Month: August 2014
T.E.A.M.- We’ve Got 2 Stick Together
Text: Psalm 133:1-3
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Church, 4 out of the 10 most covered and sampled songs in music history belong to a group from Liverpool, England– The Beatles. While, I’m not a Beatles fan, one of my favorite Beatles songs is Come Together! Maybe you’ve heard the versions covered by either Aerosmith, The Supremes, Diana Ross, Ike and Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Tom Jones, Elton John, or even the Jennifer Lopez and Mary J. Blige duet. The song goes, come together, right now, over me! The song was released in 1969, one year before The Beatles broke up, as a last ditch effort by John Lennon to keep the group together. And today, as we begin our T.E.A.M. sermon series, I want to focus on the importance of you guessed it– sticking together!
When it comes to sticking together, images of unity, fellowship, intimacy, connection, friendship, camaraderie, community, and relationship come to mind. I believe that there is power and great benefit in sticking together! In the movie Soul Food, Big Mama Joe said, “when we come together like a fist, we can strike a mighty blow!” Watch this, the other day, I was at the gym lifting weights and during my lifting session, I got to a point where I was no longer able to lift the weight by myself, so I asked a guy at the machine next to me for a spot! A spot is when someone stands behind you to assist you with the weight, once your strength goes out. Now, with both of us working together, I was able to lift something, that I was no longer able to lift by myself! In 2011, Egyptian citizens, who were fed up with police brutality, corruption, low wages, unemployment, and living under a dictatorship government, came together in unity and overthrew their president Hosni Mubarak. Because the people came together, the Egyptians were able to strike a mighty blow, that would have not been possible if they were acting on their own.
When it comes to sticking together, I believe that it’s God’s will and desire for Christians to stick together, but ideally, I believe it’s God’s will for all people to stick together! Not matter what our race or ethnic identity is, God desires that we stick together! Even when we read this Psalm this morning, I interpret God encouraging his people to maintain true togetherness, faithful friendships, real relationships, and committed connections amongst each other. In fact my thesis is this, God’s desires that all people live together in unity! Not only does God desire that we live together in unity, but I believe that it’s God’s desire that ALL people worship together in unity! Beloved, God is pleased when we live in unity together, because God values togetherness. Psalm 133 is a text of togetherness and unity and in biblical literature its known as a song of ascent or “going up.” These songs were traditionally sung by the children of Israel as they would make three annual pilgrimages to the Holy City of Jerusalem. The “songs of ascents” sung by the Israelites on their journey are all characterized by their brevity, succinctness, and ability to offer cheer and hope. Every year the Israelites would journey to Jerusalem to attend these three major festivals, Passover, Festival of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
It was during these three treks to Jerusalem that the participants would take place in festivities and ritual worship. The folk who made these religious field trips to Jerusalem, would be lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, young and old people, men, women, and children, and persons from different regions and tribes. And all of those who gathered to attend the three annual feasts understood that unity and togetherness was key. There was to be no bickering, no fighting, no disputes, no arguing, no beef, no smiling in one’s face and talking behind their back, and absolutely no violence during these events. Instead, the children of Israel knew it was a time to set aside personal differences in order to celebrate their common heritage, commemorate their deliverance from Egypt, and reflect on their time around the tabernacle of God in the desert.
Once again, this text lets us know, that while en route to Jerusalem, the children began to sing songs in “Holy Harmony!!” If you allow me to use my spiritual imagination, I envision that they would sings songs like What a Fellowship, What A Joy Divine, they’d sing Blessed Assurance, or perhaps they’d even sing We’re Marching, Marching Up to Zion, That Beautiful City of God! Then some brother or sister would sing,“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Church, It is very clear that the “songs of ascent are about togetherness and unity, that the fellowships in Jerusalem were characterized by togetherness, and that this text is about togetherness.
On the other hand, while God encourages us to live together in unity, sadly sticking together is not always our best trait! Family, if I’m honest this morning, these past couple of days have been somewhat discouraging for me. As I watch, listen, and read the news, I really believe that God is speaking to the world about the ramifications of not sticking together. Hear me, I don’t believe that its GOD’s will for people to be divided, instead I believe that division is the work of the enemy. God desires for people to be in relationship and reconciled with one another, while the devil’s primary goal is to keep people disconnected from healthy relationships! God is a God of love, while the devil is a demonic force of evil.
