Virginia Union University

Of Struggles and Saints

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God

Hebrews 12:1, 2

Dr. Leo C. Wagner (© John Gresham)

I bid a fond “farewell” to a wise pastor, skilled preacher, excellent instructor, and good friend.  Rev. Dr. Leo C. Wagner died yesterday morning.  Here was a man who could have remained in Chicago, perhaps finding a congregation that would have paid him handsomely.  But, the Lord led him to the small town of West Point, VA to pastor Mt. Nebo Baptist Church.  Rather than seek to make his own ministry shine individually, Dr. Wagner engaged himself to work with and lead the Pamunkey Baptist Association as Moderator for a term.  He knew how to joke with people and to give Godly advice at the right moment.  His compassion was felt by public school students in town as well as seminarians at Virginia Union University.  We lost a giant in the Baptist church and a friend to all who knew him.  Lord have mercy and bless his widow.

Today is Monday.  Gosh, how we bemoan the beginning of the work and school week.  As if we are facing some sort of torture.  I confess that I sometimes look at my bills and how they crush my meager paychecks and wish I had the salary I was once earning.  I look at my wife’s illnesses and wish I could enjoy the times when she was mentally and physically healthy.  Yeah, I write stuff that is very spiritual.  But, I am a man with the same wishes and desires as anyone else.  I struggle with the same temptations and anguish over my failures and sins.

But, each morning, I consider the saint that is commemorated  for the day.  Today, the martyrs Sophia and her daughters, Faith, Hope, and Love are remembered for their faithfulness to death.  A mother was forced to watch her teen and pre-teen girls be subject to extremely cruel tortures and beheadings and then bury them.  Then she died at their grave 3 days later of a broken heart as she didn’t leave their side.  With the loss of Dr. Wagner, I am even more mindful that others have struggled and run the race of life before me and endured far greater hardship.  Who am I to whine about my difficulties?  What right do I have to hold on to bad habits?  No, this great cloud of witnesses surround me as an example to keep fighting, running and struggling.

And above all, there is Christ.  He went from a heavenly home to a womb and manger.  His own people rejected him.  Crowds misunderstood him and wanted only magic tricks and miracles.  Where there were once cries of honor, he heard shouts for his crucifixion.  There is no crown without a crucifixion nor sainthood without struggle.

HAIL JESUS!

 

Selling Out Jesus

Happy Easter to all Orthodox Christians.

This weekend is the celebration of 40 years of Pastoral Service of Rev. Wilbert D. Talley at Third Union Baptist Church.  He has been a mentor to me since I was a child. Dr. Talley held high positions at Virginia Union University and other statewide organizations.  A man of his caliber and education could have easily sought the pulpit of the most lucrative churches in the nation.  And yet, for four decades he remained the pastor of a little country church.  His work has included major improvements on the building and aiding people in building their lives.  It is an honor to celebrate such a man and wish him many more years of service to God.

Dr. Wilbert D. Talley (© John Gresham)

SELLING OUT JESUS

Matthew 26:14-16

(Introduction) Now that we know him as the resurrected savior, no Christian would sell Jesus out the way Judas did.

(Antithesis) In Matthew’s Gospel, Judas is no more wicked than any other disciple.  But, he made a most horrible choice.

(Thesis) We must be on guard not to sell Jesus out the same way Judas did because we face the same temptations.

(Relevant Question) How do we sell Jesus out

(Points)

1.  We hold on to our preconceived ideas of what is right (v. 6-14)

2.  We go to those who truly seek to kill him (v. 14)

3.  We accept a cheap payment (v. 15)

(Conclusion)  True discipleship is too costly for us to sell out at any price.

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Fourth Thursday)

And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, …  Now there had been about four thousand people.  He sent them away and at once, getting into the boat with his disciples, …  Mark 7:36, 8:9, 10

Dr. Alix B. James used to teach seminarians at Virginia Union University to wear simple colored suits and ties when preaching.  The only jewelry we should have on us include a class ring, wedding band for the married, and cuff links if needed.  His point was that we should not draw attention to ourselves, but put the attention on God.

Rev. Evans C. White (@ John Gresham)

Jesus does not seek the praises and attention of the crowds nor the people he heals.  He could have easily made a disciple out of the former deaf-mute and created a small army of the thousands he fed with what could feed only two or three men.  By his very power though compassion he was going to draw crowds anyway.  Speaking truth through love gained him audiences.  But his only role was to do the will of the Father who sent him.  He moves with those who believe in and diligently follow him.

