Four Resolutions For Revolution

This morning as I was looking through my old bibles. I came across some notes I wrote in 2003. The note was titled, “Four Resolutions For Revolution.” I’m going to explore those notes and attempt to offer a working theology of encouragement for you. I want to encourage you, that what God put in your heart it will be revealed in due season. Do not! Do not lose heart! There is a dream inside you, He hears you, He sees you, He is perfecting you. Man of God your Father has a word for you. Woman of God you are a revolution waiting to happen. People of God let’s go!

January 19, 2003

Four Resolutions for Revolution

Isaiah 15:24

24 The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:

Number 1.

The only way to make a resolution and keep it is because God has one for you.

God has a resolution for you, The resolution is that first and foremost I spoke that dream into you. God has placed that promise in your heart. The way to keep it is because when you receive a promise from the universe you don’t forget it. Because He promised, therefore you can stand on it.

Also, God has one for you because before you made a promise to God or made a plea to be “holy” etc. God beforehand said, “as I have thought, so shall it come to pass.” This is incredible. How many times in our lives have we had an unction for something. Then later on in life, it seems like this event we had a hunch on comes to pass. It’s that way with God. I promise you that what is stirring inside your belly is not just you. It’s the LORD of hosts. God Himself in all His fullness has placed a river of water in you. One day soon you’re going to overflow.

Number 2

When you are lost, stay there don’t move. Wait till Dad comes and gets you!

I know, I know that sounds crazy! Stay in the wilderness till God comes and gets me. I say wilderness because that’s symbolically what lost means. Being in the wilderness can feel like you have lost your way but that’s actually where you are supposed to be. Insane right?!?! It’s not! God wants you to trust Him. We trust when we are lost and give up our attempts at salvation. Dad (Abba Father) will come and get you. How will He come and get me? He will show up when you feel the most desperate.

Isaiah 40: 28-31

28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

Wow, Thanks a lot God, on one hand, your incredible and on the other, you go beyond all human reason… Why is that good? Why is this absurdity perfect? Isaiah continues…

29 He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.

So, when you feel weary you’re alright, when you feel weak you’re alright when you can’t seem to land a job, it’s alright, there is hope. When we feel we will never meet that special someone or we had her or him or them and we lost them. You are alright! God’s strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Great news, you’re not on your own.

His strength is made perfect in weakness. You are stronger than you think. When you have no fight left in you, “He increaseth strength.” Thanks be to God that we are not in this alone.

30 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint.


So when we are lost, we are to not panic, God has us. We are in perfect position for His mighty provision. Come on somebody!

Here’s some more ammunition:

Isaiah 41:10, 14

10 Fear though not: for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 43:16

16 Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; 17 Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow. 18 Remember ye, not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. 20 The beast of the field shall honor me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. 21 This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

Number 3

Resolution with a Refusal. I refuse to be content with yesterdays triumph. I refuse to be content with yesterdays victory. I refuse to be content with yesterdays deliverance. Have a resolution for refusal. You can be grateful for your past success, but when you feel lost you will have to eventually get up. There is more for you. In that wilderness, there is a seed of revolution.

Isaiah 43:19

19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Your time in the wilderness was preparing a way for you, a river running wild in a previous dessert. God is moving on your behalf. The revolution is not what I once thought as a new government or administration in the political sense. I do believe there can be more changes made of course. But, the revolution I’m talking about is the revolution of your life. That we can make a choice to change our lives right now. The revolution is love, mercy, and grace. The revolution is to look at your past and rediscover that God dreams and bring it into reality. It starts with one step. Resolve to believe in the promise of Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? He’s doing a new thing person of God!

Number 4

Revolution is a Resolution

Every year we make resolutions. We usually break them in the first month or even week. But I believe that the revolution of conscience, mind, and body is a resolution. You have to make a choice. Social change starts with a choice. When I was in school and I was studying for my degree I had to look up the words I didn’t know. I dropped out of high school and my reading level was 5th grade. But, one day at a time I learned more words, I read the bible every day. I read the King James Version of the Bible and by reading that Shakespearean text I developed a college reading level. I changed my fate in education from high school drop out to entry level for my Associates Degree. Revolution is a resolution. I resolve to go for all God has for me and so should you.

Psalm 118:17

17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.

