God's Heroes: The Canaanite Woman "Challenging the Status Quo" by Rev. Randy L. Johnson

God's Heroes: The Canaanite Woman "Challenging the Status Quo" by Rev. Randy L. Johnson

This past week we have become aware of a war being waged in the streets of America. The news of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia awakened us to a dark reality which has emerged after many years of working its way into the mainstream.  White nationalists, those who now call themselves the Alt-Right, remind us that extremist, hateful ideas and angry, violent actions are part of the on-going history of bigotry and terrorism within our own United States. 

Against this backdrop of hatred and violent racism there are stories of faith and courage to be told.  For example, in the summer of 2015, ten days after nine African Americans were brutally murdered while praying during bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a black woman by the name of Brittany Newsome scaled the 30-foot flagpole at the South Carolina Statehouse and grabbed the Confederate flag and took it down.  The mass murderer in Charleston, Dylann Root, had been inspired by the Confederate flag, had posed with it and had it displayed on his license plate.  Eleven days after Newsome removed the flag, South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill to remove all Confederate flags from statehouse grounds.

Newsome’s courageous act arose out of her faith; as she put it, “I mean, it took a great deal of faith.  My faith is a large part of my activism.  Faith is something we practice, so even in that moment just praying and staying focused and calling out to God was very important.”  It was noted that Newsome was reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 27 as she was taking the Confederate flag down.

Along with the inspiration of her faith, Newsome’s courageous act also arose out of a sense of urgency.  There was no more waiting.  She had to do something.  As described by Lottie Joiner, editor of The Crisis magazine, Newsome was “following in the footsteps of those brave souls who came before her, women like Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, and Rosa Parks who refused to accept the status quo.”

"Jesus Finds His Spark" by Pastor Leah Rosso

Leah Adler was concerned about her son Steven. He would cut off his sister's doll's heads and serve them to her on a bed of lettuce. When asked to be helpful and paint the wall of their bathroom, Steven painted everything attached to the wall-- the toilet, the mirror-- everything. Then Steven joined Boy Scouts and became fixated on the merit badge for movie making so his father bought him a Super-8 camera. When Steven filmed a full length movie and convinced his local theater to show it, his mother was relieved that he had found a hobby. Then Steven asked his mother if he could film a movie in her kitchen and told her he would need thirty cans of cherries. They cooked the cherries in a pressure cooker and Leah was thrilled that her son was making a cooking show. What she didn't know is that Steven was interested in filming exploding cherries. For years later, Leah was wiping up cherry juice that would ooze up through the cracks in her countertops! Today Steven is grown, and Leah knows that much of what she found to be concerning behavior made him who he is today-- and most of you have heard of her son, even if you haven't met him. He is the famous Steven Spielberg. (Sparks by Peter Benson, p 63-64)

Steven knew instinctively at a young age what he wanted to do. Peter Benson, President of the Search Institute, calls that instinctive passion a spark. Benson did research with hundreds of teenagers through the years, and what he found is that when teenagers find and know their sparks they are more likely to be successful in school, more likely to be socially engaged in healthy ways, more likely to be physically healthy and be involved in volunteering and making our world a better place, more likely to be hopeful about their future, have a sense of purpose, and are more likely to be good stewards of our earth. That's a pretty big list!

God's Hero Abigail: Cunning as Serpents, Innocent as Doves By Pastor Leah Rosso

Before you hear the story from 1 Samuel today, I want to give you some context. When reading the Bible, context is really everything. You may remember if you were here last week that David was anointed as King when he was a boy; Saul was still King at that time, so there is a waiting and preparing period. In this time, tensions are fairly high between Saul and David, as you might imagine, and as David reaches adulthood and the Israelites are quickly tiring of Saul's violence, David has many chances to kill Saul and become King-- but he doesn't do it. He refrains from taking the throne through violence. In our story this morning, however, we do not see that noble side of David. He and his men are camped out, basically in hiding from Saul. He has hundreds of troops by this time, and they are in need of provisions. So David sends word to a wealthy family nearby, at the height of the sheering season-- at the time when his wealth will seem most abundant. David sends his servants with words of peace to Nabal, the wealthy land owner and influential Calebite family. Nabal, however, is a foolish and mean man. We are told this, almost immediately, but just his name in Hebrew literally means foolish. Nabal insults David by telling his soldiers that he isn't interested in feeding rebel rousers. The soldiers report back to David, and David is enraged and promises that Nabal's family and servants will not live to see another day. In the meantime, a shepherd of Nabal's hears what is happening and runs immediately to Abigail, Nabal's wife. He shares with her how David has been protecting Nabal's sheep and the shepherds during this violent time, and lets her know David's plan. Abigail doesn't even hesitate. Instead of cowering with fear, or foolishly following her husband's lead, Abigail takes bold, courageous action. 

God's Hero David: "The Last One Picked" By Pastor Leah Rosso

Jesus said the last will be first and the first will be last, and that sounds great when we think we're last... but usually it surprises us when we see it happening in our world. If I were to tell you on our last staff hire that the SPRC and I picked the least likely candidate, the least qualified person of the many who applied, you wouldn't be very happy with me. And I wouldn't be very happy working with them! We don't always trust in this upside-down way that God seems to pick people.

In our Scripture this morning, Samuel, the prophet, is to go pick a new King, and when he does, he is surprised at who God chooses. You see Samuel goes to Jesse's house, and begins with the oldest, of course-- the first born-- who looks exactly like kingly material. But God says no. So he goes to the next and the same thing happens. And again. And again. He looks at all of Jesse's sons and many of them look like Kingly material to Samuel-- but God isn't using the outward appearance to choose the next king, and somehow God makes it clear to Samuel that none of these sons are it. So Samuel has to ask Jesse if he has any more sons, and Jesse is forced to admit that he didn't bother to call his youngest in; after all, he's out tending the sheep! So he calls in David-- the one who still has his baby face he's so fresh-- and God says to Samuel, that's him.