Remember to Pay the Light Bill
New St. Paul, Lithonia
August 20, 2017

O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come. Our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home. A thousand ages in thy sight is like an evening gone. Be thou our guide while life shall last and our eternal home. Thanks to Ms Kim Hobbs for inviting me here today.  I am very grateful to share this women’s day with you.

To Pastor and Mrs. Crawford,  stewards, trustees and the women’s day chairman and committee, I greet you on behalf of the 200 sections, 30 national affiliates and more than 3 million women and men of the 82 year old National Council of Negro Women. We were founded in 1935 to gain the right to vote, equal access to jobs and to stop lynching. We are headquartered in the historic Dorothy Irene Height Building at 633 Pennsylvania Ave, six blocks from the us Capitol and 10 blocks from the White House.

Thank Davida, Lois Keith,  Gwen Mitchell, and Stacey my cousins

Thursday night, I was preparing to worship with you this morning, I thought about today’s theme. Let’s stay connected.  Before I went to bed, I stepped out onto the deck outside our family room.  The moon was full and shining so brightly.  It was beautiful.  It was so bright that it gave the luster of mid-day to objects below - the railing, the bushes and the deck furniture.  I thought how good God is to give us the sun by day and the moon by night.

Our scripture lesson for today comes from Matthew 5:13-16.  The NIV version reads this way…
13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,

When we were little girls, my parents had a pretty good system for paying the bills.  They would sit in the den, in front of the television.  My mother would get a tray and the checkbook and the bills and they would go through them together.  Most of them were put in the mail.  But every once in awhile, they would take a couple of them to the creditor in person. 

We were always a little skeptical when Daddy volunteered to take the bills.  He was busy with his church and teaching school and still coaching.   He was a loving father, caring pastor, a thoughtful city council member, a hall of fame coach, but he could be a little forgetful when it came to ordinary mundane tasks.  More than once, we came home to find that the lights were out.  No tv.  No air conditioning.  No stove.  We did not have to ask.  Daddy forgot to pay the light bill. If you are not connected to the grid, you can’t get light.  Our theme today is let’s stay connected.  Reminds me of Al Green – let’s stay together.  Loving you forever, whether good or bad, happy or sad, let’s stay together.

For a subject this morning…have you remembered to pay the light bill? Now, of course, God has given us physical light – the moon, the sun, the stars. But he has also given us, even more importantly, spiritual light.  And that is what Matthew is referring to.
The aim of this message is to remind Christian women to stay connected to that eternal light burning in our lives through all situations and circumstances.
What is spiritual light? The scriptures help us.
Ye are the salt of the earth.  Light is salt.  Light is flavoring.  Light gives us a taste of the immortality in us. 
But light is also enlightening.  Light gives us direction.  Light lights our path. Light is the absence of darkness.  Many little children and old folk too are afraid of the dark.
What is the first thing you do when you come into your house at night after a long day at work?  You reach for a light switch.  You turn on the lights.  When I go into a hotel room, I feel the wall for the light switch.  In the physical world, our eyes are made so that we can’t see without light.
My mean little dog can go out walking at night when it is pitch black.  He can smell everything out there.  Every squirrel, every chicken bone.  He does not need light to know where he is going.   I can’t see without light.
Neither can we find our way in this world without spiritual  light. Why are we here? What is God’s plan for my life?
What should we do about our families? What is the best way to raise children? How do I become a good friend? What is the solution to hyper incarceration? A black man in Georgia has a 70% chance of spending time in prison if he drops out of high school in the 9th grade.  A 30% chance if he finishes high school, but only a  5 per cent rate if he goes one semester of college.  We save 300k for every kid we help graduate from high school.
We need spiritual light to see our way to solutions to human problems.
Are we walking in the light?
Or are we treading the path of darkness? Let me give you a test.  Georgia has removed 500k voters.  Is that the way of light?  Or the way of darkness?  Is that a state set on a hill?  Or one that is hiding under a bushel? We know what light is. Light orders our steps.  Light gives us direction.  Light focuses our attention. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path. Where does light come from? We know where light comes from.  The scriptures tell us where light comes from. The first chapter of John says…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  Some scholars say it means the evil could not understand the good.  Others say the evil could not defeat the good. Both are true.

We don’t generate the light.  Like the moon, we are a reflection of the true light. Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works and glorify your father that is in heaven.

The moon is a reflection of light from the sun.  We are a reflection of the light from the Father who created us and sent His spirit to dwell in us.  We know we need light.  We are creatures of light.  We stumble without it.  Being without light makes us nervous and afraid.  We are afraid of darkness.  Yet we get lost in the dark sometimes.

The Bible says, 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.
You want power in your life…pay the light bill.  You want satisfaction in your life.  Walk in the light.  You want peace of mind in your life.  Walk in the light.    We have the right and the responsibility to choose – are we going to serve the light, or the darkness.  What keeps us in the darkness?  What makes us lose our saltiness?  What makes us forget to pay the light bill? What hinders true connections?  There are at least three factors that make us hide our light under a bushel. 

1. Fear.  Lack of courage.  Fear is a peculiar kind of sin.  Fear paralyzes us.  Fear makes us get in the bed and pull the covers over our heads.  Fear freezes us in one place.  Fear is opposite of faith.  If God is good.  If God loves me, then what have I to fear?  Something bad might happen to me.  Maybe we should flip the script.    Let me answer the question.  Something bad is going to happen.  The IRS is going to call.  The mother is going to die. The friend will get mad. Money will get tight.  The child may get pregnant.  One of my favorite lines from Hebrews makes me laugh:  it says we have not yet suffered unto blood. What is our fear compared to what Paul suffered?  What Esther suffered?  What Jesus suffered?  Who are we to be afraid?  The world learns from us how to deal with fear.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and sound minds.

2. Foolishness.  “I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what needs to be done.” Google it.  Go to Bible Study.  Pray.  Read.  Study to show thyself approved.  We have more information at our fingertips than ever.  Now, the Internet will make an idiot out of you.  You have to know what is real and what is fake on the Internet. Reading is so fundamental.  A new study came out talking about all the ways that children benefit from being read to and from reading to others. 

We like to play around in the dark.  The group WAR had a song back in the 70’s – slipping into darkness.  When you don’t pay the light bill, you can just slide into darkness.  Meander into wrongdoing.  Turn out your own light.  We play around with drugs.  Play around with alcohol.  Play around with tobacco and food and marijuana.  Play around with illicit sex. 
I don’t like her. She don’t like me. Who she think she is? We lose meaningful connections stumbling around in the dark.

But we know the darkness is not our home.  We are creatures of light.  We are made in the image of light.
Pray over it.  Indecision, laziness and procrastination are all forms of foolishness.

3. Faith.  Now this is the most dangerous and the most damaging.  Does God really care?  Is He still listening to me?  I can’t hear God.  Pick up your Bible.  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.  When we look at the world’s problems it is easy to say one person can’t make a difference.  All the hungry people.  All the hungry children.  War, disease, racism, poverty.  I can’t make a difference.  Yes, you can.  You may not see it in your lifetime.  Suppose the enslaved had given up.  But you can make a difference.  We can all do something.  I am but one, but I am one.  I can’t do everything.  But I can do something.  What I can do.  What I ought to do, God helping me, I will do.

I have had to pray real hard the past couple of weeks. When we see injustice in the world, it’s time to reach for the book.  When we see things that make us cry, you know it’s time to pay the light bill.  I told you that my dad was a football coach, among his many jobs.  He had a favorite saying.  Don’t get in the give up formation.  Don’t give up on your faith.

They have a program at Georgia power.   Prepaid light bill.  I want a prepaid light bill.  I want to pay in advance.  I don’t want to run out of power.  I want my connection stored up for when I need it.  I don’t know when I am going to run across a kid falsely accused.  I don’t know when I am going to see qualified people turned down for jobs.  I don’t know when some woman is going to call me asking for help for his son or daughter.  I need my light bill paid in advance.

Now, God is good.  He does not actually send us a light bill. If he did we couldn’t pay it.   That nagging voice you hear when you have not done your best.  That’s the light bill.  That worried feeling you get when you forget to pray.  That’s the light bill.  When you lose your temper with some idiot who does not know better and then you feel badly about it.  That’s the light bill.  That is the comforter reminding you who you belong to.  That is the spiritual electric meter telling you the light bill is due.  Thank God for the light.  And the light bill.

We are almost too connected.  We got wifi, FB, Twitter, fire sticks, web sites, Instagram, group me, youtube, linkedin, periscope, email, text messages, cable Netflix, hulu, gogo inflight, and only God knows what else.  We are connected to everything but the right thing. 

And you can’t get any of that stuff unless you are connected to the electric grid.  We as Christian women have to make sure we are connected to the spiritual Internet.  The real grid.  Connected to the REAL source of power.  We have to pay the light bill.

We pay the light bill with prayer, meditation, study.  We pay the light bill by paying attention.  Kindness, love, patience, longsuffering.  Those are the real connections that last. We don’t want to pay for the light.  What is the value of salvation? What is the value of peace of mind?  What is the value of joy and peace and happiness?  We ought to be running to pay God’s light bill.

Finally, my sisters and brothers, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Be certain that the Lord will see you out.  Be sure of God’s nuclear power plant.  Walk in the light.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. We wrestle against apathy and abuse.  We wrestle against selfishness and greed.  We wrestle against jealousy and envy.

There is no reason that any child in America should lack a good education and plenty to eat and the chance at a good job.  There is no reason that every adult in Georgia should not register and vote.  There is no reason that every sick person in this country should not see a doctor.  There is no reason to take federal money to improve the port in Savannah, but not to improve Medicaid for 600,000 people. There is no reason to have guns everywhere.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Then, we can say like Job, He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  Let us pray, LORD, keep my lamp burning; turn my darkness into light. Order my steps. Save me from fear. Save me from foolishness. Increase my faith.  The Lord is my light and my salvation.  Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life….of whom shall I be afraid?  When my enemies and my foes come upon me to eat up my flesh they stumbled and fell.  Though an host should encamp about me, I shall not be afraid.  When my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Then we can say, you are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light.  This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine… O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come. Our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home. A thousand ages in thy sight is like an evening gone. Be thou our guide while life shall last and our eternal home. 

TIME FOR COURAGE  - Ebenezer, Atlanta, July 19, 2016

Thanks to Pastor Warnock for allowing me to share with you this morning. On behalf of NCNWs  National Chair Ingrid Saunders Jones , the Executive Committee and Board of Directors  we are all grateful for the support that NCNW has in Georgia.

It is thrilling to help lead NCNW.  My NCNW sisters are some of the most dynamic, influential women in America.  I want to thank Dian Larche for her vision and leadership. I want to thank Henrietta Antonin for being a role model at Atlanta life and Rita Samuels for challenging me to focus on the power of women. Lois Keith is our membership chair who galvanizes and encourages NCNW members everywhere.

We have good news to share. Our beloved NCNW is in stronger shape than at any time since the transition of our beloved Dr. Dorothy Irene Height.  NCNW is 80 years old, has 38 national affiliates, 24000 members, 200 plus sections. It is a pleasure to report to you that NCNW is very much alive and well.  Our Chair of NCNW ISJ has assured that NCNWs infrastructure is sturdy enough to support our mission into our centennial celebration.

I want you  to ask yourself a question today. WHAT TIME IS IT?  Look at your phone. Watches are out of style. I wear my watch because my husband gave it to me and because it is beautiful. It's out of style. But when I really need to know what time it is, I look at my phone. My phone is smarter than my watch. My phone knows what time zone I am in. It knows whether it is day or night. My phone knows whether it's daylight savings time. I never have to set my phone.

Technology tells us that Times have changed.  The roaring 20’s are gone.  The Great Depression of the 1930’s is over.  It is no longer the 40s and world war II. It's not the 60S the era of the second reconstruction. It's no longer even the 20th century. That fact that you can carry the library of Congress in your hand and access it at the speed of Light tells us that this is the Information Age.

Not only are we living in changing times, we are living through challenging times.  All we have to do is look at the headlines to see that we are living in challenging times. 

We listen to politicians and we know that Now is the time to encourage everyone to register, study the issues and vote.

We listen to popular culture and we know that Now is the time to make sure our children and grandchildren younger members have the benefit of our influence and experience.

You listen to the news and you know that now is the time to protect our families and communities from mental illness, post traumatic stress syndrome, prescription drug abuse human sexual trafficking and racism. 

Now is the time to claim our legacy, strengthen our position as an NGO at the United Nations – expand our vista to include the globe, beyond the US.

We are at a difficult time in the life of America and the world.

Poverty is on the rise. Crime is down but incarceration is up.
In La county, 40% of new Hiv cases are young adults 13 to 29 years old

Education is viewed more as a luxury than a necessity.

Everywhere you look, jobs for people are being replaced by jobs for machines.

Supreme Court justice saying blacks are too slow to go to the nation’s best schoolsJust a couple of weeks ago the Supreme Court made it harder to throw out bad evidence – undermining the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. 

The main reason we vote is to determine who gets on the Supreme Court.  You think the Court doesn’t matter.  Have you ever wondered why white women benefit more from affirmative action than blacks do?  Thank the Supreme Court.  Have you ever wondered why people who have served their time in prison can’t vote in some states?  Thank the Supreme Court.  Don’t ever think the Court doesn’t matter.

Some police officers act more like they are secret agents of the Invisible Empire or the Ku Klux Klan, rather than officers sworto to preserve, protect and defend.

And the issues we confront are not just political.  Child abuse is commonplace.  Young people have too much sex and not enough love.  Too much sex and not enough self esteem.

That's what time it is. No matter how you tell time.

But as Revolutionary Women, we are called to lead a revolution of love, faith and justice.  Like the daughters of Zelophehad, we are called to be Revolutionary Women.  Numbers 27 tells us that these great granddaughters of Joseph, took their case to Moses, the President of the Jewish nation, the chief justice of the Hebrew Supreme Court.  

They had suffered injustice.  Their father died without a son.  They got nothing.  The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward 2 and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, 3 “Our father died in the wilderness. 4 Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

Sometimes you have to be willing to ask the question.We have not because we ask not. 5 So Moses brought their case before the Lord, 6 and the Lord said to him, 7 “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.

Sometimes we have to speak truth to power.

What does that mean to you, and to your grandchildren? How are we using the information explosion to improve the quality of our lives?  The security of your family? The safety of your children? The health of your community?  The same television that brings you scandal and empire, brings CSPAN, WORD Network and the History Channel.  Technology has no religion.  Technology is a tool, not a philosophy.
Are you asking the right questions?  How can my child do better in school?

Have you done your homework?  When am I going to meet your boyfriend?

As I think about the times we are going through, I am more and more impressed by NCNW.  It has stood the test of time. Our founders fought for the right to vote. In 1935 white women had only been voting for 15 years, since 2001 in today's terms. In 1935 black lives mattered, so NCNW lobbied Eleanor Roosevelt and our members  fought to make  lynching illegal.

The more things change the more they stay the same,
We have come a long way but we have a long way to go

Ain’t much difference between lynching and widespread police brutality.  Black lives mattered then, and now.  The difference is now we have cameras to document the brutality.
Ain’t much difference between poll taxes in 1935 and overthrow of the VRA in 2014. Aint much difference between segregated schools in 1935 and segregated cities  in 2016.  Poll tax equals voter suppression.  Black lives matter is the latest installation in a very old story.

Today's world is smaller, issues more global.  That's why Mary McLeod Bethune insisted on being there when the UN was chartered.   She knew our  time was coming. And that is why NCnw maintains a desk at the UN because black girls need magic in Nigeria and in Oakland.

You are the talented tenth. 90% responsibility,

You who are so privileged remind me of the biblical heroine Esther. She won the Miss Iran contest and married the king. She was beautiful.  In those days…and sometimes in these women's voices were not respected or valued. Sometimes, even in our places of worship, women are relegated to second class citizenship.

But where would the world be without women? That's why it will be so good to see Harriett Tubman on the 20 dollar bill. In her time, just like Esther’s, her people were under siege. They could not control their own bodies or minds. There was a 200 year old plot to use her people like horses and mules.

Esther was an ethnic minority. But she was passing.  She was blending in with the majority. A plot arose to exterminate her people, the threat of extinction was real and imminent. Esther loved her people. In ordinary times that would have been enough. But those were not  ordinary times. These are not ordinary times.

Like Harriett Tubman and Mary McLeod Bethune, Esther a member of a minority group.  On top of that, she was an orphan.  She wasn't raised by her mother and father. She didn't have a nuclear family.  But she did have Cousin Mordecai. Sometimes family is where you find it. Mordecai warned Esther of the danger.  Not the danger to herself, but to her people, her community, her tribe.  But danger to one is danger to all. 
As Dr. King put it, a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Mordecai was smart. He had connections. He was a survivor. He had disrupted a plot to kill the King.  He could have gone to the King himself. But Mordecai was wise. He understood something that sometimes we forget.

My parents and their friends argued through the summer of 1966 about where I would go to school in September.  1966 was the year that race riots and anti-war protests swept the United States.

They were split into two camps.  Daddy's side thought they will have to live together. They might as well learn now.  If the schools are integrated they will all have to be funded at the same level.
Aunt Freddie was my godmother and my mama’s best friend,   She led the other side which thought that the black schools would be poorly served. Black teachers would lose jobs. Black parents would be ignored. Black children would be mistreated.

Daddy won the debate, four other black kids and I  went to Greenville jr. High But Daddy understood what uncle Mordecai understood. Daddy understood that the sooner we learned to stand up for ourselves and our beliefs, the better off we would be.

Many of my teachers were racist.  But I knew I had a job to do.  Kids understand responsibility.  I have seen kids take care of their younger brothers and sisters when their parents cant do it, due to drugs or illness.  We underestimate our kids.

Depending on Esther was a risk. She was young. She was unproven. She was a high stakes risk. The fate of the Jewish nation was in her hands. When Harriett Tubman escaped from slavery and started rescuing her enslaved relatives and others, she was in her 20s.

We have to be willing to gamble on our young people. Identify the challenge. Encourage them. Give them responsibility. We can’t afford generation gaps.

Sometimes, like the five sisters – Joseph’s great granddaughters, courage is in asking the question.  Sometimes, as revolutionary women, we have to answer a question. Mordecai challenged Esther with a question.  No matter how much time passes, the big questions remain the same.  Why am I here? What should I do with my life? Technology changes. But human nature stays the same. Chisel, pencil, drum,  finger in mud, printing press smartphone. The modes of communication get faster and better.

What will you do with Jesus? What will you do for others? The big questions remain.  2500 years later, Mordecai’s question tells us what time it is.

Who knows whether we are come to the kingdom to fight child abuse? Who knows whether we are come to free our people? To end mass incarceration and relief from student loan debt, it is time to fight voter suppression.

Esther responded with courage In her time.  She responded with imagination.  When her time came Esther responded with strength.  She said, I go to the king and if I perish, I perish. Harriett responded in her time by rescuing hundreds from bondage.  Mary Magdalene responded in her time.  She stayed at the cross and went early to the tomb. Mary McLeod Bethune responded with a university and NCNW in her time. 

Who knows whether we are come to the kingdom for a time such as this?

What did I learn from Greenville junior high?

The story

My job was to convince the white teachers that black children could learn anything they could teach. It was rocky. I was the only girl in pigtails. The only one who didn't shave her legs. The only white girl who spoke to me was Gigi who had just moved south from Massachusetts and she was Catholic so they didn't speak to her either. The first quarter report cards came out. I got 3 Cs and 3 As. The math teacher thought I cheated.  The band teacher said I couldn't read music despite four years of weekly piano lessons. The pe teacher got me mixed up with the other black girl in Class.  Our first field trip was gone with the wind. It was a tough year.
Besides bragging on how smart I was as a teenager there are some important lessons…

You do not have to give up success to be authentically black
By the time we graduated in 1972 I was senior class president, homecoming court, national merit finalist, national honor society and girls state.

You don’t have to give up being black to be successful.  In school we refused to play Dixie on the band, refused to stand up for Strom Thurmond, walked out of class to get black history and black teachers,  insisted on a black band for the prom, wore an afro at graduation.

Sometimes courage is raising the hard questions..  sometimes courage is how you respond to hard situations..
Mordecai posed a question to Esther.  Who knows if you are come to the Kingdom for a time such as this?  It was a question for the ages.  It was a question for generations.  It was a question for us today. 
Esther answered – I go to the King, and if I perish, I perish.

I learned that Hard work matters. Even racists acknowledge
Intelligence.  They say a lot of things about President Obama – nobody calls him stupid, or evil.  Debate is a good thing….more than one side can be right. Daddy and aunt Freddie were both right.  Aunt Freddie was right. Kids who protested and did not have a lot of support got kicked out of school, some never to return. 
You don't have to give up being black to succeed.
Are we willing to answer the question with courage? Are we willing to go to the king for justice? 
Racism  is real..despite the teenage accomplishments, at my final class meeting over which I presided, the rotary, junior league etc gave out awards to outstanding seniors….from a box this big. Not one of them was for me.
You can't pretend it doesn't exist. You can't use it as an excuse. So when I see Nathan Deal I ask him about Medicaid expansion. And I ask the speaker about criminal justice reform.

Mayor White my high school classmate has been the Republican Mayor of Greenville for decades, and he has been my friend for more than 40 years.  I learned you don't have to agree about everything to Be friends
Shared interests and mutual respect are often enough to support a healthy relationship

I once asked Dr.  Lowery who I respect so much…what is the essential quality of leadership. Without hesitating, he said courage.

Esther had the courage of her convictions.  The five great granddaughters of Joseph had the courage of their convictions.  Mary McLeod Bethune had the courage of her convictions.  Harriett Tubman had courage. 
As it is written in Timothy, for God has not given us a spirit of fear.
Fear is the polar opposite of faith.

If God is our help in ages past, our hope for years to come…we don’t have to be afraid.  If you stand on a solid rock when all around you is sinking sand, you don’t have to fear.
God has given us what we need to confront this time, or any time.
God has given us what we need to confront racism and poverty and illness.   God has given us courage.
But he has also given us equally important weapons.
He has give us love and power and sound minds.
Courage without wisdom is self-destructive, reckless, foolish
Wisdom without courage is ineffective, empty, useless.
Courage and wisdom without love are selfish.
Without love, courage and wisdom we are powerless. 
Let us learn the lessons of the Bible.
Let us learn the lessons of history.
Let us learn the lessons of the great cloud of witnesses who are encouraging us from on high
Claim our destiny
Be the revolutionary women we are called and created to be. 