What is your desire for revolution? What resolutions are you going to make? Let me know in the comments section.





Today is Pentecost in the Christian tradition.

Today we believe a few millennia ago or a long time ago, the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out into humanity recorded in the book of Acts (Acts 2:1-31) in the New Testament.

We are in that narrative the bringing together of every nation and tongue we see people who couldn’t read and or were not educated do the miraculous. We see a new society form called the Kingdom of God on earth.

We see the beginning of what then was called The Way but now is called Christianity. We see then a power so strong that it occupied all streets and occupies all streets today. Whatever you are experiencing whatever you are feeling the Holy Spirit is poured out to empower you to do the work you have been called to do.

I pray for REVIVAL in New York City and around the world. A revival of people seeking the face of God brought together through real devotion. Real love. That we would seek and save the lost (those in need of hope).

When I say lost I mean, when you have felt “lost” it doesn’t have to be not christian I mean. Last year I was lost. But I’ve been found and resurrected. I have a hope that can’t be stopped or stalled.

I believe you too can break every chain that has been on your wrist and ankles I believe that you will do more than you ever imagined because the God of Heaven put that inside you. So on this day of Pentecost…I pray we write, dance, sing, act, etc arts professionals lawyers, authorities, whatever your sphere. I pray we do it all for the glory of God and the compassion of others.

In Jesus Name Amen.

Why I Worship: JESUS

Why I Worship: JESUS

God is the single most important thing for me. I have had a 20-year journey with God. I thank God that I was given mercy and time to grow in my love for God. Which is why I’m thankful for seminary. More importantly than seminary though was the fact that since I was a young man, I have been in love with Jesus. I have had a relationship with God since I was a little kid. But it was when I was 17 in Newburgh, NY that it began and it sustained me in prison and saved me after release.


Why I worship God? Because He is faithful and just. The bible is the book of God. I found that I could change anything in my life, through the application of this book. God is faithful, his purpose and plans are accomplished regardless of the directions I choose. In the end, he is a loving father and he is the one who runs to us. I worship God because I’m lost without him. I need God like a recovering alcoholic needs the rooms of alcoholic anonymous.


The first time I heard Kirk Franklin’s, “The Storm Is Over Now” I felt the pain leaking out of my eyes and covering my face, I felt the confusion and pain, leaving my body, leaving me empty and open to receive a new lexicon. A lexicon of mercy and grace. I worship God because I see results. Many years later now, if I didn’t see another sign I would still worship him, because He gave me that peace in prison, and after that peace, he’s still God, He’s in love with us, He’s the God of the universe and I’m lavished in his love.


I worship because there is no other source of salvation in the entire galaxy. There is no other hope. I tried Alcohol, drugs, sex, being a workaholic, the music scene, the art scene, engaging in every form of social justice there is, fighting for the rights of animals, spending hours and hours with the poor and the destitute. Fighting for the rights of the oppressed in prison. All this for what, I spent hours in class and in the library, I spent hours in bars arguing for the existence of God. I spent time reading numerous text on salvation outside of God, but there is no one who can melt my heart, there is no one that when I hear his name, I instantaneously experience healing, peace, comfort, joy, hope, salvation, change, and confidence. In Jesus, I can do anything and outside of him, it just doesn’t feel right.


This world is obsessed with finding a salvation outside of the God of Israel, but there is no other name in which we are saved, no other name but Jesus! No other name but Yeshua, Adonai, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nisei, El Shaddai, Mighty King, King of Kings, Alpha and Omega, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father… Jesus is the salvation for the world. I respect and trust people of other faiths. I know that for other people their religion’s help them in life, but as a pastor of Christian tradition, I believe in the gospel of Jesus, there is no other name.


I believe that worship should lead us into harmony with our neighbors. We don’t need to be at war. Why are we at war? Is it over God, or is it over oil? It’s oil. Jesus, is salvation. For so many who don’t take the time to understand what this faith means, there is push back because we have not given them authenticity. I worship God because this is my passion, my sustenance. I really don’t have anything else. I’m not super good looking, I don’t have great business acumen, I don’t have a steller academic history, I didn’t even finish high school, but I believe in the God of heaven.


