On Palm Sunday I spoke at a predominantly Black church in Brandon, Mississippi, and today, I am standing here at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. representing Mississippians of all faiths and creeds. We are honored to be here in observance of “Mississippi Day.”
Brandon, Mississippi or Washington, D.C., the message is still the same. I will be speaking today from my Christian faith, believing that the crucifixion and resurrection are essential to who I am.
On Palm Sunday we spoke about Jesus hanging on the cross between two thieves uttering a personal word to the Father:
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
In the midst of his pain and suffering, He is praying for those causing the pain. Thus, Jesus, the King of King, the Lord of Lord, the Alpha & Omega was crucified and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
John 20:1–9 says on that resurrection day, the tomb was found empty.
John 20:10–18, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene as she stood by an empty tomb weeping.
Our text this morning finds Jesus appearing to His disciples.
Vs. 19 — As they were locked in a room, fearful of what the Jews might do, Jesus entered the room-He proclaimed “Peace be with you”.
What comforting words to a fearful people n And when He showed them his hands and side, they were overjoyed
Vs. 21, Jesus said “Peace be with you, As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”
Vs. 22-23 — He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit, and you will have power.”
Vs. 24-25 — Now Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus came and when they tried to explain that they had seen the Lord, he quickly replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hand and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.”
How many of us feel like Thomas—Show me — I need to see before I believe— If I don’ t see, then I won’ t believe?
Vs. 26 — A week later His disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said ‘ Peace be with you.”
Now in a gentle way He deals with Thomas’ s unbelief and says in . 27 — 0147;Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Is there a word for us today? “Stop doubting and believe” Believe that I am Lord over the universe. Believe that I am Lord over America. Believe that He can handle the problems in Washington, D.C. Believe that He can handle the problems of Mississippi.
This was a great word for me: “STOP DOUBTING AND BELIEVE” You see, doubting was a way of life of me growing up in Mississippi in the 50’s & 60’s.
I was born in a family of 8 children; my father deserted us when I was 4 years old — we lived in a three-room house — my mom encouraged us to dream — but doubting was always present.
Because of the problems of poverty, racism, and injustice, I dreamed of leaving Mississippi and never returning.
My big chance came when I received a basketball scholarship to a small Christian college in southern California.
I remember saying as I boarded the bus and rode across the Mississippi River Bridge in Vicksburg, “I am leaving Mississippi and I ain’t never coming back.
Doubting and believing that the problem is so big that the only thing I could do was leave, run away.
But God brought me back in 1971 to work with a ministry in my home town of Mendenhall, Mississippi.
We were asking a question, “Is our faith strong enough to impact the needs of a poor community.”
God blessed that ministry and it was recognized by former President, George Bush as the 541st Daily Point of Light in 1991.
God turned my doubts into “faith in action.”
In his book Visions for the Millennium, the Very Rev. Nathan D. Baxter said, “Is it not the work of religion to help bind together the detached segments of our fragmented lives into a unified whole with vision, vitality and a sense of solidarity with the larger community.”
The religious community need to work together to dream forward to work on problems of poverty, inadequate health care, housing, crime, and even racism.
Since 1998, I have been working with a statewide movement called Mission Mississippi, and we are asking a question: “Is our Christian faith strong enough to deal with the racial barriers?”
How do we deal with the past? We probably all have some regrets about the past and try to forget our sins and mistakes.
We may feel a lot like the Peanut comic strip character, Linus who said, “Maybe we should think only about today.” Charlie Brown disagreed, “No, that’s giving up. I’m still hoping yesterday will get better.”
We all know that we can’t change what happened yesterday, but we can learn from yesterday’s sins and mistakes, and with God’s help, we can use that knowledge to dream forward for a better tomorrow.
My passion is to look at the past, seek to understand it and learn from it, but to focus on specific ways that we can journey toward togetherness.
I must confess that when I first started working with Mission Mississippi, I thought that 95 percent of my time needed to be spent working with the white church and only 5 percent with the black church. I was in for a rude awakening because I discovered that the black church was no more excited about reconciliation and unity than the white church.
Mission Mississipi, as a movement that encourages unity in the Body of Christ across racial and denominational lines throughout the state of Mississippi, says it is time for us to get on the same train. There may be different box-cars but the same destination—Baptists, Presbyterians, blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, etc.—but the same train. Yes, every now and then we can intentionally change box cars, and yet we know that we are all riding to glory.
Central Savior. Central Holy Spirit. Central Destination
I need to learn how to ‘stop doubting’ and believe.
Vs. 28 — Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”
Vs. 29 — Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed”.
Vs. 30–31 — Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name.
THE COLD WITHIN
Six humans trapped by happenstance in the dark and bitter cold
Each one possessed a stick of wood, or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs, one woman held hers back
For on the faces around the fire, she noticed one was black.
The next one looking across the way, saw one not of his church
And couldn’t bring himself to give, the fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes, and gave his coat a hitch
‘ Why should my log be used, to aid the idle rich?’
The rich man just sat back and thought, of all the wealth he had in store
And how to keep what he has earned, from the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge, as the fire passed from his sight
For all he saw in his stick of wood, was a chance to spite the white.
The last man in this forlorn group, did not except for gain
Giving only to those who give, was how he played the game.
Six logs, held tight in death’s still hands, was proof of human sin
They didn’t die from the cold without, THEY DIED FROM THE COLD WITHIN.