokes earned the Master of Divinity degree at Yale Divinity School. In 2016, Dr. Stokes was awarded the Doctor of Ministry degree from Azusa Pacific Seminary. His dissertation was titled “With a Strength Not of His Own: The Christian Background of the Reverend Nat Turner and its Impact on the Black Baptist Church in the 21st Century.” Dr. Stokes is married to Ms. Fannie Stokes. They are the proud parents of a baby boy named Vincent E. Stokes III. Dr. Stokes is a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
On May 6, 2012, the Reverend Dr. Otis Moss Jr, a Civil Rights icon, preached a Baccalaureate address in the Fisk Memorial Chapel titled “Words Matter.” In a standing room only arena with people of African descent of various ages and educational achievements present, Dr. Moss eloquently and successfully made the case that the words that we say about ourselves and the words that are said about us have political, economic, cultural and spiritual implications for our future as a people. For example, if elected officials who do not love black children successfully argue that they cannot learn, then these officials will promote legislation which reduces funding to programs such as Head Start, and they may promote legislation which leads to racial-profiling and the excessive policing of black communities. His sermon echoed the words of Solomon in Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue….” Silence on consequential matters is often interpreted as agreement; therefore, there are times in which those who have a respect for democracy, community, civilization and people of African descent must reemphasize that words truly matter.
There is a strain of thought operative in our current, national dialogue which suggests that people from the Motherland and people from the nation of Haiti have little if nothing to offer the international community. Has the world forgotten that Africa is the birthplace of civilization? Has the world forgotten that the genesis of Greek thought is deeply rooted in African philosophy (see Black Athena by Martin Bernal or The Stolen Legacy by George James)? Has the world forgotten the brilliance of Kwame Nkrumah, an HBCU graduate (Lincoln University) and an Ivy League graduate (University of Pennsylvania), who resisted British imperialism and become the first Prime Minister of Ghana? Has the world forgotten the genius of Toussaint Louverture who helped to establish a new and better future for the resilient people of Haiti? Has the world forgotten the contributions of famous African women such as Nzingha, Hatshepsut, Mariam Makeba, Winnie Mandela and Wangari Maathai? If African nations have become somewhat destabilized, it is largely because they are still recovering from hundreds of years of colonialization and systematic exploitation. The Continent is not without challenges; however, the resilience of these nations is a testament to the brilliance of the people within them.
As an academician, I can attest to the fact that the brilliance of the students of African decedent from Africa and the Caribbean persists to the present day. Many of our most astute and conscientious students are international students. We value them, and we love them. Indeed, we are forever mindful that the words we employ around them will indeed help to shape their future.
When we consider the Old and New Testament scriptures which discuss the attributes of God (e.g., a God who is loving, forgiving and merciful), we quickly arrive at the conclusion that God is not simply past-oriented. God is also future-making. The idea that God cares about our past and future relationships is succinctly summarized in a passage of scripture which concerns, God, Isaiah and the people of Israel. In Isaiah 43:16-17, God, through the prophet Isaiah, describes God’s faithfulness to the nation of Israel by retelling a portion of the Exodus story. Through God’s love, the people of Israel were freed from the grips of a horrific slavery, and the army of Pharaoh, which was in pursuit of them, drowned in the sea. In short, God was reminding the people of God’s love for them in the past. We too ought to take the time to remember how a providential God has provided for us in the past.
However, in an abrupt change of course, God tells the people through the prophet Isaiah: “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:18-19).” In this particular passage, God is telling the people of Israel that God’s enduring love for them is not limited to their past. It is necessarily concerned with their future. The idea that God still loves them and remains concerned about them in spite of their imperfections is a profound statement about God’s character. It is also inspiriting to know that the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow is intimately concerned about our future. As this New Year begins, we should look forward to seeing God’s presence and influence, helping and healing, as our future unfolds with God.
