“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s……”  Luke 9:26

“Greater love has no one than this; than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  John 16:13

“You are of  your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.,,,,,..for there is no truth in him…..”  John 8:44

“I’m headed of to bible study!  Be back soon.”

or

“We have a great bible study at our church; want to come?”

or

“I need to take time to prepare the lesson for our bible study on Wednesday night.”

I can imagine that these sentences or something like them were spoken at times during the week leading up to Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina.  Those twelve people who were at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, were making a proclamation.  They were proclaiming with their presence, their prayers. their desire to study the Word of God; they were proclaiming the importance of connection.  They were proclaiming that they believed in a Higher Power.  They were proclaiming that they believed in God the Father Almighty and His Son Jesus Christ.  They were proclaiming that they were not ashamed; NO, they were humbly proud to be child of God and redeemed by the sacred blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Their actions proclaimed something else as well; love.  For you see they took into themselves, into their midst, in love and sharing; they took a stranger.  A stranger, outwardly quite different than them.  A stranger of a different race, a stranger from a different location and background.  Yet they didn’t see the stranger.  They saw a fellow creation of God the Father.  In a proclamation of love, they welcomed him in, to fellowship in the proclamation of Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the world didn’t receive that proclamation.  The world was too busy listening to the lies of his father, the devil.  The world, in the person of Dylann Roof had its own proclamation to make.  It was a proclamation couched in the words of lies and hate and the acts of destruction.  Nine saints were killed in that worldly proclamation.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we see these two proclamations acting out all over our world today.  We see the world’s proclamations in brutal wars and broken families, in senseless acts of violence as well as the ever increasing mantra: “it’s all good unless I get caught”.   Yet we also see Christ proudly proclaimed in acts of life sacrificing bravery and random acts of kindness for those this world has left behind.

What we are left to decide is which proclamation is going to resonate within us?  Which proclamation are we going to make with our lips, our hearts and our lives?  There is a worldly response that says we should do things like have our pastors and our congregations bring guns into our places of worship.  That we should rely more on Smith and Wesson than the Holy Spirit for our safety.  That locking our churches, relying on gun control or boosting mental illness awareness will cure our ills.  Please don’t misunderstand me, helping people who are ill is a great thing; yet as long as we look to solely earthly fixes for our condition, we will be left feeling frustrated, forlorn and ultimately without hope.

Rather, we need to rely on the one proclamation that can truly change us; the only proclamation that will see us rise up from the realm of victims to enter into a place of victory.  We must proclaim that we are not the highest, greatest or more important thing in the universe.  We must proclaim our connection to Our Creator; Father in Heaven.  We must proclaim our love for Our Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  We must unashamedly proclaim our belief in Jesus Christ as our savior.

Which proclamation has more power?  Let’s look to Charleston SC and Emanuel AME church for our answer.  If the world’s proclamation was more powerful, then Dylann’s plan would have come to fruition.  We would be seeing riots and civil war; we would see a sudden upwelling of hate and destruction.  We would see a splintering and fracturing of society into pieces bent on total destruction of the other.  We would see a city, a country, a world completely devoid of hope, filled only with fear and hatred.

What happened in SC was a tragedy.  Yet based on the proclamation of those twelve people what do we see?  We see people of all races, creeds, ages and differences, coming together to pray, to lift up those hurting, to proclaim their faith in God above.  We hear hymns being sung and hope being expressed.  We hear words of healing, words of love.  And while I believe in Christ’s proclamation that is appropriate to grieve and those who do will be comforted, I also truly believe that in boldness Christ proclaimed to His Father the arrival of twelve new saints in heaven.  Christ is proclaiming to all that these twelve were proud and not ashamed to proclaim their belief in Jesus Christ while on this earth.  Now in Heaven Jesus Christ is proclaiming His love for them and His Father, Our God is saying to them:  “Well done my good and faithful servants!  Enter into My Kingdom of eternal peace and rest.”  For while the world may proclaim their death; I proclaim their transition in Christ; who died once and for all who believe in Him, that they will never see death or feel its sting.  Oh how I hope and pray that we may one day hear Jesus Christ make that same proclamation over each of us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we proclaim that we are not ashamed to be called one of Jesus Christ’s.  We proclaim that we are not ashamed to confess that we are sinners and that Jesus Christ is our Savior.  We proclaim that we love You, Most Merciful Father; we love your Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Forgive us should we falter or waiver momentarily as we are attacked by the world.  Forgive us when we feel tempted to buy in to the world’s and its father’s proclamations.  Give us strength to continue to proclaim and praise Your Most Holy Name and the humility to know that we are not the greatest, we are not our own saviors, that we are dependent on Jesus Christ to be our savior.  That we will never be ashamed to proclaim Your Holy Name in praise; we pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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