Last Saturday, some of our Southside Baptist Church members participated in “Clean and Clear 5 Points,” a service project organized and promoted by REV Birmingham and the Five Points Alliance. The group of 25-30 volunteers consisted of members from local churches, merchants, residents of the neighborhood, friends from surrounding communities and UAB students. This project is a very small part of the concerted effort to improve the 5 Points and surrounding neighborhoods by making it more inviting and safer for all who live, work, attend school and worship in the community, as well as for those who frequent the various businesses. Those who participated had the opportunity to talk with other volunteers and hear their perspectives on a variety of issues. Though we were tired, and some muscle soreness followed, it was a great way to spend part of a Saturday. There will be more opportunities like this in the future. If you would like to know more about 5 Points and the efforts mentioned above you can read this Birmingham News article.
This is Spring Break week for many schools, and though the weather feels more like winter than spring time, students, families and faculty have taken to the roads and the air traveling across the country and in some cases abroad. For the last five years, Southside Baptist Church has been host to a group of students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as part of the school’s alternative Spring Break experience. While in Birmingham, these students will tour some of the civil rights sites and volunteer in several of the non-profits throughout the city. Each year as another group of students make their way to Birmingham full of energy and with great hope for tomorrow, I am reminded of the wonderful opportunities we have of encouraging them in their efforts and demonstrating to them the love of God as we practice radical hospitality. The Wednesday evening program this week will focus on missions and ministry, a portion of which will be a presentation by the guest students.
I hope you will make plans to be here for this time of Fellowship, Prayer and Education.
The forty days plus the Sundays designated as Lent are days of preparation for all believers. It is a time for looking within, fine tuning our focus, to see what is in hidden within the dark recesses of our hearts and minds. The forty days comprise a period that correlates with the length of time Jesus spent in the wilderness immediately following his baptism. It was in this wilderness that Jesus was tempted to abandoned the purpose for which he came to dwell on earth and opt for a way more pleasing to his humanity. Jesus resisted the temptations and began his ministry of seeking those he came to save. In the wilderness Jesus experienced the real struggle of remaining fixed on and committed to the calling and purpose of his life on earth when he was weak, vulnerable and tempted; therefore, he understood the struggle of those to whom he ministered with compassion, love and grace.
So, living each day on our journey to Easter, and hopefully beyond, we examine our lives, and we pray for forgiveness as repentance and confession is made. And because God is faithful and just, the weight of our sin is lifted, and we are freed from the burden that weighed heavy upon us. While that is a promise that lifts our spirits, it is only part of the story. With a cleansed heart, an uplifted and renewed spirit, we are positioned to see all things and all people with eyes and hearts that understand the struggle of living a life that blesses others rather than being concerned only for oneself. Jesus lived his earthly life reaching out to the marginalized, the oppressed, the weak, the vulnerable, the unloved, the lonely, the exploited, the friendless, the hated, the despised, which on occasion had nothing to do with one’s means. Jesus saw the heart and the pain of those struggling, looking for that place to experience the love of God and to find rest for their souls. That is the way that Jesus loved those he encountered and how he loves even you and me. Jesus’ command to love others as we have been loved by him is an ongoing quest for me. So I pray as I meditate on this “New Command” that the Lord will soften and mold my heart and your hearts and guide us to those whom the Lord might bless through us. What a supreme privilege it is to have opportunities to share the love of God.
Praise be to God.
Lent begins today, Ash Wednesday, and continues until Easter on April 16. The forty days plus the Sundays of this period are a time during which introspection, confession and repentance are the focus of daily scripture and devotional readings, prayers and worship. It is a time to draw close to God, to sit in the presence of Christ’s Spirit and have the innermost parts of our lives illumined and to confess what is revealed. There is great truth in the idiom, “Confession is good for the soul,” especially and most importantly when it is made to God. But, it doesn’t stop with confession. Confession without repentance is shallow and reeks of insincerity. To repent, or turn away from, means to leave behind the aspects of life that hinder and prevent us from following closely the way of Christ. The theme “Mandatum Novum” meaning “New Command,” is to remind us that the way of Christ runs counter to the way of the world. The way of Christ, this new command given to his disciples, is to love others as we have been loved by Jesus the Christ. During these days of Lent, make this verse a part of your daily prayer. Pray simply, “Lord, help me to love others the way you have loved me.” I believe that when you pray this simple prayer daily and mediate upon it, the Lord will direct you to people that need to know and experience God’s love. You will be guided to thoughts and ways that bring you closer to the one that sacrificed all for the sake of all.