As Isaiah brings the good news about God’s abiding presence in the future, he also encourages the people of Israel to have a holistic relationship with God. For example, in Isaiah 43:23-24, God says: …you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses. , even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”Indeed, a forgiving God wants a holistic relationship with us in the New Year. God doesn’t simply want to know about our problems in New Year, God also wants to know about our joys, our thankfulness and our plans for the future. Thank God that we serve a God who is not only concerned with our past, but also concerned about the blessed future that awaits us.
I count it a privilege and a joy to see individuals, couples and families celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ throughout the world during the month of December. As certain corporations unashamedly and aggressively emphasize the commercialization of Christmas by promoting products to enhance profits with no reference to the one people called the Messiah, as an increasingly secularized culture promotes reindeer and snowmen and mistletoe with little reference to the Light of the World (e.g., Jesus the Christ), as political discourse dominates the news and leaves us with an uncertainly about a challenging but hopeful tomorrow still influenced by God, it is a blessing to see many people embracing the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus is still the reason for the season.
Jesus’ birth was announced by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years before his arrival (see Isaiah 9:6). References to the birth of Christ are also mentioned in the first four books of the New Testament. In reference to the birth of Jesus in book of Matthew 1:23, we read: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” We are indeed indebted to those who had the courage to talk about the arrival of Jesus at a time when one could be punished for mentioning his very name.
One may rightful ask: “What does it mean that God is with us during a time in which there appears to be little evidence of or respect for God at all.” Immanuel means that those who are still willing to take a chance with God by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior will be blessed with eternal life (see John 3:16). Immanuel means that the life of Jesus will always be our point of departure for helping people; therefore, we will diligently seek justice for the disempowered, the despised, the disenfranchised and the disrespected people of this world. Immanuel means that our hope in creating the beloved community, our faith in God and our love for God’s children called humanity will continue to occupy our life’s agenda (see 1 Corinthians 13:13).” Immanuel means that we serve a transcendent God who sits high and looks low, but we also serve an immanent God (Jesus the Christ) who will never leave us or forsake us (see Matthew 28:20). Emmanuel, which is another name for Jesus means “God is with us.” Indeed, the prayer embedded in the song titled “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Josh Wilson still stands true: “O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind; Bid thou our sad divisions cease, and be thyself our King of peace, Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel.”
I’ve lived in several cities throughout the past three decades, and I’ve lived the African-American community, by choice, in most of them. I continue to find value in the meaningful relationships that exist within my immediate community, and I celebrate the achievements earned and made by individuals and groups (e.g., congregations) within these communities as they exist throughout the nation. There was a period in my life, however, in which I as well as several young black men in my community fell victim to what has now be characterized by psychologists and sociologists as “self-hated.” For example, we would call each other names which did not reflect the brilliance of our ancestors. We would fight or prepare to seriously harm one another over petty issues which did not reflect the visions of generations of African-American leaders who to sought to effectuate a positive change among black people. As teenage black men, we did not recognize our commonalities (e.g., we enjoyed the same social-economic status and we were often lived in single parent households). Instead, we focused on our differences (e.g., our particular streets or schools) and we were prepared to die over these differences. I will be forever indebted to the church, an HBCU (Morehouse College), my family, mentors and close friends who helped to deliver me from self-hated. I received the call to preach while in college, and I’m glad to report that the self-hated was an intense fire that did not consume.
When we read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3, we may also learn about a raging fire that had no power. These three individuals refused to worship an idol of King Nebuchadnezzar; therefore, they were put in a furnace. The guards who put them in the furnace were consumed by the fire; however, the three of them were not harmed. In fact, Daniel 3:25 states that there were four people in the flames. Theologians believe that this fourth person was God or Jesus the Christ. In short, three people were delivered by God from these flames which should have consumed them. The king eventually acknowledged the God that they served.
It is no secret what God can do. What God has done for others, God will do for you. If you happen to find yourself engulfed or about to be engulfed in flames (e.g., political flames, financial flames, familial flames, flames of self-hatred, flames related to your job), I invite you to invite someone in the flames with you (e.g., God or Jesus Christ). I am a witness that there is divine deliverance in the flames. You may be in a fire, but with God, it is a fire that shall not consume.
