Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

James Cone, An African-American Theologian

According to a PBS documentary,

"James Cone was born in Fordyce, Arkansas in 1939 and grew up in the small town of Bearden. There he experienced the life-affirming community of the black Church alongside the soul-crushing reality of white racism. Through sermons, songs, and prayers that called on God's concern for their well-being, the Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church taught Cone "how to deal with the contradictions of life and provided a way to create meaning in a society not of [his] own making."

"Bearden, Arkansas had a population of 400 blacks and 800 whites. The whites in Bearden, as Cone explains, "tried to make us believe that God created black people to be white people's servants." White racism led to "separate but equal" schools, segregated movies and restaurants, beatings and arrests, and political and economic inequality. Cone continually questioned how the whites in his town could consider themselves good Christians, and devised - "but never enacted out of fear" - plans to disrupt their Sunday services and test their commitment to the Gospel."

James Cone went on to college, a master's program and then earned the Ph.D. in theology from Northwestern University. In his academic teaching, he found himself in a time of social struggle which called for a new understanding of faith.

James Cone faced a crisis of faith as he heard the message of Malcolm X that "Christianity was the white man's religion" while also hearing the message of God's reconciling love through the preaching of Martin Luther King, Jr. Cone discovered in his theological work and spiritual life a new way to understand God in the crisis of the Civil Rights Movement. Cone has written several influential books. One of the most well known is "God of the Oppressed," in which he speaks of the reality of Black Theology. In later years, he has written a remarkable book: "Martin and Malcolm," in which he interprets the life and work of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. relating their analysis of American life to each other. This book is particularly penetrating in its analysis as it bears the marks of a man who worked out his on salvation both personally and professionally by struggling with the meaning of Malcolm and Martin.

I highly recommend "God of the Oppressed" and "Malcolm and Martin." Also, Cone has written a very good book on African-American music and its role in faith. I had this book called "The Spirituals and the Blues." I think I loaned it to Mr. Goins. I need to go by and see Mrs. Goins. She was wanting to donate some of Mr. Goins' books to our church library. I may find it in that collection.

Monday, February 14, 2011

February Community Forum on Spirituals

February 24, at 6 p.m. we will gather in the sanctuary to listen to African-American Spirituals sung by our choir and selected soloist. We will also share some of the history of these Spirituals and the important role they have played in the life of the Church. A light meal will be served afterward.

Bible Study on Exodus Continues

We will meet this Thursday evening, February 17 at 6 p.m. in the downstairs fellowship hall. We welcome the pastor and members of Central United Methodist Church who will be joining us. Read Exodus 15-20 in preparation.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Interpretation of the Tower of Babel

This strange story in Genesis 11 tells of human beings gathering together to "make a name for themselves on earth," lest they be forgotten. It is said that all humans spoke the same language in that day, and that the Divine was so threatened by the human plan to build a tower to the heavens that it was necessary to confuse humans by giving them all different languages so they couldn't communicate with each other and plan such great things anymore.

On one hand, this can simply be seen as an explanation of why there are so many languages on earth. On the other hand, we ought to remember that this sacred story didn't drop out of the sky from heaven, but was written in Hebrew by some crusty old Jews who had been through a struggle in history to maintain their identity as the people of God in a world that questioned their right to exist as a people. Deep in Israel's history was the experience of being oppressed by the great empires of the ancient world: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon (later Greek and Roman empires). And, if we realize that this 'Tower of Babel' tale was written by Hebrew people of faith in the shadow of the oppressive empires of the world, we will realize that this story is a warning against EMPIRES AND THE UNIFORMITY IMPOSED BY EMPIRES. Empires assume a high level of cooperation and require uniformity among its citizens: one language, one culture as Alexander the Great imposed.

So, sit down and read the Tower of Babel story again, and think of it being told from the perspective of a small nation whose experience in the world had to be affirmed and asserted overagainst the empires of the ancient world. See if this doesn't sound like a warning against uniformity and empire, and an encouragement of a distinctive people. Right after this chapter in Genesis, we find that God begins to rebuild the world, not by some great cooperative project between nations, not by choosing a great group of people, but by choosing one man, Abraham who believed in God. With this one man, God made a covenant, and out of this trusting relationship began to rebuild humanity.