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Happy Fathers’ Day: Have you heard of William Wadé Harris? A June 18, 2017 Sermon

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The First Sunday after Pentecost June 18th 2017

Exodus 19:2-8a Psalm 100 Romans 5:1-11 Matthew 9:35-10:23

Happy Fathers’ Day

The lessons today are virtually filled with sermons. They are so rich and filled with our Christian truth, that they are overwhelming. When God brought the children of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt, He described it as carrying them on eagle’s wings. The eagles build their nests way high up in cliffs. When the little eaglets are about ready to fly, the little ones think that their father or mother have turned into monsters, because they nudge them over the edge of the nest into the drop. The little ones go into free-fall. The mama or papa eagle waits to see if they flap their wings and begin to fly. If not, they swoop down under them and lift them back up to their nest on eagle’s wings. How do you like that for Gospel? That is the good news about God’s loving us, because we are God’s children and God is teaching us how to be fathers and mothers and shepherds. Even helping us learn to grow into the full stature of Christ – because that is flying.

Like we sing, “I’ll fly away, O glory!” because the Papa eagle God will swoop under you and me and lift us up should we fail, if we should fall. So you see, Christ died for us while we were yet sinners and our journey in faith will not end badly in any free-fall, but God will swoop under us and lift us up, because Christ shed his blood for us, and just one drop of his blood is worth millions of dollars, it is priceless really – and that is what God paid for us. So can you imagine your value?

A pastor of homeless members, told us in Bible study that on Youtube he saw a teacher, who in front of his class held up a twenty-dollar bill. “How many of you would like to have this?” They all raised their hands. So he crumpled the bill up. The he asked them again, “How many of you still want it?” They all raised their hands. He put it down on the floor and stomped on it. “How many of you now want it?” They still all raised their hands.

The point he was making: you and I all have value, an incredible priceless value, because of the blood of Jesus. You and I might get crumpled up and beaten down by life, but you never lose your value, because Christ died for you – even while you were still sinners. Christ made you and me right with God, because the Son of God came down from the Father and paid the price, so you and I are free. Jesus Christ has already paid our bill. That’s what St. Paul means by justification by faith.

In our Romans lesson, Paul was talking from experience. He was a really bad guy. He was rounding up Christians and putting them into jail, like ICE today does with poor immigrants. Still under his name, Saul, he held everybody’s coats while they stoned Stephen to death. And he was glad they killed him. He probably wondered how that blasphemer could have said, “Dear Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”

But then on the road to Damascus, where he was going to hunt Christians and bring them back to be punished in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to him. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” You know the story. The first Christians were afraid of him. But soon they realized that Jesus blood shed for him turned him into Paul, a pretty wonderful dude, who could say, “while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me!”

This is the incredible good news that we have to tell people of our time. The neighborhoods and the streets where we live are ripe with harvest and we pray that God send laborers into the harvest, so we bring in the sheaves, so we bring people under the great wings of the Papa Eagle, and they realize and know how much they are loved by God.

With the twelve disciples, named today, and even the seventy that Jesus called to gather in the harvest, the operative words were: “Proclaim the Good News: The Kingdom of Heaven has come near!” Now those are God’s Words and they do not return empty, because God’s Words bring about what they say. The words are like a pastor pronouncing a man and a woman husband and wife – they are now in a real marriage. When we proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven, it becomes real. God’s will starts happening on earth the way it does in heaven.

In World War Two, the Germans ran over France and really put an end to that country. They set up a Vichy regime, which was their puppet government, but France was no more. General De Gaulle, however, declared that France still existed, no matter that it was gone. He made treaties as if France existed, he stood up for France, and behold, after the war, France became real again and Charles De Gaulle became its president.

We proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven and today I proclaim that it has become very near to Bethlehem, very near to Oakland. Now the Warriors are merely a basketball team, but look at the selflessness demonstrated by its stars. They have a Kingdom of Heaven state of mind. You probably heard of the New York state of mind. We all need a Kingdom of Heaven State of Mind – and watch how the world becomes transformed into the place in which Jesus is the King, ruling over us from heaven at the Right hand of God the Father.

Let me tell you about an African who labored in the harvest to the amazement of every one of us in the faith. His name was William Wadé Harris, from the Grebo tribe.[1] He ministered during the time of the First World War, about 1910 and on, when the countries of West Africa were still colonies. Now he had been a teacher in an Episcopal school, but he became involved in politics. He seems to have raised the Union Jack, that is the British flag in a French holding, so they put him in jail. They locked him up in a Liberian prison. He had been raised in a Methodist minister’s family, so he was literate and like many Grebos, he had also been a seaman. While in prison he saw a vision. When he was released, he knew it was not about England or France, but the Kingdom of Heaven and he set about proclaiming it. He put on a white robe, held a Bible, a gourd rattle, and a water bowl to baptize converts. His wife thought he had gone mad and died of grief. Accompanied by two women assistants, he went from village to village proclaiming Christ. People said that God gave him a soul of fire. He preached and ministered through the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, and Liberia and over 120,000 people converted to Christ. If people started worshipping his cross or his gourd rattle, he would smash it on the ground and get a new one. He wanted them to focus on the Kingdom of Heaven.

So many people were converted and followed him that the French authorities became frightened, clapped him in prison and deported him.

Imagine what God could do for us if our souls caught fire in the Holy Spirit. Forget if you are a Democrat or Republican or even if you are American. It is the cross of Christ and the already but not yet Kingdom of Heaven, the Beloved Community, as Martin called it.

And if people started worshipping the cross, we would have to smash it, like he would smash it, the way he would also smash his gourd rattle. These symbols have to keep pointing to the Kingdom of Heaven we start living together.

I’d say William Wadé Harris had father-power. Imagine waking up over 100,000 people to the love of God! telling them to learn to read, so they could read the Bible. We know how to read and do we read our Bibles? This prophet baptized them, while they were yet sinners and they flocked into churches to the amazement of the missionaries in the three countries.

Let us thank God for that worker in the harvest. Let us pray for us who work in the harvest. Let us pray that we stop being half-hearted, but that the Holy Spirit light our souls on fire and we receive the father-power to bring forth and bring up the children of God for the Kingdom of Heaven. Bethlehem, the Kingdom of God has come near and the Word of God, is not a mere and weak word, but a strong word that brings about exactly what it says. Amen.


[1] Elizabeth Isichei, A History of Christianity in Africa, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), pages 284-285.


Written by peterkrey

June 25, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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