Climbing the Hill From Thought to Action - Speech to St. Luke's Episcopal May, 2015


I admit that I tussled in my mind and heart about how to approach you.  You have a storied tradition of service.  As a child I attended a summer enrichment camp held at Christ Episcopal Church in Greenville.  Classes in science and drama were taught by Furman University students.  As a teen-ager, I had classmates who transferred to Greenville High from Christ Church and who all seemed kind, smart and wealthy.  As a college student, I studied one summer at Oxford, studied a bit of British politics and history and became fascinated with the Tudors, Henry, Anne Boleyn, Luther, Cromwell and the Reformation.  One of my favorite and fairest judges in Athens whose father was a member of Congress attended Episcopal schools in the DC area.  In Athens, I sometimes referred clients to the AA and Alanon meetings at St. Gregory’s.  When it came time for my only sister’s only child to go to school, she and my brother in law chose Christ Episcopal in Greenville.  After 13 years at Christ Church, she just graduated last Saturday, Magna Cum Laude from Howard University in the Annenberg honors program.  So, in some sense I hold you in awe. 


I another sense, I felt I needed to adjust my perspective.  I come from an inner city community where deprivation was profound and hope in short supply.  Today, I work daily with families in need of jobs, housing, medical treatment, educational opportunity and access to capital.  The gospel was often the only the source of hope, liberation and possibility. 

You  may be familiar with the lyrics of Lift Evry Voice and Sing.  It is essentially a hymn to faith in the power of God to liberate.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,

 thou who has brought us thus far on the way;

 thou who has by thy might,  led us into the light,

 keep us forever in the path, we pray

 lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee,

 least our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee,

 shadowed beneath the hand,  may we forever stand,

 true to our God,  True to our native land.

For many of you, there is no need to seek physical liberty or economic security. Yet, each in our own way from time to time faces Confusion, Complacency and lack of courage.


There are many factors that hold us back from acting on our Christian convictions.  One of them is confusion.

In the age of information explosion, we can sometimes be discouraged by the cacophony of competing voices, opinions, even facts.

Does global warming exist or not?  Should we experiment with STEM cells or not?  Should we maintain the death penalty or not?  Do we need more guns or fewer guns.  The MSNBC/FOX battle can leave us paralyzed to act.


We can be discouraged by the size of the problem.  We can find comfort and complacency in the knowledge that the poor are always with us.  There is so much to be done..what difference can one individual make?

In Athens we have been having a debate about whether poverty is real or just a function of so many students dependent on their parents and part-time work.

The Economic Research Service of USDA tracks what it calls Persistent Poverty Counties. These are counties where the poverty rate has exceeded 20% of the population for the last 30 years.


Sometimes we are not confused, merely complacent – content to enjoy our own privileges without concern for how others are affected.  The Georgia Lottery is an example.  The Georgia Lottery is a boon to many.  But structurally, it perpetuates inequality and lack of educational opportunity.  A recent report from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities indicates that States that use lottery funds to pay for college scholarships should think carefully about who pays and who benefits. There are numerous studies proving that lottery-funded scholarships do not increase the number of young people who graduate from college.

The AASCU report also notes that lottery scholarships are enormously popular politically and unlikely to be repealed. But there is gross disproportionality between those who pay for them and those who benefit from them. 

The poor and poorly educated buy far more lottery tickets than do the better-off.  Poor families are helping send wealthy students to college."

Eight states currently use lottery funds for post-secondary scholarships and grants: Florida, West Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, New Mexico and South Carolina.

“We need to revise these programs so that they work better from a social equity standpoint,” said AASCU associate vice president Dan Hurley.

The disconnect between those who pay for the lottery and those who get the scholarships can be quite startling.

Originally a need-based program, Georgia and other states have raised academic qualifications, which only increases the socioeconomic disparities, the report notes.

Both Tennessee and Georgia attempt to address this inequity with programs that use lottery funds for technical programs and certificates, like heating and air conditioning technician training, which can lead to a solid job without attending college. The programs are available regardless of high school GPA and test scores, making them more accessible.

For more than fifty years, researchers have proven a connection between academic achievement and family affluence, and that correlation is especially strong for standardized testing.  A recent analysis of Georgia SAT scores by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that no schools with student poverty rates above 80 percent averaged above 1400 on the three-part SAT, while no school with a rate below 20 averaged below 1500. (The Georgia average is 1452.)

The Wall Street Journal determined that Georgia students from zip codes with median incomes greater than $50,000 were almost three times as likely to win Zell Miller scholarships as those from less affluent areas. The analysis also found that seven zip codes—all in metro Atlanta, all with median incomes over $100,000—produce 10 percent of Zell scholars but only 3 percent of the state’s fifteen-to-nineteen-year-olds. - But the net drain on poor communities imposed by lottery programs remains extremely high, the report notes, arguing that much more could be done to return more of those funds to the communities that generate them.

There is no confusion, but there is complacency.


Education is the great leveler.

Ms. Burns spoke at Howard University’s graduation.  She is the CEO of Xerox.  She called education the great leveler and considers her education a priceless gift.  Her mother worked hard and sacrificed to send her girls to parochial schools. 

More statistics on Education in Georgia: Average college graduate debt: $23,089

individuals with a high school degree: 84.3%

Individuals with a four year college degree: 28.3%

Teens ages 16 to 19 not attending school and not working: 12%

High school graduation rate: 69.9%

Percent of college students with debt: 59%


I once asked Joseph Lowery what is the essential quality of a leader?

He gave me the answer I expected:  Courage.

Courage is the opposite of fear.  But it is also the opposite of faith. 

As Christians we are called to relieve human suffering.  We have Christ as our supreme example, together with numerous accounts of benevolence, love and duty from the Holy Scriptures.  We are reminded of the Good Samaritan who moved from talk to action  - believing that faith without works is ineffectual.  As it appears in Timothy, we are not given a spirit of fear, but of love, power and sound minds.’

We followers of Christ believe that He came to preach good news to the poor and set the captives free.  I am not a theologian, so I am free from the theologian’s restrictions.  I have not studied Greek, so I am free to interpret the scripture from a common sense every day understanding of the words poverty and captive.  I don’t have to worry about what was lost in translation. 

But Christ did not merely preach good news to the poor.  He gave his life for them and for us.  And on our best days, we are called to do the same.

We have abundant want in a sea of plenty in Georgia.  Some of the key indicators related to poverty can be found at  


These are some of the statistics that define human want in Georgia

Child poverty rate: 27% 

Child poverty rates of 40% are common in the persistently poor areas.

Senior poverty rate: 10%

Women in poverty: 20.1%

Percent of single-parent families with related children that are below poverty: 40%

Number of Black and Hispanic children below 200% poverty: 776,000

Poverty rate: 19%

Extreme poverty rate: 8.8%

Unemployment rate: 7.6%

Food insecurity: 16.9%

Low-income families that work: 36.6%

Minimum Wage: $5.15

Percent of jobs that are low-wage: 28.5%

Percent of individuals who are uninsured: 20%

Number of Black and Hispanic children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment: 514,000


Teen birth rate per 1,000: 41.4

Children living in single parent families: 38%

Children in foster care: 6,895

Percent of children in immigrant families: 19%

Number of grandparents raising grandchildren: 213,417


Asset poverty rate: 32.3%

Unbanked households: 10.9%


Total households: 1,838,683

Renters: 33%

Households paying more than 30% of income on housing: 307,808

Homeless people: 16,521

Home foreclosure rate: 1.46%

Justice System

Number of youth residing in juvenile justice and correctional facilities: 1,788

Total incarcerated (prison and jail): 55,457

Participation in federal programs

Adults and children receiving welfare (TANF): 37,318

Children receiving food stamps (SNAP): 826,000

EITC recipients: 1,000,000

Households receiving federal rental assistance: 133,569

Families receiving child care subsidies: 24,800

Participants in all Head Start programs: 29,066

Number of children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP: 1,422,184

Number of women and children receiving WIC (Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program): 289,524

Households receiving LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program): 158,955

So you can see that the fields are white with harvest.  Are you willing to increase your commitment to being one of Christ’s liberators? 

