The global economic crisis is often described as a crisis of confidence.
Bishop T. Larry Kirkland of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s 5th District, covering the Western states, correctly described it as a crisis of faith during a sermon to mark the 157th anniversary of San Francisco’s Bethel A.M.E. Church.
This is a church which was burned down in its first five years in the 1850s by slavery sympathizers, knocked down by the 1906 earthquake and left in the midst of block upon block of open land after the City of San Francisco “redeveloped” the Western Addition a few years after the church relocated there.
Kirkland introduced himself as a “down South preacher” who had attended Alcorn State University in Lorman, MS, “a place where you only come if you’re going there. You don’t pass it on the way to nowhere else.”
I entered as he was singing “God will make a way some how” in a booming voice. His topic could not have been more real “Faith in a Recession.” Suffice to say, he immediately grabbed everyone’s attention.
The Right Rev. Kirkland chose the parable of the five loaves and two fishes which he said is the only story which is recounted in each of the gospels. “So there must have been a very important point there.”
He showed that the passage demonstrates that God will test our faith, as he did with the disciple who told Jesus that there wasn’t enough to feed the multitude. The bishop also observed that God will show our faith to be insufficient, as in the example of the disciple who found a mere five loaves of barley bread and two fishes.
The church’s continuing witness demonstrated his conclusion. God is dependable to deliver believers because he has done so in the past, through much worse circumstances.
Bishop Kirkland told of an encounter with Alabama college students who were complaining about the difficulties of being black. He replied to them, “What do you think it was like when we were colored?”
In short, he let the packed congregation know that the celebration of a church which had survived the Civil War, decades of segregation, redevelopment and gentification was more than just a chance to get together, but a roadmap to managing the current difficulties.
That’s the real lesson of black history. With all that the Lord has done so far, why would anyone not believe?