Approximately ten years ago, I was asked a very interesting question. The person asked: “Are you humble?” I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not sure, if the person was being sincere or attempting to “prove” that I wasn’t humble with his question. Humility has been defined as the act of demonstrating modesty; therefore, if I said “Yes, I’m humble,” he would have said “No, you aren’t based on your answer.” If I answered “No, I am not humble,” he would have said: “I’ve proven my point!” My answer to his question was: “I’m trying to be.” For those of us who are seeking to be proactive and assertive in our efforts to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ, to serve as leaders in our homes and communities and to create innovative ways to minister to people in need, the act or process of displaying humility can be a real challenge. However, as followers of Jesus Christ, we must embrace the fact that the Christian message calls us to be humble and to serve with humility. Peter, a disciple of Jesus Christ, said: “Humble yourselves, then under God’s mighty hand, so that He will lift you up in His own good time (1 Peter 5:6).” In Colossians 3:12, the Apostle Paul stated: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Humility is a quality that we must continue to strive to embrace as we are called to love God and our neighbors as ourselves (see Mark 12:30-31).
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 14:11).” Jesus’ words suggest that it is possible to be humbled by God if we absolutely refuse to seek and embrace humility. In the Old Testament, we are fortunate to read about the life of a powerful king named Nebuchadnezzar who initially refused to display humility. He bragged about his power (Daniel 4:30), and it was taken away from him (4:31). When Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself and acknowledged God’s presence in his life, his power was restored (4:36-37). Also, I’ve seen many instances in which arrogant people were humble by other people. They believed that they were the most powerful person, as indicated by their physical strength, clothing, money or influence, at the time. The act of finding out that their personal, political, economic or social influence was extremely limited, was very humbling experience for them.
My understanding of the Gospel suggests that we should be humble before we are humbled. Humility is a value embraced by Jesus Christ. It is an attribute which truly bring us closer to God.
The story of the healing of the ten lepers, which is found in Luke 17:11-19, continues to remain one of my favorite stories of the bible. Over the past twenty years, I’ve heard countless sermons delivered from this text, yet, the spiritual insights revealed in this brief passage of scripture do not dim or fade over the course of time. In short, Jesus encountered ten people who were afflicted with leprosy. They asked Jesus for help and healing, and Jesus told them to go to the priest. As they were going to the priest, the people were healed. Nine out of the ten neglected or perhaps refused to say “thank you” to God or Jesus for their restored health. However, the text says that there was one person who had both the inclination and the audacity to thank Jesus for healing him.
Even though the story was recorded in salvation history approximately two-thousand years ago, the insights provided by the scripture are as relevant today as they were during Jesus’ day. We too know people who have asked God for assistance or a miracle and forgot or refused to thank God when they received it. We too know people who have listened to the voice of God (like the lepers who were going to the priest), stepped out on faith (with their marriages, businesses, academic goals and career plans), and received a blessing before they even reached their goal. We too know people who were not ashamed to give God glory in their homes, at their jobs or even among strangers because they recognized, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God had been good to them. Yes, the story of the healing of the ten lepers may be two-thousand years old; however, the insights are as relevant today as they have been for thousands of years.
As I reread this passage of scripture during this season of Thanksgiving, I am encouraged by the one leper who glorified God after his body was healed. I remain in awe of this “one thankful soul” because there have been times in my life when I forgot to thank God for all of the manifold blessings that God unceasingly poured upon me. During this Thanksgiving season, I stand with the one leper who glorified God after he was healed (Luke 17:15). If you neither had had the time nor the inclination to glorify God for all that God had done in your life, I invite you to give God the glory today and during this Thanksgiving season. For all that God has done, for all that God is doing, and for all that God will do, during this Thanksgiving season, we pause to say “thank you.”