Praise be to God.
Here are a few things taking place at Southside Baptist this week. Dr. Roxburgh completes a four session study on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi this evening at the midweek service. This has been a great study of a text that reminds us and encourages us to consider that no matter what is going on in the world, or even in our individual lives, there is cause to give thanks and rejoice for the wondrous works of God. This last session will focus on chapter four of Philippians in which Paul exhorts and gives thanks to those in Philippi who have prayed for him and supported him in his current circumstances. This study will follow the weekly Fellowship Supper and Prayer Time which begins at 5:30 p.m.
If you need a few quiet moments to pull away from the hectic pace of a work week, then join us Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m. for our Contemplative Service. It is a special time for many to pray, listen, reflect and celebrate together in the presence and fellowship of one another and the spirit of Christ.
Friday evening, we have the privilege of hosting a special concert in the Sanctuary. Southside Centre for Arts and Humanities is coordinating this event which will include the UAB and Southside Baptist Choirs, Orchestra of the Highlands, and will feature two Martinson Scholar soloists.
Plan to attend these events if your schedule permits, and enjoy great times of worship, growth and fellowship.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is Psalm 121. It begins with these words,
“I lift up my eyes to the hills
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
Countless times these words have led me to a place of renewed energy, deeper insight and increased faith while providing me great solace. The world around us is not always the way we expect or hope it to be, and events in our own journey of life do not always transpire as we have envisioned.
When events in life do not turn out as you thought they would, or the results of your efforts leave you unfulfilled and perhaps even disillusioned, where do you turn? What do you hold onto when you realize the temporal nature of those things you think will never fail or end. And, from what do you draw energy and strength when sickness, aging, or loss of a loved one is more difficult than you thought? I encourage you to spend some time reading and reflecting on this or some other passage of Scripture. It is amazing, at least to me, how much my perspective is improved when I read, reflect, pray and listen. After all, God is always with us and always ready to spend time with us.
This evening, Dr. Roxburgh continues a study of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. This is the third of four sessions with each session focusing on one of the four chapters of Philippians. This study will immediately follow the weekly Fellowship Meal and Prayer Time.
I look forward to seeing you this evening.
Lee Canipe, curriculum writer for Smyth & Helwys, introduced the current unit of study entitled, “Old Testament Covenants,” this way: “Every good story requires some element of suspense. Will the mystery be solved? Will the hero defeat the villain? Will the relationship survive? A story without any suspense doesn’t really deserve to be told because there’s nothing to tell.”
The characters in this series of lessons hold places in our minds that are often elevated to status bigger than life. Yes, these individuals stand out prominently in the history of our faith, but they were human beings and they had failures and shortcomings just as you and I do.
One only has to read scripture telling of the life of Noah, Abram, Moses and David to see clearly that they also struggled to live as God intended. They all struggled with the pull of their humanity, often succumbing to it, while yearning to be the spiritual person and leader God created them to be. Stories of real people such as these provide vivid pictures of God’s amazing grace. The life story of each one was written day by day, full of suspense, full of mystery. They didn’t always get it right when taking action, but God brought some good out of some terrible situations they created. But then, we really don’t have to look that far do we?
We experience God’s grace daily as we also struggle in our own journey. Likely, we can all tell of bad situations of our own making in the midst of which God met us and helped us find something good to hold onto. I find it both comforting and reassuring to know that God does not give up on his children, those he has called, and the ministry to which he has called them. Not even when his children give up on themselves. If suspense makes a story worth telling, then the story of our personal and corporate life and journey of watching, waiting, listening, believing and acting on what we discern is one worthy of telling. And what is even better, it is not over!
Everyday we live is a new day filled with surprises, full of suspense, making us eager to see what is around the next corner discovering a little more of the mysteries of God and of our lives.
Praise be to God!