We who preach the Gospel are sometimes tempted to become spectacles rather than servants.  Popularity among people means as much, if not more, than fulfilling the unique calling God has given us.  Let Jesus be our standard.  When our lessons, miracles, sacrifices, and victories surpass his; we should present ourselves as we wish.  Until that time, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us to draw attention to the one who deserves all of it.

Yours in Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

Our Failure In Storms

… “Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?” Mark 4:40

I want to thank Dr. James Harris of the Samuel D. Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University for reminding me of the need for discipline in crafting sermons.  It is way too easy for bi-vocational pastors like me to get slack about preparing the message.  I also want to thank God that I had sense enough to create A Lenten Journal:  A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ.  The consistency is providing me with a body of work I can refer to for my sermons, lessons, and personal worship.  In his Preaching With Transformation in Mind class at the school’s Church Leadership Conference yesterday, we used Luke 8:21-25 as a practice text as he taught and refreshed us on sermon construction.  This text is a parallel to Mark 4:35-41 from which I used for my Second Monday post.  With this said, here is an outline of what I will preach today.

Dr. James Harris (© John Gresham)

Mark 4:40

OUR FAILURE IN STORMS

(Introduction)  Jesus does not fail to overcome the storms in our lives

(Antithesis)  The power of Jesus should have never been questioned in the first place

(Thesis)  The real problem is that we fail to have faith in him in the midst of our storms as we follow him

(Relevant Question)  What should we remember about Jesus so that we can maintain faith and courage in our difficult situations?

(Points)     1.  Jesus sends and goes with us as we do his will (v.35)

2.  Jesus does not send us alone nor in unfamiliar territory (v.36)

3.  Jesus sleeps during storms that we are equipped to handle (v.37)

(Conclusion)  Keep the faith because Jesus will bring us to greater challenges and victories

Clergy and laity are more than welcome to chime in on this.  May you be blessed today and every day.

Your Brother In Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Third Saturday)

… “How many loaves have you?  Go and see.” …   Mark 6:38

It was supposed to be a time of retreat and relaxation for Jesus and the twelve.  Yet, the shepherd-less sheep recognized them and gathered to see the Teacher.  He lovingly shared words with them as long as they were willing to stay.  As the time drew late, the disciples did think of the needs of such a gathering.  “Send them away so they can go to the farms and markets nearby to buy themselves something to eat.”  They also understood the limitations of human provision.  “Are we to spend 200 denarii on bread for them to eat?”

Alix B. James Chapel at VA Union University (© John Gresham)

God’s mercy for the faithful is greater than human practicality.  God’s compassion feeds both the spiritual and physical needs of the faithful.  Though he needed and planned time alone with the twelve, Jesus did not turn away those who were willing to walk the distance to see him.  Nor does he leave those who listen to him to provide by their own abilities.  Instead, he takes the little that we have, blesses it, and makes it more than satisfying.  The simple necessities of protein and fiber.  Jesus gives them in abundance what humanity sees as a deficit.

Those who rely on human ability and agency alone are prone to disappointment and disillusions.  Anyone who will diligently seek and attentively listen to the saviour will have more than enough of what they need in life.

Your Brother in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

Eternal God and Temporal Man

You bring human beings to the dust by saying, ‘Return, children of Adam.’  A thousand years are to you like a yesterday wich has passed, like a watch of the night.     Psalm 90:3,4

The span of our life is seventy years, eighty for those who are strong, but their whole extent is anxiety and trouble, they are over in a moment and we are gone.     Psalm 90:10

Teach us to count up the days that are ours, and we shall come to the heart of wisdom.    Psalm 90:12

Colors, Cloud, and Field

We cannot even begin to compare our temporary existence to the eternality of God.  Yet, we are often foolish enough to try.  We try to label him as the God of a nation, or a race.  This psalm of Moses brings us to a people who had not yet claimed a territory and had just been delivered from being the lowest of the earth.  The writer cannot boast in national borders nor ethnic prowess.  He begins the poem with these words, Lord, you have been our refuge from age to age.  This was a people of great promise.  Other nations have heard of them and lost heart because of their triumphs.  And yet the writer gives all reverent reverence to God claiming nothing for the people.  That temporal humanity is completely reliant on God’s eternal presence.  What then is a nation?  A set of borders that will rise and fall in the sands of time.   What is a race?  A collection of people who can ruled and be ruled in the shifting winds.  Only one is eternal.  Not our great numbers of limited ages.  But, he who is ageless and precedes and succeeds our existence.  I am in debt to Dr. Angelo Chatmon, Dean of the Chapel at Virginia Union University, for making this point clear.

Your Brother in Christ,

Cyrpian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene