TRAGETUNITY-THE CHURCH'S FINEST HOUR
In the dark days of WWII, just after the fall of France, England was facing the same fate at the hands this great evil menace headed by Adolf Hitler. Winston Churchill addressed a disillusioned and frightened country. He reminded them that they faced these same fears in the first world world. They had to fight against great odds in the first world war too. They fought through dark days then too. He said, "during that war we repeatedly asked ourselves how are we going to win? No one was able ever to answer it with much precision, until at the end, quite suddenly, quite unexpectedly, our terrible foe collapsed before us". He then rallied the Allies by saying, "the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our...way of life...the whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. If we can stand up to Hitler all Europe will be freed and the life of the world may move forward...but if we fail the whole world...will sink into the abyss of a new dark age. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour".
Recently, on Wednesday night June 17th, something happened that I believe will affect all of us. I believe that years from now, even from eternity's perspective, we will be able to look back and say "that was the Church's finest hour". Last week, on Wednesday night June 17th, at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, a man described as "white, with sandy-blond hair, around 21 years old and 5 feet 9 inches tall, wearing a gray sweatshirt and jeans" entered the Church, sat through the Bible study, led by Pastor Clementa C. Pinckney. At about 9:00 P.M., as the study was ending, the man, later identified as Dylann Roof, opened fire killing nine people, including the Pastor. Scarcely had the news broken than pundits-both liberal and conservative-started using the shooting to further their pet causes, from banning the Confederate flag to the need to permit people to carry guns in Church. What can the Church of Jesus Christ learn from this tragedy? How can we turn this tragedy into an opportunity? Is there any way we can take this tragedy and transform it? Can this become a "tragetunity" and make it our finest hour? The members of Emmanuel AME Church are already doing that. We too can learn from it. What can we learn?
First of all, as we live in these last days, days that the Bible calls "perilous times" (savage)-we must be ready for anything. In New Testament times God's people were "God's Scattered People" not "God's Sheltered People". The same is true now, and will only get worse. Satan knows that his time is short. He will begin wreaking havoc against God's people like we have never seen before. We must brace for that. As the Supreme Court makes decisions that will go contrary to Christian evangelical beliefs, we will pay a high price to be faithful to our Lord. Don't kid yourself-what happened there on Wednesday night could happen here-on a Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night! What are we going to do? Stop going to Church? Stop standing up for what we believe? Emmanuel AME already answered that. One week after that tragedy they made it a "tragetunity". They gave a testimony to their community and the world. They were back a Church. They were praying with and for one another. They were forgiving the perpetrator. They were still serving and praising God. I don't know about you but I can't think of a better place to die than in the Church with the people of God that we love and that love us. I can't think of a better activity to die doing than to be participating in Bible study. God told the Church at Philadelphia, facing persecution, be "faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life!" ( Rev. 2:10). If ever there was a time that we should show our love for God by showing our love for the Church, and being there every time the doors are open IT IS NOW!
The Bible tells us to "overcome evil with good". The good people of Emmanuel AME Church has already done that! They have shown the "forgiveness of Christ" to a watching world. While everyone was talking about racism; race wars; gun control; gun permits; concealed carry; the Confederate Flag; and all political candidates were using the event to their advantage the people of God were talking too-about forgiveness! The children of Sharonda Singleton, one of the victims, told the reporter interviewing them "we already forgive Dylann Roof, and there is nothing but love from our side of the family". They weren't alone. Stephen Singleton, Emmanuel's former Pastor said, "we're people of faith, and people of faith know that we will heal. God helps us heal. This doesn't drive us away from God, but to God". Senator Tim Scott, appearing on Face The Nation, said "though Dylann Roof intended his actions to ignite a war between the races, this has actually brought Charleston closer together!" In reality, this has the potential to draw our races closer together, as all races, who know Christ in common, can reach out in love to each other, realizing that our love for Him may cause us all to be victims soon to the enemy's hate and attack. The Church must come together; pray together; serve together; stick together. I love what Benjamin Franklin told the signers of the Declaration of Independence-"We must all hang together or we will certainly all hang separately!" We could learn alot from heading his words!
I want to affirm our love for you as your Pastor. I know that attendance has been down lately. That many Christians in our Church are not taking their commitment to Christ seriously. But God planted Tri Valley Baptist Church here. He will stand with us and bless us if we will draw near to him. Even if days get difficult we need each other now more than ever. Let me encourage you to draw near to God and each other. Pray for God to draw our members back to faithful service and send us more laborers for the work before us. I hate to be gone today, especially with so many of our people out of town. But we had planned a weekend away. Bill offered to lead the service. Please hear him with annointed ears! Hold the fort down til we get back on Monday. Remember the days we are facing are seen by some as a tragedy. Real people of God transform it into an opportunity-or shall we invent a new word-"tragetunity!" If we rally around and serve our faithful Lord faithfully-they will someday say-"That was their finest hour!" of us too.