The events of September 11, 2001 will forever be remembered in the hearts and minds of people throughout the nation and throughout the world. On that day, the world witnessed a horrific act of violence in which thousands of people perished on one day. Many families were affected by this event, and the collapsing of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center was of particular significance to me because my grandmother worked in one of the buildings prior to her retirement. There were thousands of victims from these horrific acts, and there were also hundreds of heroes who voluntarily gave their lives for our country on that day. Indeed, much of the country was united through its anger and grief, and there was little debate about the postmodern distinctives of race, class or gender as it concerned this horrific tragedy and our collective response to it. However, when many of the pictures of the heroes of the great tragedy (e.g., firefighters and police officers) were shown throughout the nation, many people noticed that African-Americans were not readily displayed among this exceptional group of citizens. The conspicuous absence of African-American heroes was explicitly mentioned by many people who read Time magazine’s Commemorative edition of 9/11 which captured the tragedy in pictures approximately ten years after the event. The obvious absence of African-American faces caused many to wonder if we were somehow less patriotic than other groups. Unfortunately, as of today, I am only aware of one video documentary, which is titled “All Our Sons,” that chronicles the extraordinary effort of African-Americans firefighters who gave their lives for freedom and justice.
Christians are often called to spread God’s message of redeeming love in an imperfect world; therefore, it will always be important for me and others to note the significant role that African-American played in building a “more perfect union.” As the country continues heal from this tragic set of events and to realize the vision of the founders, valiant efforts must be made to chronicle the extraordinary role that African-Americans have played in defending and building our country. In an attempt to highlight the significance of African-American patriotism in the building of our American democracy, the famous African-American poet named Langston Hughes wrote: “…I am the darker brother…they’ll see how beautiful I am…I, too, am American.” Crispus Attucks was an African-American and the first person to give his life for freedom in the Revolutionary War, and we remain indebted to African-American heroes such as Leon W. Smith Jr., Shawn E. Powell, Vernon Cherry, Andre Fletcher, Ronnie L Henderson, Gerard Jean Baptiste, Keithroy Maynard, William L. Henry Jr., Karl Joseph, and Tarel Coleman, Keith Glascoe and Vernon Richard for their extraordinary sacrifice on September 11th. May God continue to bless and keep their families and friends.
I was ecstatic to see via social media several of my close friends and colleagues participate in the Ministers March for Justice in Washington, DC on August 28, 2017. I’ve marched for justice for 30 years; however, as result of a scheduling conflict, I was unable to be present. The agenda spearheaded by the Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network was clear: We’re marching for Voting Rights, Healthcare, Criminal Justice Reform and Economic Justice. It was both refreshing and inspiring to see thousands of people, both clergy and lay, refusing to accept and embrace the status quo, and marching for the rights of those who are victims of wage theft (e.g., working for more than 40 hours per week and not receiving overtime pay), juveniles who can benefit for alternative sentencing instead of being subject to abuse in jail or prison for non-violent drug offenses, individuals who need health insurance through Obamacare because they have preexisting conditions and people who have a Constructional right to vote even though they have encountered new legislation (i.e., voter identification laws which impede the process of voting for people of color) from states which are trying to eliminate that right. I and many others throughout our nation stood in solidarity with them as they worked to create a better day, indeed to establish the beloved community, during their lifetime.
I’ve come to accept the fact, albeit reluctantly, that many clergy and Christian lay refused to participate in this march or any other march that concerns social, political and economic justice. Unfortunately, they are constrained, in my opinion, to a narrow legalistic morality that only views Christian ethics in relation to the individual (e.g., lying, stealing and killing - see the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17). For those who claim to be Christian and choose to ignore the ethics associated which social issues, I invite you to consider Jesus’ words in Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” For those who admire the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and say “Now is not the time to march for justice,” I invite you to read his book titled Why We Can’t Wait.
If you are interested in joining the fight for justice as it concerns the aforementioned issues, I invite you to contact the Nation Action Network. I, like many of you, thank God for those who are continuing this fight.
Ms. Marvelyn Brown spoke at Fisk University on March 15, 2015. She is pictured (from left to right) with Dean Curry, the Reverend Dr. Sondra Tolbert, Reverend Diana R. Williams and the Reverend Pam Kellar. Ms. Brown is the author of The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and HIV Positive.