By believing in the God of Heaven. The one we read recorded in the “book” the bible, we learn about a God that was committed to a people with no home or land. We see a God committed to a people that continually left God, we see a people that continuously without fail went back to the culture they were called out from. We see a people choosing empire over a savior. We see a people so helplessly in love with themselves that they ask the God of Heaven for a king to rule them, because trusting God just isn’t working. I worship because it was God and God alone.


I preach Christ crucified but I also preach life and possibility. In the past, few months I have seen my life change so radically. Let me share just briefly what God has done since January.


In January, my grandfather passed away. He was a mighty man of God a pastor in Upstate New York from the Wesleyan tradition. Around that same time, I came back to NJ from Florida. While with my family I mourned the final stage of my divorce, and I embraced a new journey. I began to pay tithes and offering to a church I wasn’t even completely sure about but their pastor was speaking into my life. I began a transition from Vegan to eating meat again. I began a class called Preaching and Worship with Rev. Dr. Edward Hunt. This class would be the final piece to God’s wonderful message in my life.


I was learning how to eat again, I had vitamin deficiencies, anemia, I felt like I would break in half. See, the previous year I was drinking every day all day, I would stop for work and then go back to it when I got home to Jersey. But, in it I knew that there was more for me. I know now that I was simply grieving the loss of my exwife that it was normal. I thank God for professionals who can help us understand this. But, I was forging toward a new life. I began to attend Hillsong Church NYC regularly and joined there StreetTEAMS ministry encouraging our friends on the street (homeless, incarcerated, addicted etc). I found my faith rise. But it started with worship…


See in May of that previous year, I attended my first service at Hillsong. I was skeptical and doubted but I needed to sing, I needed to hear good worship music, I needed God, I was involved in some things and it was doing nothing for me. I just wanted my exwife back. I was in the service, and we sang a song called, “broken vessels (amazing grace)” This song moved me, and I found myself saying, JESUS you’re here. You’re in this place, you’re in a mega church, how is that possible. But I joined the church in January and I gotta say it was amazing and it’s been amazing to be a part. I recently was moved into leadership of the StreetTEAMS ministry where I mentor a couple captains and inspire them to inspire the volunteers. It’s amazing, we call this “Occupy All Streets” it’s a blessing, to see the world beyond politics and activism into a real-life work of God.


It’s May 22, 2017 I have grown so much. Thank to that class in January I know that I’m called and that I will be equipped. I’m not supposed to be perfect or so good, but to be reliant on God. I know that the health, sustenance and belief of people is contingent on my health, belief and sustenance. I know that I worship a God that can change the courts, he can turn a judge in your favor, he can give you a career helping folks that you were told you will never work with, he is the God of Israel and the Bible is where I can learn about him and the Holy Spirit is how I know God never leaves me!!!


I’d like to end this with a couple bars from Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace),


“All these pieces

broken and scattered

in mercy gathered

mended and whole

empty handed

but not forsaken

I’ve been set free”




“You take our failure

You take our weakness

You set your treasure

in jars of clay

so, take this heart, Lord

I’ll be your vessel

the world to see

your life in me”.

Reflections on an article on the untimely death of Chris Cornell

Great read on depression and the life and legacy of Chris. 
Something I really took from the article is that depression doesn’t just go away or end in your Fifties or only come around in your twenties. 
It’s insidious and tenacious. It has the power to take all your joy and accomplishment and make you feel utterly alone. But your not alone, we are not alone!!! God cares about your struggles, share them with a friend and fight back. You were made to overcome!!! 
Sometimes as I worship at church and “praise” I find myself in tears so many tears because I know where I was, but I also wonder if it’s this expression of fighting back against my own depression the voices that tell me I’m nothing, that give me anxiety and fear…when I worship I rest, I give it up. 
I know that I’m only around because the God of Heaven wants me here. I want to live because the devil is a liar and if your struggling and I know many of you are, I’m praying for you, not some piety but honestly that you continue to fight for your joy and that you experience rest, where love, joy, peace, patience become your confidence. 
You can do anything !!! Look in the mirror and tell yourself, I love me, I’m going to do this, I’m going to live. The book of Psalms says, “I will live and not die” let’s fight to live!!! Amen. So much love for you. 

Peace and Strength ❤️ JP

Lavished: We Are Known

Lavished: We Are Known1 John 3:1

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
Four Points

  1. We are lavished on with the Father’s love.

  2. We are called/should be called children of God.

  3. We are children of God.

  4. We are not known, because they do not know, they are known.

We are not known because, they do not know they are known.


