By Rev. Anthony Everett
A sermon delivered on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at the Faith-Rooted Organizing Summit
Servant Leaders Serve Others! Their Fears are Trumped by Faith!
God Is Driving:
“One evening a father and his seven-year old son were returning home after car shopping. The father decided to turn down a side road that was not traveled as much in the evening in hopes of avoiding traffic.
As they rounded each bend, the father noticed his son was very quiet. The father thought maybe his son was a little fearful, after all it was almost completely dark and they were in a wooded area near the Highlander Research and Education Center.
Midway to the main street, the father asked his son if he was afraid. The son responded, ‘No.’ The father asked, ‘Do you know where we are?’
The son said, ‘No.’ Pushing his son to say he was afraid, the father probed further. ‘You are usually afraid when you don’t know where you are. Why not now?’ The son said, ‘Well, as long as you know where we are, I don’t have to be afraid.’”
[The son spoke volumes about how we should have faith in our ‘Heavenly Parent’ when we don’t know where we are in this political season.] There is no need for us to be afraid because God, the true Parent of all, knows where we are. After all, God is driving our car. Our Faith in God Trumps Fear every time!
On election night, after seeing Kentucky go completely red, I decided to get some sleep. At about 2:40 am on Wednesday morning, my wife, Angelique, had awakened me to the reality that Donald J. Trump, the billionaire businessman and host of the reality TV show, the Apprentice, had won the US Presidential Election. I yelled out ‘Oh, No!’ as if awaking from a nightmare.
Turning to Angelique, I told her that I wished that she would have let me continue to sleep.
And then, I realized that my wife was upset and crying. I couldn’t sleep anymore, so I remained awake as we prayed together and I consoled her.
She was fearful because after January 20, 2017, the President of the United States of America, one of the most powerful leadership positions in the world, will no longer be the first African American president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, a former community activist out of Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity UCC who at least has a heart for people. Instead our president-elect, Donald J. Trump, is a billionaire, who, by all evidence shown thus far, makes mockery of all faiths, including Christianity, and has a heart only for himself!
Angelique was fearful because of the agenda of hate that Trump promoted throughout his campaign with a disdain for African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ, and 1st Nation people.
She was fearful because Trump has sexist, misogynist, objectifying attitude and actions toward women as displayed by his comments and videotapes!
She was fearful because Trump is not a servant leader but has the propensity toward autocratic leadership with a hubris to match it.
She was fearful because Trump, with no knowledge of global or domestic affairs, will soon be the leader of the richest and most powerful nation in the world with nuclear codes at his fingertips.
She was fearful because Mr. Trump has pledged to do away with the Affordable Care Act; cancel every executive action, memorandum, and order issued by President Obama; cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs; cancel funding to Sanctuary Cities that do not prosecute undocumented immigrants; deport undocumented immigrants while eliminating immigration as we know it today; and increase funding for an already failed criminal justice system.
I know many of you feel the same way as Angelique. I feel your pain. Our faith as social activist and organizers is being challenged to its very core through policies that are indifferent to the marginalized members of society. If the truth be told, our faith has been challenged by political leaders from both parties for a long time. Right now, with the right-wing conservatives about to take control of every branch of our government, we are in a fearful place because we have that red target on our backs.
We may be fearful because our tomorrows look like they may be completely darkened by the threats of self-serving political leaders who speak over everyone, place a price tag on everything, and seek to control every aspect of our lives. We may be fearful because we feel abandoned in the wooded wilderness of indifference. But when you know that your heavenly Parent knows where you are, like the seven-year old boy, there’s no need to fear!
To quote the prophetic voice of Kendrick Lamar, “We gon be alright!” “We’ve come this far by faith,” not by fear!
Jesus says, when you prophetically challenge the powers that be, you “have no fear of governors and kings.” He says “have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered and nothing secret that will not be known!
Do not fear those who kill our bodies” with their physical violence and corrupt policies, “but fear those who can destroy our souls.”
The background behind the text is where Jesus, in the past 22 chapters, has already displayed His servant leadership to the world. As an infant, wise men from the East came to visit Him. They paid Him homage. Insecure men, like Herod King of the Jews, feared Jesus and sought to kill Him.
Like the children of the dream, 1st nation, Appalachian, and Flint, Michigan babies who need clean water, and Black and Hispanic children in the cradle to prison pipeline, Herod commissioned genocide against all children two years old and younger in and around Bethlehem, intentionally attempting to make Jesus a victim thru unjust policies. The people feared Herod’s political policies and some feared Jesus because Herod’s hatred for Jesus was killing their babies.
