Church, I have a bad case of the I can't help it!
I have to admit that I did not want to be a preacher or pastor. As a matter of fact I vowed that I would not be as my father was a pastor and that was not the life I wanted for myself. I did not want that life for myself or my family. A life of neglect of family needs and a time spent together because of ministry needs, and abuse by the hands of people who you care for and minister to. A life of being under paid and overworked. No, I did not want that kind of life.
I said that I would not do it even when it was prophesied that I would be a preacher at a young age and as a teenager. I knew there was a call on my life when I was eighteen years old. It was made clear to me that I was being enticed by God into the ministry. But at eighteen, this was not something I truly was interested in pursuing.
I did not want to undergo the ridicule of my peers and the jeers that would come as a result of my not being a part of the "In crowd," a community I had participated in during my years in high school.
I did not want to become a laughingstock as a result of my denying the pleasures of life that were just starting to become available to me as a young man. I said no...........not now!
But you have enticed me O lord, and I was enticed. I was enticed when I would speak out against racism during the civil rights era. I was being enticed as I revolted and became a member of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panthers and served under the leadership of Fred Hampton. I was enticed when I refused induction into the military as a conscientious objector and was granted that status while serving in the US Army.
I say I was enticed, because God was preparing me for what was yet to happen in my life. For the call that was upon me even before my birth. Yes, just like the prophet Jeremiah, I hear the words of God saying, "I have called you while you were still in your mother's womb."
Everything I have done and experienced has been a sort of shaping by God to become who God has called, ordered and ordained to become. I must be the preacher to speak to the issues that other preachers might not address, just because that is who God has called me to be and become.
And so it is with our message today.
Every time I open the newspaper or turn on the news I hear of some violent crime that has happened in our country. If the Church's lobby isn't greater than the National Rifle Association's lobby, then we are a pitiful people.
I feel the call-even the mandate from God-to address this issue while being presented with this national forum to share this message. It's nothing that I have not shared as I travel the country speaking at various congregations and to small groups. But now is the time and opportunity to bring this prophetic word to the nation and the people of God called the Church.
You see, I again, like the prophet Jeremiah, have the dual call of being a priest and a prophet. I too, like Jeremiah, have been called from the belly of my mother and the loins of my father to become formed into this preacher, reluctant though I may be who will declare "thus says the Lord."
I too am living in a generation where there is destruction and violence all around, and it seems that those who could do something about it and should do something, and are empowered to do something seem to want to do nothing.
Why is it that the United States of America has one of the highest murder rates in the world at the hands of its citizens? Why do we have more people in prisons that any other country in the world as well? Why is it that there is no place that is safe from violent crime, especially as a result of gun violence?
Why is it that, not only our homes and public streets, but shopping malls, schools, colleges, even churches, have become places where people have no problem with perpetrating violence upon others, often the innocent. Why is it that the church refuses to address this epidemic? In New Orleans this week there were eight murders. In Chicago, eight murders of school-age children. In New York, Los Angeles, even Green Bay, Wisconsin. The fact is there is no place that is safe! All around me I cry "violence and destruction."
We have the numbers to come out against this crime against God and humanity, but we don't have the vision or the will. I say that we don't have the will because if we did have the will, we would be about the business of addressing the problem. I say this because I have a bad case of the I can't help it.
What is even more troubling is that we have more compassion for animals than we do for human beings. If there were as many dogs shot in this country in one week as there has been humans, there would be an outcry from every corner of this country. There would be a federal investigation as we found was the case with Atlanta's football quarterback. Michael Vick was sentenced to federal prison for promoting dog fighting. The media's calling for an investigation of a New Orleans' police officer who shot and killed a dog owned by a doctor while investigating a crime. The dog was charging at the policeman, and the officer felt threatened, so he shot and killed the dog. There is no inquiry or call from the media or the public to investigate the eight murders committed in seven days in this city, nor is there any such call for investigation in Chicago where the eight school children were murdered or in Detroit or Philadelphia or any of the other cities in this nation.
We, again, have the numbers to come out against this powerful gun lobby of the NRA and to get these weapons out of the hands of our children. But the reason the church can't overcome the lobby of the NRA is because many of our members are also members of the NRA. God has placed this matter so very strongly in my spirit that even though I may not want to speak to this issue, I find that I must. As the prophet says, "If I say I will not mention him or speak anymore in his name, then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones. I am weary with holding it in and I cannot."
There was a song we sang in the church where I grew up that said, "I said I wasn't going to tell nobody, but I couldn't keep it to myself. I must tell you, whether you hear or not, whether you listen or not, or whether you respond or not, I must tell you because a charge to keep I have, a God to glorify, a never dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky, to serve this present age is my calling to fulfill. Let me all my powers engage and do my Master's will."
Yes, Church, I have a bad case of the can't help its.
Let us pray.
Most gracious and merciful God, God of our weary years and God of our silent tears, thou who has led us thus far on our way, we come before you beseeching you that you would empower us with the spirit of God with your spirit that we might take on the challenges of eradicating handguns and violence within our cities and our communities and indeed in our nation. We ask that you might empower us that we might bring glory to your holy name. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and risen Savior, in whose precious name we pray. Amen.