  1. We are LAVISHED

A.) Lavished – Giving or using a large amount of something, given in large amounts, having a very rich and expensive quality.
The royalty of the Father is given to us in the form of His great love.
We are given large amounts of love, when we understand being children of God.
We don’t believe we are royalty because we don’t believe God actually loves us.
But, we are more than loved, we are the embodiment of the Fullness of God.
We are lavished with Love
2. We are Called!!!

B.) We should (be called)

Lavished response of God toward us is that we, “should be called children of God”
John the Apostle, in saying, (You)!

“How crazy is it that we are like, the children of God. Like, that’s crazy!!! The royalty of God is in that we are God’s children. You!!! Us!!! That’s crazy!!!!”
That’s how it might be read today!! Then John, reiterates because he can’t believe it. “That’s what we are!”
3. We are children of God

John was saying that before we were not children of God but today in Patmos we are. why? How? JESUS!
Jesus death, burial and resurrection provides us a bridge (say bridge) to the Father. We were orphans but we are adopted and no longer Fatherless, no longer Motherless, no long alone, we are no longer without a family. We are one in God. In the past you had to have been a Jew, but now Gentiles can have relationship. We are no longer ever children left for dead but embraced, brought inside and made children of God and the household of faith. We are brought in and shown love. We are the wealth of the Father. We are lavished… We Have A Family
But why don’t they know me?

4. We are not known because, they do not know that they are known…. We are not known…because, they do not….know….that they are not….known


1 John 3:1c  “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him”

John answers the concern of the persecuted church, why don’t they know us, why are they killing us? Why don’t they understand Jesus and we do? What does that even mean? John’s answer is why the (C)hurch is different. John says, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” The reason why the early Christians were being killed and persecuted was because they did not know Jesus, grace, or God. They did not know that they are known. If they had known they were known, seen, lavished, healed, embraced, cared for, loved by God in Jesus then they would have known they were persecuting the only hope the world has. The end of Rome was Jesus! The end of ____ is Jesus! Jesus is the incarnation of a lavished life.
So That’s why people don’t get it. People need love, people need mercy, people need grace, people need forgiveness, people ultimately need to know they are seen, made known and a part of God. We need to identify the potential and power in people and then acknowledge it. We can change the hearts and minds of this city, by simply saying, “I See You!” We can change the world because we are not nobodies, we are someone and we are KNOWN!!! When someone is speaking ill about you, it’s fine they don’t know that they are KNOWN. We can help people be known.
How do we help people be known?
A.) Jesus is the lavished reality of the Father. Jesus is why you must press for more. We are lavished and if you believe that, you are not alone. You can say to depression, I’m loved! You can say to pain, I’m loved! You can say to ____ I’M LOVED!!!

You are not alone, you are the embodiment of love AS YOU ARE, You are a child of God, You are no longer an orphan, but a son, a daughter, You have a daddy his name is JESUS!!!
& He has OVERCOME the world!!!!


Indeed a Good Friday


Today is Good Friday.

If you didn’t know the reason we say Good Friday today, is because a Palestinian Jew who was unlawfully convicted by a Roman court was tried and murdered on this day thousands of years ago. The reason this day matters all these years later, was because it marks the beginning of the greatest victory in human/faith history. Jesus of Nazareth (a town no one thought anything good could come out of) see John 1:46,  rose up and declared in the temples as a young man, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19).

Today is the day after the famous foot washing service of Jesus with his disciples. We call this Maundy Thursday. This sacrament or worship practice was symbolic and remains symbolic of the humility of the Christ. Jesus, although Christologically speaking was and is the Messiah of the Christian tradition. We believe that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied beforehand by Moses and Isaiah. We also know that Christology is a profound thought. I wanted to give the background though to these sacred moments of the Christian tradition. We are not just being ritualistic. We are practicing traditions that have lasted for the entirety of Christianity. So Thursday the washing of the disciples feet and in many churches the washing of the congregations feet, symbolizes Jesus humility. Humility that lowers the leader, the Messiah to a servant and shows us the most radical rejection of Empire ever.