As Jesus grew in stature, John the Baptist prophesied about Him. Then, John baptized Him! The Holy Spirit anointed Him! The devil tempted Him!
The crowds followed Him! The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes challenged Him! The elders and chief priest questioned Him! But God the Father Transfigured Him!
In today’s text, Jesus told the crowds and disciples to follow the teachings of the religious leaders but don’t follow the leaders! They have the right teachings but they don’t practice what they preach. They are hypocrites!
Jesus said they will show up at church but you won’t find them in any ministry! They try to show others how smart they are but it’s only for show! They’ll want you to sacrifice, but they won’t make a sacrifice themselves!
They want to be seen and respected by others as being knowledgeable and educated! They love to be honored at banquets and sit in synagogue seats where everyone can see them! They like to be recognized in public with a title in front of their names!
They mistakenly think that displays of intelligence, that seats in the VIP section, and that titles of prominence, automatically gives them respect! They are self-serving and always looking for someone to follow them!
The scribes and Pharisees saw themselves as better than the ordinary people who followed Jesus. But Jesus saw them as pretentious leaders! He told His followers to learn from them but don’t be like them for they are like the blind leading the blind!
Jesus said don’t pump your head up with titles and don’t give others undue respect! God is your Parent and Jesus is the Messiah! Pretentious leaders will be your servants! When you promote yourself, God will humble you! You may be a big tree, but remember, it only takes a small axe to cut you down! When you go low, God will lift you up high!
The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were like the church leaders of today when it comes to the “weightier matters of fairness – things like justice, mercy, and faith.” Instead of freedom and liberation many seek admiration. They desired to be admired!
The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were seeking advancement. Like the leaders of today, they all wanted to be the leader of the pack! They achieved to lead!
The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were seeking adulation. They wanted to be praised but they didn’t want to share praise with God. God is a jealous God! God will get God’s praise!
As I toiled with the text, I came to the realization that Jesus was calling out the religious leaders of the day to lead with faith, not fear. In doing so, He encouraged the crowd and His disciples to have a mind of their own and learn from the religious leaders, but not to follow their ways.
The religious leaders had power and authority in the synagogue, but they weren’t servants of God! They were slaves to their own selfish wills. They sacrificed nothing to obtain positions of power. They perpetrated faith to instill fear in others.
Our challenge in the next four years is to not be overcome by fear! When you attend a Black College or University, there are some non-negotiable things that you must learn. This is a lesson one learns only in the residence halls or dorms of a Black college. One of those non-negotiable things that you must learn is the game of spades.
In the game of spades, spades trump everything. One day, we were playing spades Joker, Joker, duce, ace. We were almost on the finish line with the score. The score is 440 to 400. We needed six books to win.
After playing a few hands, my partner and I got our six books we needed but my partner reneged and we lost three books. Then he got nervous. But his fear activated my faith! We had the books that we needed. Little did he know, I held the trumps at bay.
On the next hand, I threw out the duce of spades. That’s one book!
Then, I threw out the Little Joker of spades. That’s two books!
I knew we had them on the run! That’s when I threw out the Big Joker of spades. That’s three books! That gave us our three books we needed to get to the finish line! My faith trumped my partner’s fear!
- You may fear our president-elect’s agenda of hate!
- You may fear his sexist, objectifying attitude toward women!
- You may fear his dictatorial leadership style.
- You may fear that there’s a loose nut on the nuclear keyboard.
But when you activate your faith, fear gets TRUMPED every time! That’s Good News! I got happy to know that my faith in Jesus can never be TRUMPED!
- The righteous will live by faith.
- For we live by faith, not by sight.
- Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
- By grace we have been saved through faith.
- The shield of faith can extinguish the arrows of evil.
- Faith comes from hearing the message through the word about Jesus.
- Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
- For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes, [has faith,] in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
If you know that your Faith in Jesus can never be Trumped, you ought to stand to your feet and throw up your hands, one for the Father, two for the Son, and three for the Holy Ghost. Give God the praise!
"Danny" Anthony Everett is the lead pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. As a preacher, pastor, public servant, lecturer, and social activist, Everett is a passionate advocate for human rights and issues of social justice. Featured in the United Methodist Interpreter Magazine as a criminal justice clergy person, Everett advocates at the local, state, and national levels for sentencing and criminal justice reform legislation. He is a Doctor of Ministry student at United Theological Seminary in the Prophetic Preaching and Praxis focus group. For more information, visit https:goo.gl/g8KNkK.