One day I imagine that I will be asked to give an account of the life that I lived and the choices I made.  That belief is sobering, but also motivating. 

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

At the end of the day, what we do for others benefits us more than it benefits the recipient.  Remember how good it felt to do something hard and real and worthwhile?  It really is better to give than to receive.

So we have to ask ourselves are lack of courage, complacency or confusion keeping us from being the followers of Christ we aspire to be?   Remembering makes it easier the next time.  I didn’t say easy.  I said easier.  Not absolutely easy.  Just a little easier than this time.  There will be disappointments and setbacks and hills to climb and naysayers and valleys to go through.  But remember this day…and that will give you a little more oxygen….a little more endurance for the next climb.
21st Annual Celebration for the Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I want to thank Mary Clark for inviting me to be here tonight.  You can tell how much Mary cares about justice and this community by the amount of effort and creativity she puts into this event year after year.  Mary is a great teacher, a wonderful wife and mother and a true community hero.  You are so blessed to have her here.  She is what God calls us to be – faith without work is dead.

Our father’s God to Thee, Author of Liberty.  To thee we sing.  Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light.  Protect us by thy might.  Great God our King.

You have heard the expression, It is always darkest just before dawn.   According to one source it means, There is hope, even in the worst of circumstances.  No one seems to know where the proverb came from.  It has been around at least since 1650 when it appeared in a travelogue written by English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller.

There are some examples in history of our people of darkness before dawn.

Suppose Frederick Douglass and the abolitionists had given up when the Dred Scot decision was rendered in 1857, three years before the Civil War?  That was a dark time.   March 1857 Supreme Courts issues Dred Scott Decision which declares unconstitutional the Missouri Compromise of 1820. was a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court held that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court.

Suppose the women’s suffrage movement had given up.  We just celebrated 100 years of Delta Sigma Theta.  Did you know that all the red and white hoopla got started because 22 young ladies at Howard University wanted the right to vote?  They marched down Pennsylvania Avenue with white women.  It took seven more years for them to get the right to vote.  You can’t let darkness hold you back from doing what is right. Women voted in New Zealand in 1893, in Australia in 1895;  in Russia in 1907 and in Finland in 1913. 

Suppose we had given up trying to get the King Holiday.  When I was a student at UGA we marched around the law school every year from 1977 to 1980, protesting for the King Holiday.  It finally became a holiday in 1983 when Ronald Reagan signed the bill.  But that was after 6 million Americans signed a petition in favor of the holiday.  South Carolina was the last state to make it an official holiday – in 2000.  Thousands of people marched in Greenville – making Greenville County the last county in the last state.  And we had to cross over and vote in the Republican primary to defeat anti-King Holiday county commissioners. 

And there is plenty of darkness in our world today.  John Conyers, Congressman from Michigan, is still fighting for same day onsite voter registration.  He started the fight back in the 1980’s.  And if he doesn’t finish it, then one of you will have to pick up the baton and run your leg of the race.  Adjusted for inflation, the average Georgia family in effect makes $6000 less than the average family did ten years ago. That’s a real pay cut.”

According to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia has the sixth highest poverty rate in the country. More than one in four Georgia families with children under the age of five live below the poverty line. Rural Georgians have been hit particularly hard – twenty-seven percent live below the poverty line.

On Deal’s watch, classroom sizes have swelled as a result of 9,000 teachers losing their jobs. Eighty percent of Georgia’s school districts have now exceeded class-size caps. Eighty percent of Georgia school districts will furlough teachers this year due to cuts in state funding. Thirty-eight percent of districts have been forced to make cuts on programs that help low-performing students. Seventy-one percent of Georgia’s school districts have cut their school calendar to fewer than 180 days. Before Nathan Deal took office, Ninety percent of students in Georgia attended school 180 days or more.

Some of you know that my father was a hall of fame high school football coach during the days of segregation in Greenville, SC.  We grew up with football.  We had x’s and o’s at the dinner table.  We had the portable tv in the dining room for Sunday dinner so he could watch the nfl game of the week.  He had a favorite saying.  Don’t get in the give up formation.  Get in the Shotgun formation.  Get in the I.  But don’t get in the give up formation. 

Don’t give up on fighting poverty.

Don’t give up on expanding Medicaid.

Don’t give up on a high quality public education for all children.

Don’t give up on the right to vote.

Because if you think you are beaten you are.

GEORGIA IS CHANGING.  Georgia's 16 electoral votes will be in play over the next decade according to demographers.  In 2012, Georgia was the second most competitive state carried by Mitt Romney (+7.8 percent Romney) -- behind only North Carolina (+2.0 percent Romney).  In 2000, Georgia's population was 63 percent white; as of the 2010 Census the state's population is 56 percent white.  Of the state's 1.5 million new residents between 2000 and 2010, more than 80 percent (1.2 million, or 81 percent) were non-white.  Demographics are destiny" is a political cliché largely because it's true.  But change is not automatic.  We must organize, register and vote.  And we must be prepared to lead.  A steady diet of twerking and marijuana does not leaders make.  Leaders need to think, compute, write standard English.

            And some things are more important than winning.  Rev. Jackson likes to say, leave some footprints on the door.  If you can’t get in….leave some footprints on the door.

I want to say a word about Medicaid.  Some of you can’t remember 1988 and the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.  Jesse Jackson was running for President for the second time.  Michael Dukakis was the frontrunner and the Democratic Party’s nominee.  Jackson won Michigan and South Carolina – so he had a significant number of electoral votes going into the convention.  And the convention was in Atlanta. It was electric. It was the first time that a black man was seriously considered for the Presidency of the United States.  In Atlanta he said something like this…

Most poor people are not lazy. Most poor people are not on welfare.

hey catch the early bus. They work every day.

They raise other people's children. They work every day.

They clean the streets. They work every day. They change the beds you slept in in these hotels last night and can't get a union contract. They work every day.

No, no, they are not lazy! They work in hospitals. I know they do. They wipe the bodies of those who are sick with fever and pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out their commodes. No job is beneath them, and yet when they get sick they cannot lie in the bed they made up every day.

Now, 25 years later, we are about to make it possible for them to lie in the bed they make up every day.  Call Nathan Deal at 404 656 1776.  Tell him to expand Medicaid.  Join Moral Monday.

Sometimes dawn takes a long time coming.  Sometimes the darkness lasts a long time. Tyrone Brooks fought to change the Georgia flag for more than ten years before it happened.  Don’t give up the fight.  Don’t get in the give up formation. When it is dark, that is when you have to let your little light shine.

Let it shine

Let it shine

Let it shine

Don’t give up the fight.  The race does not go to the swiftest or to the strong, but to those who endure…until the sun comes up.

The Bible says we have a great cloud of witnesses watching us and cheering us on.  By Faith, Abraham.  By Faith, Moses, By Faith, sarah.  But also, By Faith Martin Luther King.  By Faith, Harriet Tubman.   Who do you think sent the bol weevil to destroy the cotton and the cotton gin to destroy slavery?  Are these any less miracles than the red sea and the manna from heaven because we don’t teach them to our children that way and because these miracles happened only a little less than two hundred years ago.  Do you believe that God is still acting in the affairs of men?

Well, if you believe in a miracle working God, I will tell you something.

If we believe that God is the author of liberty.  Then we should pray that our  land be bright with freedom’s holy light.  And that He will protect us by his might. 

I saw Toyota sign  a 7.8 billion dollar deal to do business with blacks.

I saw Kentucky Fried Chicken commit 20 million dollars to open black franchises.  They did not want to do it, but by the power of the Holy Spirit they did.

I saw the Greenville County Council adopt the King Holiday.  They didn’t want to do it but they did.

I have seen miracles in my life.  I saw George Bush sign the extension of the voting rights act.  He did not want to do it, but he did.  I have seen a lot of things in my life.  You can’t tell me that God is not good, or that miracles don’t exist. I have been punting on the Thames and seen the fjords of Norway.  I saw my mother take her last breath and my grandson take his first step.  I have seen a lot. I flew in airplanes all day on September 10th and got home just before day and just in time to avoid 911.

I have seen a lot.

But I have never seen the righteous forsaken…or their seed begging bread.

May God continue to bless and keep you.

Cascade UMC - UMC Women, Atlanta, March, 2012

I am honored to be here today for this festive occasion. Surely, you women of Cascade are special in the heart and mind of God. For you are seeking God’s Will, Serving God’s People, and Sharing God’s Word.

For many reasons, I feel organically connected to Cascade. I was Christened in Christian Methodism at the age of 6 months and later confessed Christ at the age of 11 in a CME church and was baptized by sprinkling. Helen Price and many other friends call Cascade home. Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Lowery have been both mentors and friends.

I want to thank my friend Elnetta Mitchell for her pivotal role in inviting me here today. She is a sister beloved and went out of her way to make sure that I felt welcomed and comfortable here today.

The PURPOSE of the United Methodist Women

Why are we here today?

1. To know God

2. To experience Freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ

3. To develop a creative supportive fellowship with each other

4. To expand the concept of mission

5. To nurture and encourage each other

6. To grow in spirit, in personal leadership and in transformation

Now abide these three, Faith, Hope and Love. You are seeking to put them into action. You understand James when he wrote faith without works is dead.

March is women’s history month and I am delighted to share this occasion with you. To a great extent, the history of black people in the United States is the history of Christian women.

Were it not for the persistence, intelligence and love of black Christian women, our families would be weaker, our institutions less just, our churches and schools less influential, our homes less nurturing and our children less confident and self-sufficient. Women have also been the backbone of the continuing struggle for freedom and equality.


As lay women, we are called, first and foremost to be advocates and witnesses for Christ. That means being continually involved in learning about the church and community, to the end that the church grows in fulfilling its mission. One of the initiatives of Methodist Women here at Cascade is working for justice through service and advocacy.

What does it mean to be an advocate for Christ? First, let’s start with the word advocate. To speak on behalf of. To vocalize for. To stand up for. To be a voice for Christ. It comes from the latin work voca, which simply means call, talk, speak, say, voice. Other words that we are familiar with come from the same root word, voice, vocal, vocalist, vocabulary, vocation.

How can we be an advocate for Christ? Lawyers are called advocates.

Now, almost always in the courtroom the lawyer stands next to the client. On Monday morning, when I go to Rockdale County superior Court with my client I will say when Judge Nation calls my case, my client and I will stand up together. The lawyer answers the call on behalf of the client. May it please the court, I am Janice Mathis and I am here today on behalf of John Smith. John Smith is standing right beside me, but God willing, I will do most of the talking.

Do we stand up for Christ? As church women, do we speak up for Christ? Do we answer the Call on his behalf? Or do we answer for ourselves? Is Christ standing next to us when we speak? Have we called on the Holy Spirit to stand next to us when we speak out?

Close your eyes for a minute. Think about the last time you felt strongly about something. Did you stand up for what you believe? Can you see Christ standing next to you, saying nothing? Visualize Christ being hauled from Court to Court. Could you stand next to him? Now, open your eyes.

Often, when I get a new client, especially if they are young or in serious trouble, I will tell the client, “Okay, now you have a lawyer, so you can stop worrying. Let me do the worrying.” So, the role of an advocate is more than standing up and speaking up. The role of the advocate is to study the case, know the facts, understand the law, be persuasive. Convince the jury.

In Romans it says, For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. But not only those, but neither prejudice, nor stereotypes, nor racism, nor diabetes, nor HIV, nor arthritis, nor cancer, nor wayward children, nor wayward husbands, nor lost jobs, nor failing stock markets, nor bankruptcy, nor any other thing….shall separate us from the love of God.

People ask me how can you represent someone you know is guilty? Being an advocate means you believe in the system of justice, to a certain extent. You are taught to believe that even a guilty person is entitled to a fair trial. And a fair trial means having a good lawyer who zealously advocates for the client. But it is easier when your client is believable. Sometimes you don’t know the truth. But if you know the truth and the client is believable it makes the job of zealous advocacy easier. Being an advocate for Christ is easy…you know He is right.

We think of zeal as something bad. But I am here to tell you that having your mind made up is a good thing. Having zeal for your client is a good thing. Having enthusiasm for Christ is a good thing. It makes you a better advocate.

Do we have zeal for the Lord? Or are we just going through the motions?

When was the last time you persuaded someone to consider Christ?


Not only are we called to be advocates for Christ, but we are called to be witnesses for His way. The role of the witness is different than the role of the advocate. Witnesses to the light. Witnesses to the fruits of the spirit. We are called to be meek. To be kind. To be witnesses against powers and principalities.

What does it mean to be a witness? The best witnesses tell the truth. We still swear them in….to swear that the evidence you shall give in this matter will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Mary at the tomb was one of Jesus’ first witnesses. God called women to be witnesses of his resurrection. They could be counted on. They get up early. They do the work no one else wants to do. They are fearless. They are strong in their belief. Does any of this sound familiar? It should.

What is truth in our world today? Was Zimmerman afraid for his life? Or is he lying? Did he pull his gun when he felt threatened, or did he go gunning for Trayvon even after the police dispatcher told him we don’t need you to do that? What happened to the blood? Where were the cuts? Were they in the grass? Were they on the sidewalk? What is the truth?

Do you have the courage today to be a witness against the rulers of darkness in high places? Are we practicing the courage of our convictions?

Are we walking in the light? Or are we cringing in fear in the darkness. Benny Mayes said, not failure, but low aim is sin. Fear is sinful. Courage is faithful.

We have all heard the saying, God has no hands but ours, no feet but ours, no tongue, but ours. To be an advocate for Christ means to speak up for Christ in our everyday walk. But it means not only to speak, but to do. James puts it this way - faith without work is dead.


Many of you have heard of Mary Church Terrell. She was a graduate of Oberlin College and founder and President of the National Association of Colored Women. Like Esther she could have lived a life of privilege and ease.

Her mother was a successful beautician; her father was a successful

real estate investor. Instead, she founded and presided over the National Association of Colored women.

She was born in the year of emancipation. She died the year of Brown v. Board of Education.

In between, she was a fearless warrior for equal rights for blacks and women. She learned about the struggle from her grandmother who was born into slavery.

She defied her father and the conventions of the time and became a Latin teacher. She marched; she protested, she gave speeches.

Like Esther, she said, I go to the King and if I perish, I perish.

She has always been my hero.


Mary’s life reminds me of the popular question, “what would Jesus do?”

We could have used more advocates and witnesses for Christ several months ago when Troy Davis was executed.