See, Jesus death on Good Friday was to overthrow every system of oppression. The greatest of these besides Rome at the time and others now. The greatest was SIN. Sin separates us from God and each other. We are called to love in ways that seem humanly impossible but Jesus on Good Friday did it. In that moment he was human, fully human. Jesus was God in the flesh and if that is true and I believe it is. I can think of no other greater way to love me. God is love. God is not these issues that divide us. God is not a (you get in but you don’t) God. God is love.

God is accepting and believing. God sees the best in you. God wants the best for you. God is justice, God is not injustice. We are injustice, we create pain, misery, torture, guilt, fear, shame, we did this. We can be freed though we can come and be made whole. We can rise from the ashes of our past into a new being. We can die as Jean Gray and return as The Phoenix all powerful. To quote Kirk Franklin, “We are more than conquerors!!!” 

So Good Friday is good indeed. Yes, injustice exist and we will continue to fight, we will continue to speak out and vote and protest. But, in the end we need hope that can’t be touched by human hands and human policies, but but hope that can be transformed by a loving God. A hope that comes from God and is in us. We are the kingdom.

We can change the world and the reason is Jesus. So as we reflect today on the crucifixion and the loss of the greatest man of all time, my hero, my friend and brother, my God to whom I praise. The one to whom I cast all my cares. Let us not forget that today, especially today he was human, he felt every nail, every pain, but his love for you and his love for people (ALL) people was greater than Rome, and it’s greater than SIN 3,000 years later. Friday we mourn, Saturday we are in silence, but Sunday is coming…

Review of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Recently I have been reading J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” Link on my Kindle, and I have to say that this is an important book. I heard about this book first on New York Times via Facebook. J.D. Vance article  I was compelled because in the last couple years especially I have been concerned with addressing racism. I’m doing this through Conversation with various people and projects with Justin “Neo” Shockley over at  Justin’s website 🙂 and our good friend Chantal at Follow Chantal 🙂 on twitter.

I won’t go on for to long about this book because I have massive amounts of school work to do and I need to make lunch. I will say this. I am committed to ending racism. How do I do that as one person? That’s a powerful and difficult question. One answer I have found is, going back into my childhood. By going back into my childhood I’m remembering all the challenges and struggles my family faced as poor white folks in upstate New York and the dysfunctions we experienced but also the glory and triumph.

I know that I wasn’t raised to be a racist but the culture was all around us. My grandpa who I love a great deal on my Mom’s side of the family used to tell me the most horrible things I could think of about black folks. Get this, we didn’t have any in the sticks of Montgomery, NY and until I moved to Albany and Schenectady with my dad, I didn’t know a single black person or person of color of any kind. Hell, I was so ignorant that I thought Asian folks were a different kind of white person. I’m sorry for how ignorant I was. I don’t speak for all of my community as I don’t believe they felt that way. It just kind of speaks to one me personally and how I developed and two the education system for students with learning disabilities. In Montgomery, NY the school and property taxes were some of the highest yet, I don’t remember anything I was taught except in my second time in 9th grade Mrs. Bonacic ( I could be wrong) English teacher, gave me a copy of The Giver in In-school suspension and it began a process of learning that started with S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.

But, anyway prior to that, that was what I picked up. I didn’t know that we had 7 continents. I don’t even know now, haha. See I’m in a MDIV program but I’m still that dirty poor kid from upstate NY who was more concerned with trucks, woods, and imagination than I was being accepted by society. I felt that society didn’t understand me anyway. Vance, felt the same way. He wanted to make it work, but his home life was so bad, that he couldn’t. He was forced to learn through massive mistakes, but the grace of God gave him new possibilities in time.

Anyway, what I was trying to get to is that. In going back into my past I found similarities with the Rust Belt of Ohio and other folks who are poor and white. I found that I understand their grievances but I don’t understand their racism. Now, I’m not saying all poor white folks are racist. I think that many of us are prejudiced and we hold onto that prejudice with like some kind spiritual belief that we are right and everyone is wrong.

I want to say that I love my family and I love the sides of my family that are questionable. I think part of ending racism and prejudice etc. Is understanding one another. I’m committed to looking outside of my comfort zone. Being the Woke white guy in a room full of black folks isn’t enough. I don’t want my internal, moral and ideological critique to end their. I did that (have black friends haha) and POC continue to be shot by police and stigma etc, continues to rise. No, I want to follow after my hero Malcolm X who encouraged my people (white activists) years ago to go to our families and our communities and tell them stop killing black folks. I know it sounds simplistic. But, this book Hillbilly Elegy has been an amazing and bright awakening for me.