Ms. Marvelyn Brown, a 32-year-old native Tennessean, learned she was HIV-positive at age 19. Since then she has moved both live and television audiences around the United States, Bermuda, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, the Virgin Islands, South Africa, Tanzania and Rwanda with her compelling personal story. Ms. Brown has spoken at hundreds of colleges, universities, churches and conferences worldwide. Her autobiography, The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive, was published by Amistad/HarperCollins in 2008.
Her humanitarian work earned her a 2007 Emmy Award for Outstanding National PSA. BET’s Rap It Up campaign named Brown one of the 25 "HEROES" in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2009 she won the Do Something Award and in 2010, she was inducted into The Heroes In The Struggle Photo Exhibit by The Magic Johnson Foundation and The Black AIDS Institute.
Ms. Brown has also made a huge impact on television shows and in print media. Some highlights include, appearing on CNN's Black in America, Frontline's ENDGAME, The Oprah Winfrey Show, America’s Next Top Model, America’s Best Dance Crew, and CBS’s The Early Show. Articles including her story have appeared in Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, Fortune 500, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and ESSENCE magazine. Ms. Brown has also graced the covers A&U, POZ and The Ave. Ms. Brown is currently the CEO and an Independent HIV Consultant for Marvelous Connections, which she founded in 2007.
The Fisk Memorial Chapel Assistants have been ardent supporters of Soles4Souls for several years. The sneakers and shoes that were collected throughout the year were distributed to impoverished families throughout the world. Recently, the Chapel has begun to donate clothing items to one of Soles4Souls’ auxiliary services called Clothes4Souls. The shoes and clothing items pictured above were collected by students throughout the entire academic year. Pictured from left to right: Dean Curry, Mr. DeAngelo Webb ’17, Mr. Malik Craft ’17, Mr. Samuel Adeogun ’16, Ms. Zhane Reese ’17, Ms. Julie Grant ’16, Ms. Stephanie Morris ‘17, Mr. Cameron Ramos ’16.
Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s leaders to end hunger at home and abroad. On June 9, 2015, members of the Fisk University Team from the Tennessee delegation received the opportunity to talk with Congressman and Fiskite John Lewis, who is pictured with Dean Curry , Ms. Brandy Jackson ‘06 and Mr. John Curry
Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s leaders to end hunger at home and abroad. On June 9, 2015, members of the Fisk University Team from the Tennessee delegation received the opportunity to talk with Congressman and Fiskite John Lewis, who is pictured with Dean Curry , Ms. Brandy Jackson ‘06 and Mr. John Curry
“Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's (1 Corinthians 3:22-23).”
To be sure, there are at least two “wills” in this world: God’s will (Romans 12:2) and our will. King David reminds us that “the steps of a good person are ordered by God (Psalm 37:23).” Also, Jesus’ first commandment states that we should love “God with all our heart and with all our soul and with our entire mind (Matthew 22:37).” Therefore, it is safe to conclude that, for the Christian, God’s will for our lives should supersede or “come before” our individual will. I am reminded of a popular Christian billboard that I saw hanging above an interstate which read: “I am second.” It is understood that “God is first.”
As we follow God’s will for our lives (e.g., feeding those who are hungry), we have the ability to make individual choices and still remain in accord with God’s will. For example, we can choose to wear black socks or green socks to bible study. I don’t think that God cares about the color of our socks as we study God’s word! As we make our individual choices, God provides us with a unique opportunity to ambitious. For example, we may become influential leaders in our churches, schools and families. Our businesses may have customers in the city, the nation and throughout the world. Our talents (e.g., singing, dancing, drawing, speaking and playing sports) may encourage the young and the elderly, the affluent and the impoverished, Americans and people of other countries. Both Jesus and Paul confirm that there is room for the ambition Christian in this world. In 1 Corinthians 3:23, Paul tells the congregants of the churches in Corinth that the “the world…is yours….” However, Paul also says that “you are Christ’s and Christ belongs to God.”
King David tells us in Psalms 37:3: “Trust in the Lord and do good….” The world needs ambitions Christians who want to influence it for the good. As we strive to influence our families, our fraternities and sororities, our churches, our business partners and customers, our city, our nation and our world, let’s us work diligently to ensure that our will remains in accord with God’s will. The stories we tell, the actions we perform, the tasks we accomplish should always be a reflection of God presence and influence in our lives. Our success, in God’s eyes, hinges upon our ability to maintain our priorities: God is first we are second. The world is indeed ours, but, we are Christ’s and Christ belongs to God.