So, what am I talking about? Church, this week has been a tough, because it seems like the spirit of disunity, disconnectedness, dissension, discord, and disagreement is running rampant in our world! Everyday in the news, we hear about countries at odds with each other. I am truly saddened by the division found between Israel and Palestine and Russia and Ukraine. Everyday in Palestine, the people of Gaza City wake up to increased death tolls of innocent Palestinian men and women. To make matters worse, not only are innocent people being killed, but schools that are designed to educate and enrich the lives of students, are being bombed, resulting in the deaths of innocent children. While, the death toll may be larger in Palestine, Israeli citizens are being killed in this conflict as well. Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not sophisticated in my knowledge of this conflict, but I don’t have to be an expert to acknowledge the loss of life.
As it relates to Ukraine and Russia, it’s the same story, just different countries. People are being killed, families our being destroyed, homes are being lost, and there seems to be no immediate end in sight. This conflict has gotten so bad, that 2 weeks ago, 298 innocent lost their lives on a Malaysian Airlines jet. These people weren’t fighting in any war, to my knowledge none of them were Russian or Ukrainian citizens, but just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, they lost their lives! Once again, due to division and dissension, lives of innocent men, women, and children are being lost. Too many countries are divided!
Not only are countries divided, but we’re divided in our American political system. In politics, right here in our country, the Republican Party has agreed to file a lawsuit against the President of The United States, because they believe President Obama has abused his power by wanting people to have healthcare. I’ve always found it interesting as to why people with healthcare are fighting so hard to keep other folk without healthcare. Not only are we divided over healthcare, but the country is divided over immigration reform, because some folk don’t think citizens from other countries don’t belong in the United States! Once again, I have trouble understanding, how it is that the descendants of the people who stole this country from the Native Americans, have a problem with other folk entering this country! We’re divided over political issues!
Not only are we divided in the political arena, but we’re also divided when it comes to issues about God, religion, and the church. We have one God, but thousands of religions around this world! Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zorastrisim, Yoruba, and many more. We have one Christ, but we have Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists, Apostolics, Lutherans, and thousands of other denominations. We have liberal Christians and Conservative Christians, who at times, embrace ideologies that are polar opposites! My bible says, “How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity; the Bible says there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, the Bible says through the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment, the Bible says we are to love one another.
But for some reason, those of us who proclaim to follow Jesus Christ, are the most divided. Question, did you know, that there are churches where members don’t speak to each other? Did you know that there are churches where the members form separate cliques and circles? Did you know that there are churches where the people talk about each other? Did you know that there are churches where the people fight and argue at meetings, dog the preacher out, and don’t support programs if its not their “program?” I’m so glad to know this doesn’t happen at at St. Mark AME Church! The great spiritual leader, Gandhi once said, I love your Christ, but I Don’t like your Christians! Church, out of all the places, we have too much disunity in the church! Too much disunity in our world! Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” God calls us to stick together as brothers and sisters in unity, but it’s much more natural and easy to live divided as adversaries and enemies!
The questions is, Why does God want us to Stick Together, When its Human Nature to Live Divided?
The first answer to this question is so simple, that I almost missed it trying to be deep! God wants is to Stick Together because he wants to BEHOLD the BEAUTY! The word behold means to see or observe a person, place or thing, especially a remarkable and impressive sight. When we BEHOLD something, we appreciate its BEAUTY, we are in awe, we remember the image, we love what it look likes, we stand back and just shake our heads because we can’t believe our eyes. You remember when you first laid eyes on your husband or you wife and you just had to behold their beauty! Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity! It’s a pleasing sight to see people walking together in unity! God is pleased when we are unified! God is pleased when we are together! God is pleased when we are on one accord! I believe it was the late Rodney King who said, “can we all just get along?” God is pleased to BEHOLD THE BEAUTY of people sticking together!
I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, the Rock of Gibraltar, to the top of the Washington Monument, Empire State Building, and they’re a beautiful sight! I’ve seen pictures of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, its clear blue water and coral reefs are postcard beautiful. I’ve seen pictures of Mount Rushmore, the Taj Mahal in India, the Great Wall of China, and the Pyramids of Egypt! All are considered to be the most beautiful sights in the world!
However, I contest, that none of these images compare to a picture taking at the Million Man March! None of these compare to an image taking at the March on Washington! None of these images compare to the picture taken when Americans came together after 9/11. None of these compare to people working together after the Earthquake in Haiti, that was a divine display of people sticking together in unity! What a sight to behold! When Christians laugh, sing, dance, pray, and worship together in unity, that is a beautiful picture! When children of all races play together in the sandbox, behold its beauty! When we see unity, it makes us feel good! Unity pleases us! Unity inspires us to do better! When we see brothers and sisters dwelling together, how good and pleasant it is to see! God wants young, middle age, and seniors to live together in unity! God wants black, white, brown, red, and yellow people to live together in unity. God wants alumni from VCU and WSSU to get along with those from NCCU, VUU, FSU, VSU, JCSU, ECSU, Shaw and even UMASS to stick together. God wants unity among pink and green and crimson and cream, between Alpha’s and Omega’s. God wants unity between Democrats and Republicans. House and Senate! Unity between lower class, middle class, upper class, and those with no class. God wants new church members and old church members to stick together in unity! God wants Smithfield-Selma Four Oaks to live together in unity! Methodist and Baptist in unity! Pastor and people in unity! Church and community in unity! God loves to see unity! Behold the Beauty of people sticking together in unity! How pleasant it is! Sticking together is beautiful! It looks good! It makes you say, wow! It’s the best sight to see! Behold the Beauty of men, women, and children sticking together in unity!
Why should we stick together?
God wants us to stick together because it spreads. Sticking Together has spreading and diffusive qualities. When we read verse 1 and 2 of the text, one of the things that we realize, is that the author of this psalm is comparing sticking together in unity to the anointing oil that flowed down the beard of Aaron. The text says, “Unity is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes”
The thing thats significant about the “precious oil” spoken of in this text is its ability to spread.
The oil that was used to anoint Aaron was made holy by God and had diffusive capabilities. This means it had the ability to flow from the top of his head and spread to the soles of his feet. The anointing oil did stop at one spot of his body, but covered the whole body. The oil would run down his garment and not just stop and cake up in one place, but spread until it touched every placed that needed to be touch. For example, my wife likes to tease me y’all, she teases me because my face is always oily! She thinks I’m too greasy! I told her its the coconut oil in my hair! She said all I need is a dime amount in my hair, I tell her I put about 3 quarter sizes in my hair, because I have a lot of hair! She told me I only need a little bit because it spreads! Okay, does anyone still use baby oil? You know that one drop of baby oil can oil your whole body, because it spreads!
This is the good news, because when we Stick Together, God’s blessing will not only bless us, but spread to those we’re connected to as well. Sticking Together not only has an impact on us, but on our families too. Sticking Together spreads down and impacts are friends! Sticking Together spreads down and impacts our schools! Sticking Together will spread to our communities! Sticking Together will spread to our generation and generations to come! Sticking Together will impact our parents! When we Stick Together we will change our world!! Behold, how good and pleasant it is when we Sticking Together because its like the oil on Aaron’s beard, it won’t stop in one place, but it keeps on spreading! When the oil flows, it just keeps spreading! It starts at home and spreads abroad. (go into the congregation and grab people as an example of sticking together)
Why should we Stick Together?
We should Stick Together because of its springing effects! Like the change of seasons, when we transition from winter to spring, the trees begin to blossom, the flowers start to bloom, the birds begin to chirp, the butterflies flow from flower to flower, the snow starts to melt, and the crops begin to grow! Spring is a time of renewal and growth.In the Spring, the days begin to get longer! In the Spring, the weather gets warmer! In the spring, dead things begin to live again! In the Spring, resurrection begins to occur! Don’t you love the Spring?
In this text, it reads in verse 3, It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore. The Dew from Mt. Hermon would flow from the top of its peak, trickle down to the base of the mountain, and the blessing would be the vegetation that would spring forth from the watering of the dew! The dew would descend down the mountain and spring life into things that were once barren! Flowers would spring! Lush greens would spring! Fruit would spring up! Stuff would grow and life would spring forth! When we stick together in unity, I believe life can spring forth! When we stick together, families can spring! When we stick together, marriages can spring! When we stick together, finances can spring into abundance! I When we stick together, grades can improve!! When we stick together, people can kick habits! When we stick together, we can be a stronger church! When we stick together, God will spring us blessings! Dead things will rise! Barren areas will spring up! Broken areas will be made whole! There is a blessing in sticking together!