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Sunday, May 20, 2018

BUILD IT OR BURY IT

At the intersection of tabernacle, talents, and tongues of flame is a message about how we used the gifts God gives us.  Originally delivered for Young Ladies Guild Day at Miles Chapel CME Church, the title of the sermon is: BUILD IT OR BURY IT.


Listen well and leave a comment.

If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, AL 35064

Sunday, May 13, 2018

FROM WANDERING WOMAN TO WONDER WOMAN (sermon podcast)

A message for mothers and all women.  (Brothers, this might do you some good, too.) FROM WANDERING WOMAN TO WONDER WOMAN.


Listen well and leave a comment.


If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, AL 35064

Friday, May 11, 2018

THE END OF CONTENTMENT & THE BEGINNING OF PEACE


Blogging Exodus 2-3.


Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”
Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.
So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush.
So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.   Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn” (Exodus 2:21-3:3).

Moses had tried, but it didn’t work.

He’d tried to use his education to enlighten his people.  He’d risked his position and personal prosperity as an example of commitment to the cause.  He’d fought for them, killed for them.  He’d believed that if he told them and showed them and sacrificed himself for them then they would listen, and see, and rise up with him to take back their freedom.  Moses had tried to be a revolutionary.


It hadn’t worked.

So Moses left.  He put a (literal) thousand miles  between him and Egypt.  Met a nice Midianite girl.  Got married.  Adopted her dad as his dad.  Quietly took up the family shepherding business.  Had kids.  You know, normal life.  He’d been a son of pharaoh, a prince of Egypt but the whole time he’d been so angry.  In Midian he was old Jethro’s son-in-law, a husband and father, the shepherd.   In Midian Moses was content.

Then Moses was content to live with the man (Exodus 2:21).

Content means Moses didn’t feel like something was missing in his life. He didn’t sense the absence of a greater destiny.  He’d gotten past all that change-the-world, save-my-people stuff.  He was good.  No, really.  Fine as he was.

Then God set a bush on fire.

And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. . . .  God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses! . . .  Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 2: 2-4, 10).

And Moses told the Lord, “No, thank you.”

The next 29 verses (Exodus 3:11 – 4:17) is Moses making excusing and God refuting Moses’ excuses, until Moses finally says point blank,  “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send” (Exodus 4: 13).

Basically, “Send somebody else.  I don’t wanna go.”

I understand Moses.  I understand how it feels to be genuinely and truly OVER IT. 



You get tired of repeating the same truth to people who say, “Amen” and then live like they don’t know what truth is.   You get tired of pulling all-nighters to figure out solutions for folks who begged you to figure out a solution, but when you offer the solution they say, “Who made you a prince and ruler over us.”   You get tired of fighting Pharaoh for your people AND fighting your people to get them to fight Pharaoh.    When you realize that “your people” ain’t gonna lift one finger to protect you from bankruptcy, stress-related high blood pressure, student loans, strained relationships in your own house, or Pharaoh’s guards ---- then you might decide to put as much distance as you can between them and you.  You might decide to just be husband, father, and local shepherd.  You might not even miss trying to be a revolutionary because you might actually be content. 

Now godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).  

But then WHY IS that bush STILL on fire?

Because GOD was not content.

Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.  And God  heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them (Exodus 2:23-25).

600-plus years after the promises to Abraham, God’s people were still His people.  400 years after Joseph, 4 centuries of being addicted to life Pharaoh’s Goshen, 4 generations of forgetting who they were and Whose they were ------ God’s people were still His people.  And the Lord had not given up on fulfilling His promises to His people. 



Your people don’t stop being your people.  


Your calling to your people doesn’t cease to be your calling to your people.

And no matter how genuinely OVER IT you are, the fact that you still draw breath means God is not done with you yet.

When Moses said “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send” it pissed off God. 

So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses (Exodus 4:14).

And God made Moses go back to Egypt ANYWAY. 

They keep calling and emailing you, don’t they?  