Yet, we also live in a nation that says we should separate church and state. But I am here this morning to say that you can be an advocate for Christ and still keep the wall between Church and State intact.

Jesus was confronted with capital punishment. Remember the woman who was about to be stoned for infidelity and adultery? They were angry. She had broken the law. Jesus wrote something in the dirt. We don’t know what he wrote. Maybe he wrote the names of the women that some of the accusers had been with. Maybe he wrote the names of the husbands of some of the women the accusers had been with. Maybe he simply wrote love ye one another. Whatever he wrote, it was enough to persuade that jury to walk away.

If we are followers of Christ, can we believe in capital punishment? I tell you why I don’t believe capital punishment – I can’t reconcile it with my faith in Christ.

What about health care? What would Jesus do? We don’t have to hypothecate. He stopped to heal the woman with an issue of blood. He spent his last free night on earth before the crucifixion with Simon the Leper. Jesus was for universal health care. I don’t believe that 46 million uninsured in this country is consistent with Christ.

What about guns? Jesus told Peter to put down his sword. Gun control is consistent with the Jesus I know. In Georgia this year, there was a proposal to reduce the gun carry age to 18 from 21. There was another proposal to do away with fingerprints to obtain a gun license. The chokehold that Georgia Packing and the National Rifle Association have on this state is not consistent with the Jesus I know.

The thief comes but for to kill and to steal and destroy. I come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.

I love the Methodist church’s tradition of activism.

Your statement of purpose says that you will come to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ. Guided by the Holy Spirit, it is possible to know the mind of Christ and His will for your life and your community.


In the end, the only way we can be an advocate for Christ is if he is our advocate. What do you mean? If he is our advocate, how can we be his advocate? Did the church get it wrong?

No. 1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: I John 2/

Those of us who follow Christ believe that he is our advocate. He is our advocate with the father. We are to be his advocate with the world – to men and women, boys and girls, governments and powers.


There is an old song that we used to sing that reminds me of what it is like to have Christ as my advocate when I mess up. There is no better lawyer. No better person to stand beside you.

When the storms of life are raging. Stand by me. When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea, thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.

In the midst of tribulation, stand by me. When the hosts of hell assail, and my strength begins to fail, thou who never lost a battle, stand by me.

In the midst of faults and failures, stand by me. When I do the best I can and my friends misunderstand, thou who knowest all about me, stand by me.

In the midst of persecution, stand by me. When my foes in battle array, undertake to stop my way, thou who saved Paul and Silas, stand by me.

When I’m growing old and feeble stand by me. Why my life becomes a burden and I ‘m nearing chilly Jordan, O thou lily of the valley stand by me. We can only be an advocate for Christ, if we allow Christ to be an advocate for us.


Jesus is the light of the world. Humility and wisdom and longsuffering are the fruits of the spirit. God is a spirit and we that obey him worship him in our spirits. How we love a God we cannot see and despise the people we see every day.

I deal with Georgia Power from time to time. They burn coal and use the heat from the burning coal turns the turbines, to create electrical energy that produces light in our homes.

They create light from power.

But we Christians ought to have another kind of power. We do just the opposite of Georgia Power. We take the light and turn it into power. What do you mean?

We take the light of love and turn it into power. Our fuel is the light of peace, the light of forgiveness. We have the power to change the hearts of men because we are the children of light.

Our fuel is not coal or fusion, but the light of the Holy Spirit. We use the light David talked about in the Psalms. We have the word of God, which is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. We have the light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. We have the true light.

You are called to let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. That’s what Sojourner Truth did.

Walking in the light gives us power to change the hearts of powers and principalities. That’s what Dorothy Height did.

Our power plant is this book. Our power plant is our faith. Our power plant doesn’t need any coal. Our power plant doesn’t need nuclear fission. We just get on our knees and pray. That’s what our grandmothers did. That’s where our power comes from.

We don’t have to stumble around in darkness and powerlessness and fear. We have courage and power and direction. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

There is much work to do. And ladies, we are called to the kingdom for a time such as this. That’s what Esther did. That’s what Mary Church Terrell did.

If we answer the call, then we can sing a song of freedom…This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. The world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away.

To the lack of incentive to effort, which is the awful shadow under which we live, may be traced the wreck and ruin of scores of colored youth. Because the chasm between the principals upon which this Government was founded, in which it still professes to believe, and those which are daily practiced under the protection of the flag, yawns so wide and deep. And we have miles to go and promises to keep.

Though the woods are lovely dark and deep, we have miles to go and promises to keep.

Good morning, everyone.
I want to thank you for coming this morning. And I want to thank those of you who are watching on the WORD network. If your local cable system does not carry the WORD network, ask for it.

I was watching CSPAN on television the other day…and noticed the dedication to the memory of a famous person in New York.  As part of the ceremony, the audience stood and said the Pledge of Allegiance.

I think we ought to say the pledge of allegiance. Will you stand with me?
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
And to the Republic for Which it Stands
One Nation
Under God
With Liberty and Justice for All

Just 31 words, but they carry so much meaning.
These 31 words have occasionally gotten me into trouble.
Back in 1971 at Girls State in Columbia, S.C. a few of us rebel high school students decided that the best way to demonstrate our disdain for the war in Viet Nam and prejudice at home was to refuse to stand for the pledge of allegiance. Now Girls state was put on by the Daughters of the American Revolution. We almost got sent home.

Then, a few years later, I was studying in England. We visited a military base at Ipswich. We went to a movie. Much to my surprise the audience was asked to say the pledge of allegiance. I stayed in my seat, …still a rebellious 20 year old. But I was the guest of some Airmen and they made me stand up.

I pledge allegiance. I have been thinking about those words. What do they mean: I pledge loyalty, fidelity, faithfulness, love, honor and respect.

But I was always taught that these virtues are reciprocal.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.
In order to be trusted, you had to be trustworthy.
In order to be loved, you had to be loving.
In order get respect, you had to be respectful
To get honor, you had to be honorable.
In order to get allegiance, you have to give allegiance.

In other words, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The United States has not always shown allegiance to all of her citizens.
Women couldn’t vote
African Americans were slaves
Native Americans were extinguished
I don’t know what First Lady Obama meant when she said that she was proud of her country for the first time. But I know what it means not to be proud of my country.

The pledge of allegiance is one chapter in America’s civic scripture.
I pledge allegiance to the flag.
But the flag is a piece of cloth.
Granted it is full of symbolism. But a piece of cloth doesn’t need an education.
A piece of cloth doesn’t need health care.
A piece of cloth doesn’t need the right to organize.
A piece of cloth doesn’t require a job that pays a living wage.
A piece of cloth doesn’t need to end the war on drugs.
A piece of cloth doesn’t need fair courts and unbiased judges.

But here is the good part.
And to the republic for which it stands.
We are not pledging fidelity to a piece of cloth.
It is the Republic for which it stands.
It is the system of representative government for which it stands.
So when Fannie Lou Hamer refused to give up her seat at the Democratic convention, it wasn’t for a piece of fabric. She did it for the Republic.
It is one person one vote – the Republic for which it stands.
Its Baker vs. Carr
All over the nation, we are going into a fight with 10year implications.
Georgia is going to gain a new member of Congress. Georgia’s black and Latino population is grew almost 20% between 2000 and 2010, according to the census. Georgia will go from 13 members of Congress to 14. Based on one-person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, it seems only fair that the new population would get a chance to elect the new member of congress. But we don’t always get what is fair without a fight. And that fight is going to be played out in state houses all over the country in one way or another.
You gotta be willing to fight. That is why Rev. Jackson is in Wisconsin, where parts of the state look more like a bombed out war zone than part of the U.S.
Down South where I am from there are hundreds of thousands of people who can’t vote because they are on probation or parole. If they could vote, almost every election would be different. Is this the representative Republic that we pledge allegiance to?
Is this the Republic for which the flag stands?