“Therefore we conclude, that a person is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28). “
Like many of you, I believe in working hard in order to accomplish my goals. There is a difference, as one of my difficult friends pointed out, in “working hard and working smart.” I sincerely hope that I am doing both simultaneously. However, many of us would readily conclude that “hard work” (e.g., working diligently to accomplish certain results) is necessary for success. Many of us wholeheartedly agree with the common expression: “Success is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Also, some of us are witnesses to the devastating consequences that may be associated with giving someone something of value (e.g., a promotion an expensive car) even though they played no part in earning it. Sometimes the recipients of unmerited gifts have little appreciation for them. I am grateful that I learned the value of a great work inside of and outside of the church. I am grateful that pastors and lay members of the church taught me and demonstrate to me the importance of the Jesus’ saying: “I must work the work of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no person can work (John 9:4).”
The scriptures teach us, however, that there are limits to an outstanding, Christian work-ethic. In Romans 4, Paul talks about leaders (Abraham and David) who were justified through their faith not through their works. A hard-working Christian might naturally assume that one can earn God’s love; however, God’s love, which is referred to as grace cannot be earned by human beings because it is freely given by God (see Ephesians 1:6, 2:8 and Romans 3:24). One might assume that when we read our bible, attend worships services and help the poor that we will be able to establish our own righteousness; however, the Apostle Paul teaches us that people are unable to establish their righteousness (see Romans 10:3, Philippians 3:9 and Romans 3:22). As Christians, our righteousness is established through our relationship with God, not through our deeds. We are justified (i.e., our righteousness is established) through our faith in God, not through our works (see Romans 3:28).
As follower of Christ, we must continue to exemplify an outstanding work-ethic by engaging in the work of kingdom-building (see Matthew 6:10). The scriptures remind us that “faith without works it dead (James 2:26).” As we work for God in our homes, churches, schools at our places of employment, we must also seek to maintain and even enhance (e.g., make stronger) our faith in God. In short, we must keep the faith, and thank God for establishing righteousness through it.
I am a proponent of attending meetings. As a university chaplain, I make it a point to attend both formal and informal meetings throughout the day. My formal meetings may include discussions about fundraising in order to make repairs to the Chapel. My informal meetings may include brief and unscheduled pastoral counseling sessions in a parking lot or on a sidewalk in order to provide advice and encouragement to the faculty, staff or students. However, there are some meetings that I consciously seek to avoid. Over time, I’ve learned that they are often unproductive, unsettling and sometimes ungodly. At one informal meeting, I quickly discovered that the participants were determined to spread personal and negative information about someone for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, I also attended an informal meeting in which a group of people were committed to undermining another person’s professional and personal progress. It seemed as if the people in these meetings were intent on gossiping and engaging in slander. Even though I am an advocate of attending formal and informal meetings, I’ve learned to identify and, if possible, avoid meetings that are hostile to Christ’s message of love.
King David was a wealthy, wise and powerful king. He truly loved the Lord, and he is credited with writing the book of Psalms. As a leader, he was responsible for attending many formal and informal meetings. He knew that meetings were taking place among his supporters, political detractors and/or enemies. On one occasion David prayed: “Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity (Psalm 64:2).” On another occasion he prayed: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).” David neither wanted to be discussed by people in meetings who were intent on doing evil nor did he want to participate in these meetings. He was a wise king, and ultimately, he believed that God was and would be responsible for his professional success.
If possible, try to avoid some informal meetings (e.g., meetings among friends, family and co-workers) in which people are intent on dishonoring themselves, others and God. If you must attend, pray for spiritual strength, guidance and protection while you are in the meetings. Lastly, if possible, try to direct the content of the meetings to subjects that reflect the things of God (e.g., peace and forgiveness) and your love for God. We must remember 1 Peter 1:16: “…Be ye holy; for I am holy.”