In the past six months, American synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway have been attacked and members killed by hate-filled gunmen. In both cases, anti-Semitism was a motive. In New Zealand, two Muslim mosques suffered horrendous loss of life at the hands of a white nationalist.
There is just too much news coming at us these days. Whether it is good news, bad news or inspiring news it is coming all at once and we have to wonder which news we will cling to. Which news will have the greatest impact on how we live out our lives? How will the news we cling to guide us in making decisions? Which news will effect the way we treat each other?
In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 28 we encounter a scene full of news. When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb they encountered the news that Jesus who was crucified had been raised. They were instructed to go and tell the news to his disciples. As they were on their way, Jesus appeared to them and greets them and immediately the women worship him. And now Jesus gives them instructions to go and give the news to his disciples to go to Galilee and they will see him there. Both the angel and Jesus tell the women to go and share the news.
After hearing the news, the disciples go to Galilee and they finally meet up with Jesus. It’s interesting in their encounter that Jesus does not talk to them about his death, but talks to the disciples about their life.
Now there is another group in this story. They are not told what to do or what news to give. The guards took it upon themselves to share the news with the chief priests. Honestly, I think they shared the news with the religious leaders because they were afraid of what was going to happen to them. They just lost the body they were supposed to be guarding! So a plan was devised and a story was invented. And guess what, they were paid for that story. And this is a story that is still being told…the disciples came and stole the body while they were sleeping! I don’t know about you but I think the rolling back of a big rock and the disciples carrying a dead body would probably wake me up!
The news that the women and disciples were told to go and tell continues from generation to generation. Basically, Jesus tells them, this is what I want you to do with this news, “go and make disciples!” Go, and make followers of me. Go, and make Christ-centered communities! Be a disciple and make disciples.
Go! Baptize! Teach! Remember! This is the news that has the greatest impact on how we live out our lives. It is the news of forgiveness, love, compassion and grace. This is the news that effects the way we treat each other. Remember Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
So what news will you cling to? May we cling to the news of the Resurrected Christ!
The Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) held a series of events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of what happened at a place called Hopevale, a remote valley located in the center of Panay Island. It was there that 11 American Baptist missionaries, one of their children, and four other American citizens hid for 18 months until they were found and executed by Japanese troops on December 20, 1943 at the height of World War II.
Greetings ABCNJ family! It has been a little over a month since I began to serve as your Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor. I continue to be humbled and honored in serving alongside sisters and brothers who are committed to proclaiming God’s deeds of power in Christ for all people to hear. I am grateful to be leading in a Region that offers each one of us the opportunity to serve in a manner that encourages conversation and welcomes the differing gifts of the diverse oneness of the Body of Christ.
As we begin this journey together, I want us to consider a specific and intentional posture found in the book of Acts. From the moment we open the book of Acts we are introduced to these words, “they all joined together constantly in prayer…” (Acts 1:14). “When the day of Pentecost had come, they are all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1); “They devoted themselves to…teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
God’s community is invited to come together and join in prayer. Prayer is the language of the heart and community is the quality of the heart. Although to live in community does not necessarily mean to be physically in one place, it does require us to live as one in the Body of Christ. As God’s beloved community we recognize that we are diverse. We are individuals with different experiences and knowledge. And as the ABCNJ community we are strong by the rich diversity of our theological perspectives, gender, age, geography, social economics, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. And in the midst of this diversity we are called to be together by the same Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
When the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, they were set free to move out of their closed room into the world. They became a body of free people who could stay in communion with each other even though they were not in the same room. ABCNJ, we too are called to practice community and to speak the language of the heart. When we pray, community is created as well as expressed.
In addition to prayer, and in the spirit of Acts 13:2 and 14:23, I also invite you to participate in the spiritual discipline of fasting. We are reminded in Scripture that the community often fasted when they sought God’s will and needed the strength and grace to remain faithful to God’s work. Consider setting aside at least one day a week to the spiritual practice of fasting.
As we enter into a new dawn, ABCNJ family and friends are invited to a Sacred Journey of Prayer and Fasting. Beginning Sunday, February 10 through Sunday, April 21. These are some of the prayers we can lift up together for the next 11 weeks:
The American Baptist Churches of New Jersey
Camp Lebanon Ministries
Pastors and their families
Mentoring young Leaders
Youth and Young Adult Ministry
Churches in leadership transition
Church Officers and Leaders Training (COAL) - March 16, 2019
ABCNJ Ministry Team
ABCNJ Council, Committees and Task Forces
ABCNJ Associations - (Capital, Essex, Greater Delaware Valley, North, Raritan, North Shore, Florida, Watchung, West)
Sacred Safe Spaces: Healing Circles Initiatives
New Church Plants/Fresh Expression Communities
ABCNJ Annual Session - September, 27-28, 2019
Seminaries and University Partners
Chaplains and Counselors
Courageous and discerning conversations for unity in the Body of Christ
Public expression of our faith
Incarnating God’s justice and peace in our local communities
I returned just last night from the Philippines, where I represented ABCNJ at a historic event for both Filipino Baptists and American Baptists. The occasion of my journey was the 75th Anniversary Commemoration events of the executions of 11 American Baptist missionaries in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army in the Philippines during WWII.
At a specially called session of the region on October 27, 2108, the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey called the Reverend Miriam Méndez as its new Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor. With her election, Rev. Méndez becomes both the first woman and first Latinx to be called to this position.
Mariamsina Bekele is a dynamic young woman from Ethiopia. She is a missionary to university students serving with the campus ministry known as EvaSUE. Mariamsina is also a wife, a mother and a terrific Bible teacher.