Jun 24 2014

Take Me to the Water

by Brandon C. Harris

For three days I agonized over my sermon. It was my first week at Heritage Fellowship Church in Reston, Virginia and already I had to preach – and for a baptism at that. I wrote and rewrote. I prayed and consulted fellow seminarians on Facebook. What in the world was I supposed to say to five youth preparing to be baptized on a Wednesday evening?

Part of me wanted to tell them good luck and Godspeed! Following Jesus is never easy and he has a track record of taking folks to places they never wanted to go, like seminary.  What could I say to five middle and high school aged youth who had decided that they wanted to follow Christ, who were willing to submit themselves to being immersed in our large baptismal pool. How I agonized and prayed.

I wanted to draw on my rich theological education and say something profound about baptism. However, as I stood before their eager faces that evening, hoping to say something meaningful to them, I realized my words were not needed at all.  God’s word, alive in the testimony of those five youth, was more powerful than anything I could say. We laughed and we cried as we heard them witness of God’s presence in their lives.  A young man testified of how God’s grace – through the love of his family and the goodness of God within his life – led him to seek a relationship with Christ.  A young woman testified of how she lost her mother and was displaced from her family and how Christ had been her constant companion.

That night the youth of Heritage taught me a lesson not found in any classroom. The love of God shown in the ordinance of baptism became alive.  As they rose out of the waters, the smiles that emerged and the glow on their faces displayed to the world that they belonged to God.  There in the waters of baptism those five youth were born anew. That night we saw the face of God in those youth.  I will not remember that night because of the words spoken in a sermon or the lyrics of a song, but because of the testimony of one young man who proclaimed, “Jesus loves me! Why wouldn’t I want to be baptized?”

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Brandon Harris is a 2nd Year MDiv from Rochester, New York. Brandon is a Licensed Minister in the Church of God and Christ and is a member of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He is serving this summer as a Pastoral Intern at Heritage Fellowship Church a Non-Denominational Church in Reston, Virginia.






Feb 25 2014

What is the value of an African American male?

Is the worth of an African American male priceless or is it comparable to meaningless matter, insignificant and cheap?  For centuries the value and worth of the black male in society has come under question, as if God didn’t create everyone equally.  Who are we as a society of brothers and sisters to determine otherwise?

As I sat in my room and watched the Michael Dunn verdict, I immediately reflected on the question: What is the value of an African American male?  The jury convicted Michael Dunn on four of five charges against him, but were indecisive concerning the murder charge.  How can you be uncertain when 17-year-old Jordan Davis was unarmed and was unable to protect himself from the rage of Michael Dunn?  Furthermore how could you shoot into a car because of loud “thuggish” music and then go home as if your actions were normal?  A mother and father have lost their son because someone felt threatened by the face of difference rather than seeing the heart of similarity.  A split jury, some who will never see the black experience, has decided that a mistrial is better than convicting a man who killed out of malice towards someone different.  Is it a matter of changing the laws or changing the individual who views African Americans as inferior second-class citizens?

One could pontificate that the laws need to be amended, but the world will always have its stance on the value of an African American male.  This ongoing sense of injustice has continued to be a huge problem within our society.  Some may deem that we should worry about other issues.  Some may revert back to the argument about black-on-black violence, but is this a mechanism to cover up the overall injustice towards African American men?  Should we ignore these new Jim Crow laws and modern-day lynchings of African American men?  Several African Americans have been mistreated by the judicial system that is only designed to work for people with privilege and power.  Brothers such as Emmet Till, Oscar Grant III, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Danroy Henry, Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and several others have been victims of an unfair system that judges based on “the color of the skin rather than the content of character.”

When personal bias and bigotry enters the soul, it damages the very fabric of what it means to be alive in this world.  Being alive in the world means waking up everyday acknowledging that God created everything well without blemishes.  Personal difference is not a blemish but rather it is the gateway to exploring the essence of God.  I am not a blemish and I am not an enigma.  I am an educated black man who may be different on the exterior because of my skin, but I breathe the same air as those from other cultures.  I am a black man who longs for the moment when we all walk down the hallways of schools and jobs with love towards one another.  I am a black man who wants people to see my rich value rather than my skin tone.  I am not a monster.  I am human.  We all are precious in the eyes of God and we should cherish the fact that we are worth more than silver and gold.  With our seminary experience let’s change the world so that everyone can be treated equally and fairly.

–Lawrence Waters

Lawrence is a second-year MDiv student at Candler, a student ambassador, and president of the Black Student Caucus. He is a licensed minister in the American Baptist Churches (USA) and has served as a youth pastor for several years.