You deliberately missed all the meeting and they still want you to work on the project.

Your social media feed, the commercials during your favorite show, that song that made you weep on the way to church, that radio sermon that almost made you pull over on the way to work, even the advice you hear coming out of your mouth to somebody else . . .
I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.”  But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not (Jeremiah 20:9).

 Now, you understand some things you didn’t before.  Now, you’re not na├»ve about how easy the war will be.  Now, ironically, when you don’t want to lead anymore, you’re ready to lead. 

And yeah, you have reasons and excuses and 29 verses worth of prior engagements and conflicting obligations, but guess what? 

You’re still gonna go.

You’re not going to change God’s mind about your calling.  You might piss God off.  But you aren’t going to change His mind about your destiny. 

For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob (Malachi 3:6).

You still doing what God called you to do is the reason you are still around to do anything.  You might as well accept it.

So Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, “Please let me go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive” (Exodus 4:18a). 

You’ve had your season of contentment on the sidelines.  Now the only place you’ll find peace is back in the middle of the game.

And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”  (Exodus 4:18b). 


If the blog moved you, listen to this message from our Exodus preaching series.


If you can’t get the audio on your device, use this link:  WHEN GOD DOESN'T LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE (audio)


--Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

ANGRY YOUNG MAN or “MOSES AND THE REVOLUTION”


Blogging from Exodus 2:11+

Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.(Exodus 2:11, 12)

Moses was angry.  It was a seething, simmering, suppressed rage lidded by a schooled smile, a flawless WASP accent, and the impeccable manners acquired in an Ivy League lifestyle; but Moses  had been angry for the better part of 40 years. 

If any of his high-class Egyptians peers had noticed, one of the elders would surely have accused Moses of being “ungrateful.”  After all, he’d enjoyed privilege, education, and opportunities other boys like him could only dream of.



But Moses knew too much to just “shut up and play” the game of Egyptian assimilation.  

Moses KNEW that the man he called grandfather had tried to kill him when he was a baby.  Moses KNEW that the same folks who caled him “sir,” and “your highness” would have cheerfully drowned him in the Nile without hesitation and without consequence.

In 4 decades in Pharaoh’s house, how many racist, anti-Semitic jokes do you think Moses forced himself to laugh at?  How many times did he sit through impassioned speeches about how it was acceptable for Egyptians to murder young Hebrew boys because “Look at all the Hebrew-on-Hebrew crime”?


How many family dinner guests casually quipped about wasting education on Hebrews because “All they really need is to job skills so they can make bricks faster”?

  

In 40 years, how many adopted siblings, cousins, uncles, and aunts repeated the common line,  “All those Hebrews do is live off the government in Goshen and have babies and take Egyptian jobs” and then when they noticed Moses’ awkward silence added, “but not you, Moses.  Oh no, your highness.  You’re not like THEM.  I don’t even see color when I look at you, your Highness.  You’re like a ‘real’ Egyptian.” 

Someone probably even tried to explain to Moses that the Hebrews LIKED being slaves.  “They’ve been in Egypt 400 years,” they said, “That sounds like a choice.”




For 40 years Moses heard and KNEW:  “They’re talking about my people.  They’re talking about my brother, my sister, my mama.  They’re talking about ME.”  

Yeah, Moses was angry.  But, he didn’t kill the Egyptian overseer because he was angry.  Not ONLY because he was angry.   Moses killed the Egyptian because he was angry and AMBITIOUS.

Moses supposed that his  Hebrew brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand . . . (Acts 7:25).

that God would deliver them by his hand

Moses didn’t just want to kill an overseer; he wanted to Nat Turner the whole system.  Moses was trying to start a revolution.



That’s why Pharaoh ordered Moses killed.   He didn’t care about another spoiled prince’s liberal rage, and he didn’t care about a dead overseer.  The Egyptian royal family were worshipped as the descendants of the gods.   A prince of Egypt could have killed or ordered the death of a hundred lowly Egyptian overseers for any reason or for none at all.    No prince would be arrested for murder but one would have been arrested and executed for treason.