Down South where I am from, there is a new wave of secession. Not unlike 19th Century secession, new governments are being formed and people are leaving the City of Atlanta and Fulton County to preserve white rule. In Georgia we are creating new cities and the new County of Milton because people don’t want to be part of Atlanta.
One in five children in the South lives below the poverty line.
Is this the Republic for which the flag stands?
Half of all children in the South drop out of high school.
Is this the Republic for which the flag stands?

The Georgia legislature just raised the HOPE scholarship minimum SAT to 1200. 2.7% of black children who take the SAT earn a 1200 on it.
Is this the Republic for which the beautiful flag stands?

50,000 families in North Carolina were hungry for some part of 2009
20,000 families in North Carolina live in homes with no indoor plumbing.
On the average, it takes 425 a week for a family of four to live above the poverty line.
Nine of the ten states with the highest percentage of child poverty are in the South.
Are we doing unto the least of these as we would have it done unto us?
In December the Tea Party fought the Democrats over paying unemployment benefits to the unemployed.
Unemployment has risen dramatically in the South during the Great Recession. Unemployment went from 4.7% in December, 2007 to 11.2% in October, 2009. Unemployment in North Carolina rose from 4.9% to 10.7 during the same period.
The stock market is rocking and rolling because companies are making a profit in Eastern Europe, Asia and South America, selling consumer goods made everywhere but America by everybody but Americans. But guess who they are still selling more of them to than anybody else? Americans.

The fight to protect collective bargaining rights took center stage in Michigan , where thousands of union activists filled the statehouse Rotunda in Lansing.
We need to fight to defeat the anti-middle-class, anti-black agenda of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP-controlled Legislature.
A “financial emergency” bill passed the Michigan Senate. The measure would give state-appointed “emergency managers,” who supervise financially troubled cities and other government entities, the power to terminate collective bargaining agreements of public service workers.
In effect, it is worse than what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did. In Wisconsin, at least existing agreements remain in place for their duration. In Michigan, existing agreements can be suspended before they expire.
In Wisconsin, despite the protests of tens of thousands of public service workers and others – and despite overwhelming national public opinion, public workers are losing the right to bargain with management.
Usually we think of exports as good things…but the South and the Republican Party are exporting a commodity that is dangerous to the health of consumers. It undermines union solidarity.
Georgia and South Carolina are among the 22 states that have so-called right to work laws. What it really means is the right to work without health care; the right to work without sick leave and the right to work until somebody decides to fire your for any reason or no reason.

The Michigan Legislature is also considering a right-to-work measure that would undermine union solidarity. Such laws, in effect in 22 states, allow workers who benefit from a union contract to become “free riders” by not having to pay union dues.
Another anti-worker measure would prohibit collective bargaining terms in government contracts and contracts supported through government grants, tax subsidies and abatements.
That means if you get a paving contract in Michigan, you can’t have collective bargaining on the job. A garbage contract without teamsters? A building contract without electrical workers.
Meanwhile, Snyder would cut business taxes by 86 percent!
If you think you are not part of the labor movement, don’t take your next paid vacation. If you think you are not part of the labor movement, don’t use your insurance card the next time you go to the doctor. If you have ever needed family and medical leave, you are part of the union movement.
Now, don’t be fooled by what looks easy. This war on workers is not about cutting government spending. It is about attacking the forces of progress. Who organizes for progress? Who pays for progress? It is organized labor.
We will have a better world when Americans can make what the buy and Chinese can buy what they make. We need a global movement for workers rights.

While we are talking about jobs…we have some good news. Unemployment is down to 8.8%. But the news is not all good. About 6 million, or 45 percent, of the nation’s 13.5 million unemployed have been out of work for six months our more. That’s up from 43.9 percent in February. Unemployment is down. Long-term unemployment is up. Government jobs are down. Health care jobs are up. We have to declare war in illiteracy and lay down the gauntlet when it comes to education and job training.

Fed Chairman Bernanke says correctly, the only cure for income inequality is education.
John E. Silvia, chief economist for Wells Fargo & Co. in Charlotte, N.C., said the job gains primarily benefited highly skilled workers, including those who have extensive computer skills.
“The people benefiting from this [gain in jobs] are not the same people who lost their jobs three to five years ago,” he said. “And those jobs are not coming back.”
Which republic does the flag stand for? Does it stand for working people? Does is stand for mega—multinational conglomerates? Does it stand for the people of Lybia, but not the people of Madison Wisconsin? Does it stand for the people of Japan, but not for the people of the Gulf Coast?
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America

And to the Republic for Which it stands

One Nation
Are we one nation? We were thrilled when a young senator told us we were not Red America or Blue America, but the United States of America. But this week a report came out showing that New York and Chicago are among the most segregated cities in the nation. We need a racial reconciliation summit, led by the White House. We need a summit on racial justice. New studies show that Milwaukee, Chicago and New York are among the most segregated cities in America. Others include

• Detroit, Michigan

• Cleveland, Ohio

• Buffalo, New York

• St. Louis, Missouri

• Cincinnati, Ohio

• Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

• Los Angeles, California

Under God

We have surrendered the teaching of our preachers to people who are not of our tradition. So we get these strange preachers who don’t think the church has a role in social justice. We get these strange young preachers who preach prosperity without preaching truth to power. We get these strange preachers who worry more about separation of church and state than they worry about justice flowing down like a mighty stream. Meanwhile, the folks in the pews are suffering. They have legal problems. They have children in jail. They are losing their homes. And churches are facing foreclosure as well.
I am not a Bible Scholar, but I know somewhere the Bible says When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was in prison you visited me. When I was naked you clothed me. Come you blessed of my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
We are divided.
By race, by class, by region, by socioeconomic status.
Sometimes we are so divided that we read English differently. Take a word like freedom. To the tea party, freedom means freedom from taxation. To African Americans, freedom means free to have a job and free to walk down the street without being pre-judged. Free to get the promotion you deserve. We are divided by simple words.

America is nothing but an idea.
One person, one vote.
Due Process
Notice and an Opportunity to be Heard – in Georgia and in many states they can take your house away from you without due process. No personal notice of foreclosure. And no right to be heard.
No substantive or procedural due process.
No language binds us together. In DeKalb county the children speak 19 different languages.
No national religion. Muslim and Catholic
No sexual orientation – we are gay and straight.
No particular race or creed or culture or ethnicity.
We may be the most diverse nation on the face of the earth.
Yet we are torn between the haves and the have-nots
We pledge to be indivisible. That is our aspiration.
But division is our reality.

As Lincoln said at Gettysburg, and
Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure.
We are being here tested to see whether a multiracial, multicultural, diverse nation can meet the needs of all of its people, or only just a few. Can it offer human rights to all of its residents, or only just a few? Can it educate all of its children, or only just a few?

Some in Congress want to do away with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae? That means there would be a few homeowners and lot of renters. Homeowners didn’t cause the crisis. Wall Street Greed caused the crisis. Doing away with Fannie and Freddie is just punishment and a competitive advantage for the Wall Street bankers.
And if we can respect each other and protect each other
If we can stop locking up African Americans and Latinos disproportionately.
If we can stop spending the hard-earned dollars of the poor and uneducated for the college tuition for the wealthy and well-educated.
Then we can pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God indivisible

But it is going to take more than wishful thinking and speeches. It is going to take the willingness to pour out our bodies as living sacrifice, to prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.