Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A new movie came out April 12 (“42”) about Jackie Robinson. If you are not old, enough to remember the Brooklyn Dodgers or what it was like to live in the midst of segregation in the 1950s, you might want to go see it. It might just inspire you.
For a large part of the population, it might be hard to imagine a time when blacks and whites were segregated. They did not go to the same schools, they did not live in the same neighborhoods, they did not eat in the same restaurants and they did not use the same public toilets. This is only a few ways that society separated out the people who inhabited the United States in those days. Baseball was no different because they had their own leagues. Jackie played baseball for the black teams but one day a white manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers dared to recruit Jackie for his all white team. The movie depicts the challenges and difficulties of taking such a bold step and the courage it took to face the “Giants” of prejudice in the world. This action set off a domino effect that would begin to break down the barriers that existed at that time. There is a line in a song, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” A spark was struck that day!
In a sermon recently, I spoke about how Jesus fought against the wrongs of society and was willing to take his fight all the way to the cross. I asked the congregation if everything was good and right today, if there were no injustices in the world. All were silent at first and then someone said of course, there are things that are wrong about our current world. We do still have our own giants to conquer.
I could then point to the barriers that exist today. We could talk about the treatment of immigrants in this country. We could talk about tax laws that favor the rich and discriminate against the middle class and the poor. What I did talk about is the discrepancy of providing services to the poor. Our rules and regulations seem to make it difficult for people in need to get assistance. Even food pantries limit the amount of food they can give to a family. Could part of the problem be that our food pantries have limited resources and so need to give out small amounts in order to make it last longer?
Hebrews 13:16: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
A miracle happened…on Saturday, April 6, members of this church went down to the local Stop n’ Shop for six hours to collect food and other items from shoppers. People were so generous. As I said on Easter morning, “God showed up!” Many people helped to fill up ten (10) shopping carts of food. We packed up three cars and delivered all of it to Smithhaven Ministries in Coram. The people there were overwhelmed. We give thanks to all the people who helped to make this a very successful food drive and we ask for blessings on their lives always and forever.
Al congregations, in order to do the work of Jesus, to stand up to the injustices and giants of the world, needs to be fortified, encouraged and empowered for the work. We need to strengthen our leaders and members physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We accomplish this through community and worship. This leads me to the injustice small congregation’s face. This injustice comes from external forces but also internal forces.
With limited resources of time, talents and treasures small congregations feel the need to pull back, to do less than they would if they were in larger congregations. However, I realized during my first year as a pastor that regardless of the size of the congregation, the people deserved the best of what I could give. Therefore, I have to put in the same amount of effort whether I have 2 people in front of me or 1,000. The people of God deserve nothing less; you deserve nothing less. I believe this because we all struggle against the giants of the world. We all need courage to fight the good fight. Therefore, I believe that we need to provide the best uplifting worship we can so that we are empowered to do as Jackie Robinson did during his lifetime. I would hope that you would want that, as well. Jesus expects nothing less. Trust that God will make a way. May God bless every congregation’s worship and ministry today and forever!
I thank God for you,
Rev. Kathy Nealand