So why didn’t God support Moses when he first tried to deliver the Hebrew children from their oppressors? 

Remember what the Hebrew men asked Moses the day after the murder? 

And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?”
Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? . . . ”  (Exodus 2:13,14)

Who made you a prince and a judge over us? 

They knew that Moses wasn’t just angry; he was angry and ambitious.  Moses didn’t just want to be a liberator.  Moses wanted to be king. 



But the only kind of king Moses knew to be was a king like Pharaoh.



God didn’t want another pharaoh. 

So instead of endorsing Moses’ revolution by striking down the Egyptians in a string of deadly miracles, the Lord let Moses catch a case.  He  fled into the wilderness of Midian where he met a man named Reuel, aka Jethro.

Reuel (Exodus 2:16) became Moses’ father-in-law and mentor.  For the first time in his life, Moses sat under an actively engaged father figure.  He learned to be a husband and father.  He learned to know and love the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  In Egypt Moses spent 40 years learning  to lead like a pharaoh.  In Midian, it took just as long for him to learn to serve like a shepherd (Acts 7:23; Exodus 7:7).

When God spoke to him out of a burning bush Moses had changed so much that he tried to decline the offer of leadership.

God didn’t support the revolutionary who wanted to be a king.  God called the prophet who wanted to be a shepherd. 

Maybe this is why OUR attempts at revolutionary reform in and through the church fail:  because we fail to get beyond our anger and our ambitions.  We need to add a whole new mindset to our highly educated skillset.   

The Lord is looking for leaders who have not made their ascent to power a condition of their people's deliverance.  God is waiting on us to think less like revolutionaries and more like shepherds.

--Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064


Sunday, May 6, 2018

DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHOSE WORDS ARE COMING OUT OF THEIR MOUTH?

The first sermon in the new series, preaching through the book of Hebrews. 

The title is a question you may (kinda) recognize: DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHOSE WORDS ARE COMING OUT OF THEIR MOUTH?


Listen well and leave a comment.


If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, AL 35064

Monday, April 30, 2018

THE RICH LADY AND THE POOR BABY, more lessons from the childhood of Moses




Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?”
 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother.
Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. (Exodus 2: 7-9)

God is clever, really clever; and He has a heckuva sense of irony.  The  family whose state-mandated genocide had forced Moses’ mother, Jochebed,  to abandon him: that same family HIRED Jochebed to nurse him.  Pharaoh’s money paid Moses’ mother to be Moses’ mother.  And, since she was working for Pharaoh’s daughter, her family, while enslaved,  would have been given the the protection and favor of the king.  God found a way to turn their enemy into their patron. 

God can and does use the people who hurt you to deliver help you.

But, benevolence and patronage did not change the rulers' sense of ethnic superiority.
When Moses was around 3 years old, his mother had to bring him to servant’s entrance of the palace, hand him over to Pharaoh’s daughter, explain to her baby boy “This is your mother now,” and then . . .  then she had to walk away. 

And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, “Because I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 2: 7-10). 

On the one hand, Pharaoh’s daughter was doing her part to mitigate the suffering of the oppressed minority. 

She had seen a little Hebrew boy abandoned by his parents, but instead of calling the police (I mean the palace guards) on the boy so he could be killed like the others, she sent for a wet nurse.   In a world that had normalized the murdered bodies of Hebrew sons, this most privileged member of the most privileged majority had compassion. 

The daughter of the evil king might turn out to be a decent person. 


On the other hand, unexamined privilege creates a kind of social blindness which makes you look stupid to the un-privileged.

