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It Ain’t Never Over! By Rev. Anthony L. Trufant

13 That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity. — Luke 4:13, MSG

My stepfather, Paul David Trufant, who gave me his last name, coached me on how to handle bullies. Earlier that day, he had stood at the window, as he often did, and watched for me to cross the street and come home. Since he married my mother, my stepfather sought to take an active interest in my older sister and me, especially in educational, athletic, and social development. Therefore, this day, as he watched from the window of our 14th-floor apartment, he was merely vigilant and protective, as per usual. This time, however, he saw me doing something unusual. At the sound of the dismissal bell, I burst through my elementary school door, which was directly across the street from the building where my family lived. (At the time, we lived in a newly constructed public housing high rise on the Southside of Chicago — 6425 S. Lowe St.) He noticed two older and bigger boys were chasing me.

When I opened the door to the apartment, he was sitting at the kitchen table. Without looking up from the newspaper that he was pretending to read, he asked me how my day had been. I told him, “Fine!” Then, he probed further: “Are you sure nothing out of the ordinary happened?” Trying to side-step his question and not conjure up his suspicion, I asked, “Why are you asking?” He said, “I saw you, for the first time I could remember, running home from school and a couple of boys were chasing you.” I lowered my head in embarrassment and shame. My stepfather was big on the hood philosophy and practice of “Stand your ground!” long before it ever became a legal principle in GA, FL, and TX.

I explained to him that I had been bullied by the two of them. I tried ignoring them, asking them to leave me alone, and avoiding them. However, it was all to no avail. I would've taken them on, as my stepfather had taught me, if they were my size and/or in my grade. Bigger and older nemeses, I explained, posed a serious problem. I expected an understanding, sympathetic ear. That’s not what I got. What I got was some counter-intuitive advice. My stepfather told me to not run from them, but also to not go out of my way looking for trouble with them.  He coached me to size the two boys up, pick out the bigger of the two, and knock the hades out of him before they could tag-team and defeat me. Then, my stepfather assured me that one of two things would happen: either they would leave me alone and look for easier prey because I had surprised them with my first strike. Or, two: they might beat me up, but they would at least respect me and would think twice about messing with me because I had stood up for myself. My stepfather was wrong. There was a third alternative, about which he did not warn me. They could get one or two more of their classmates, who were their henchmen, and triple-team me at recess and after school for another four or five days. In short, I learned just because you stand up for yourself and win a decisive battle does not mean you’ve won the war.

Luke makes that very same point in Luke 4:13. According to Verses 1-12, Jesus was sent out into the wilderness for 40 days and nights. The Devil, at some point during those 40 days, challenges Jesus to prove he is the Son of God by exhibiting dazzling displays of power. Each of the three times he was tempted by the Devil to misuse his power and question his identity, he countered with God's word. Then, Luke holds up the hands of Jesus, as the undisputed and reigning champion of God, and ends with a very chilling, candid prediction:

13 That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity. (Luke 4:13, MSG)

From this haunting and honest claim, what can we learn? What does the Lord appear to be teaching us through the text?

  1. The Devil is real, and Jesus believed so, even if you do not.
  2. The Devil is very smart and slick, so don’t play the Devil for a fool.
  3. The Devil is intentional about derailing our God-given destiny.
  4. The temptations of the Devil can be defeated by the truth of God’s word.
  5. If we triumph over temptation in one battle of our life, be assured that the Devil will schedule a re-match.

Sunday- 1.24.2021

Sixty Second Sermon By Min. Raymond Johnson

Tuesday - 1.26.2021

Bold Prayers Pt. 2: Jonah” By Min. Jocelyn Mann

Wednesday - 1.27.2021

Empathy” By Rev. Stefan Weathers

Scripture: Hebrews 4:14 (NRSV)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”

Hebrews is like a new album that you listen to and, about halfway through it, you think to yourself, “It can’t possibly get any better than this, right?” Oh! But, then it does!

The end of chapter four reiterates who exactly Jesus is. The verse that we are focusing on reveals to us that Jesus, in addition to being Lord, Savior, King, Messiah, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, and so on, is our High Priest. This is a title that the Jewish people in the first few decades after Jesus’ death would have been able to get with, so to speak. After all, the name of the book is Hebrews. The audience is very specific, therefore they needed specific examples. This is analogous to highlighting the words or story of Biggie or Jay in our Brooklyn context to bring to life a point or a story from scripture, which is not always easily digestible.

Nevertheless, the role of the high priests, as they would have understood, is to be the intermediaries between the people and God specifically for the forgiveness of sins. They would have been the only ones who could enter the Holy of Holies.

Our High Priest in Jesus is one who knows pain, heartache, struggle, suffering, and, quite simply, knows what it is to be a human being in what can feel like an increasingly hostile world. He knew this in everyday life and especially when he was accused, tried, convicted, tortured, and executed. He knew this when he was tested by the devil in the wilderness. He knew this as he cried over his friend dying. He knew this as he was hungry and thirsty and tired. He knew this as he was betrayed. He knew this as he did ministry with the homies’ day in and day out.

That is what has always intrigued me most about our faith. Relationship is what it’s all about. The Lord I serve, with all power in His hands, who defeated death also understands what I’m going through day in and day out. He understands what I’m feeling. He understands when things get difficult and I feel overwhelmed. He understands that sometimes I just feel like I need this cup to pass from me. Yeah!

We have a savior and king who in every way knows what we’re going through. And that’s good news! That’s a healthy reminder! That’s reassurance! The word that most accurately describes this is empathy. It’s a beautiful thing when others empathize with you, your circumstances, and your struggles.

Jesus empathizes with me, with us. And empathy is what we all need right now. It’s what our country and world need right now. You may not have the exact same experiences as someone else, but you should be able to empathize with them, their circumstances, and their struggles. I may not be a Black Woman, but I have experiences as a Black man of being overlooked, talked down to, disrespected and more, which allows me to empathize with Black Women who face this treatment as a Black person and as a Woman. Empathy encourages me not to use my heterosexual maleness over Black Women and LGBTQ persons in the same way that many white people use their whiteness over people of color. And, empathy encourages me to stand up against mistreatment and the weaponization of privilege  when others I know or even those who I do not know are doing so to Black Women, LGBTQ persons or anyone else who might be in a less privileged capacity than me.

When we fail to empathize with others, we fail to see them.

When we fail to empathize with others, we fail to be in community.

When we fail to empathize with others, we fail to love others.

When we fail to empathize with others, we fail to be like Jesus.

Let’s be like Jesus, our High Priest, who possessing all the power of the universe still empathizes with us no matter how low or high we may be.

Amen.

Peace and Love

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