When Pharaoh’s daughter discovered baby Moses floating in the reeds, she accepted the offer of a Hebrew wet nurse without question.  A wet nurse is a lactating woman hired to provide breast-milk to another woman's child.  The fact that Jochebed was lactating meant either she had an unweaned child of her own or she'd recently given birth. A few questions along the lines of basic interest in Jochebed's story would have revealed that she had birthed a child 3 months earlier, but the child was now "gone."  Either the child had died from sickness or been murdered on Pharaoh's orders.   

If the princess had cared to hear the poor, disadvantaged Hebrew woman's story, she might have realized she was asking/ ordering a woman still grieving her own child to  breastfeed a baby who would be taken from her as soon as he was off breast-milk.   Pharaoh's daughter was compassionate but she was also blinded by her privilege.  She didn't see the insensitivity and ignominy of her intervention in the minority community.

Pharaoh’s daughter probably thought she was doing the community a favor.  

The baby wouldn't be their child anymore, but he was alive. 

On the other hand, he wasn’t their child anymore.  

People born into social, economic, and ethnic privilege forget that the "favors” for which “people like them” should be grateful are only necessary because of the political, economic, and literal genocides ordered by their fathers.   Amram and Jochebed, poor and imperfect as they were, were fully capable of rearing Moses without the princess's patronage, if his very existence didn't  trigger a lethal response from the “helpful” authorities of the state.

On the one hand, Moses would grow up with opportunities no Hebrew child had known since the days of Joseph.  He would be educated by the greatest tutors of the age, trained in politics, the sciences, the arts, philosophy, mathematics, and military strategy.  He would always have plenty of food, the best clothes, and the latest chariots.   A slave baby left in a river would be called a prince of Egypt.

On the other hand, Moses’s parents didn’t even get to choose their youngest child’s name.  Pharaoh’s daughter called him Moses, so it didn't matter what name had been given him at birth.  They had to teach him to answer to “Moses.”   After a few years of  government aid  the the Women Infants and Children in Amram's and Jochebed's houshold, the system took Moses from his mother and gave him to the rich Egyptian lady who wanted him.

For centuries, White people in America and Europe “saved” Native American, Black, African, and Asian babies by taking them from their “disadvantaged” families and raising them as their own.    

On the one hand, being willing to love a child born by a stranger from a foreign culture indicates a heart of deep compassion.  That's godly love.    

On the other hand, millions of those foster and adoptive parents felt it was their Christian and/ or American duty to save those colored babies from all the heathen vestiges of their inferior birth culture whether the babies' parents wanted them saved or not .
Because of compassion, Pharaoh's daughter wanted to give the poor, cute Hebrew baby a better life.  But because of her PRIVILEGE, she didn’t confront her father about the conditions that made being a young Hebrew male so dangerous.   

Ecclesiastes 3:9-10  9       That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
10             . . .It has already been in ancient times before us.

From the princess’s perspective, she was adopting a poor minority baby and giving him a good life.  From Moses’mother’s perspective, the government had tried to kill her baby and when that failed they came and took her baby away. 

Pharaoh’s daughter was oblivious to her privilege.  But Moses’ mother and sister were not.  They understood that she didn’t understand, and they did what the underprivileged have always done.  They used the social blindness of their oppressors to their advantage.  Moses’ family  gained 3 or years with the child they expected to mourn 3 months after he was born.  AND they got Pharaoh to pay for the childcare. 

Somewhere in those 3 scammed years of being a whole family, Mama and Miriam  indoctrinated Moses with an un-shakeable sense of his Hebrew-ness.  They built a connection to the community that stayed in Moses through all the years of assimilation and indoctrination in the palaces of the king of Egypt.

Moses’ family were oppressed and exploited, AND they were smart enough to outwit the royal family.  Pharaoh’s daughter was genuinely compassionate AND she was obliviously privileged. 

3 Lessons to Take Away from the Story of Baby Moses:
1.   No matter their social class, people are complicated.  
2.  The privileged are not as smart as they think they are, and the “under-classes” are not as dumb as they’re thought to be.
3.  Compassion is a perfect starting point, but compassion isn’t the end of the conversation. 

--Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064