I’m not going to back down but I am going to use wisdom to understand my audience and who I’m trying to reach. J.D. Vance spoke to me, his experiences resonated with mine. His heart was pure and he has seen a lot. I encourage you to read the book because I couldn’t stop once I started, I shed tears, and I found new hope. A hope that we all need in these times that seem uncertain.

Good luck and I’ll see you around.

Pain Runs Through The City, Like Heroin Runs Through The Veins Of Sonny In Sonny’s Blues

As I prepare for these final weeks of semester I’m reblogging this post from 2015. I hope you enjoy it and if you like it follow me and I’ll keep you updated on what I’m working on.

John Paul Ross

As I wake today and prepare to bring hopefully hope to an oppressed and forgotten population here in NYC, specifically Harlem. I’m overwhelmed by the truth of the insidious power of addiction. As a pastor in training with a liberation theology rooted in James Cone’s Black Power Theology, I know that God is for the oppressed and as Howard Thurman wrote in Jesus and the Disinherited, their “backs are against the wall” and it’s imperative that I bring something real, something authentic to ministry but reality has me doubting.

Now I’m getting on the train and heading toward Harlem inside Marcus Garvey Park to provide holy Eucharist through Ecclesia Ministries. I’m reminded of my early life in upstate NY in Schenectady. The oppressive weight of failed opportunities and closed factories offered my student body nothing more than future addiction and or prison.

Really, every day in highschool I would skip…

View original post 1,157 more words


Image result for waterfalls in hilo kulaniapia falls

All the years and nights you cried

for me and over me.

Now it’s my turn, and these tears boy they pour they pour out like the waterfalls of Hilo. The waterfalls that we never swam under. #triggershy

All those years and I felt nothing…as you cried.

Like the pouring rain crashing on a sustainable rainforest roof, collecting water. My buckets are empty and I’m crying and I guess we could say you’re finally getting through to me, through to me alone.

-JP Ross

Upstate Ghosts

Upstate Ghosts


An excerpt from a sermon I preached at All Angels Episcopal Church entitled Remember Who You Were by John Paul Ross


Please check out this absurd article or blog about the history of Schenectady. The one truth to author mentions is the irreparable damage GE leaving did to my hometown. The result being homelessness, addiction, incarceration and, dropout rates. Absurd Schenectady blog


I am from upstate New York, near Albany in a small city called Schenectady. Many upstate people would often joke about Schenectady about how nothing good can come out of that city. Haha, no really, nothing: when I was in high school a friend of mine who was in a band called, “The Miserables” once wrote on his army jacket God Save Schenectady, which summed up what it meant to grow up their. As you can tell already by my earrings “plugs” and demeanor that I come from a punk rock background.

I believe that God has provided punk rock in my life to help me, understand reality for those on the margins of life, It took me from wanting a private sheltered life into wanting to spend my time with those that are considered “unclean”. I believe it takes radical faith to wrestle with the great challenges that people face in everyday life. Punk Rock offered that courage and eventually to develop a radical faith.

My life verse for you this afternoon, comes from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians chapter 1 verse 26; “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth…” This scripture goes further on explaining how foolishness and weakness are what God calls us from, not to lose that humble beginning but to proclaim from it. Brothers and sisters, my message to you this afternoon is, “Remember Who You Were”. Remember who you were and where you were when you first heard that gospel message of good news; or if you are here today and have not believed in this same gospel, think back to a time before you felt you knew what you wanted from life, or what you were made to do. I believe in understanding our beginnings we can speak into our present with confidence and humility!

When I first moved here I was homeless, not in the more comfortable transitory, I don’t have my name on a lease, but I’m staying with a friend. I mean I had nowhere to live. So I stayed in shelters. I couldn’t live anywhere else because at the time I had burned all my bridges and exhausted all my resources. I tried to get in contact with my Dad but I couldn’t reach him. He was unable to be reached because he too was homeless. My dad that same year was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, my dad lived his entire life with this mental illness and we never knew, he especially didn’t know. So being that my dad was unable to help me, and my mother living in Florida and I not having a close relationship with anyone else in the family. I found myself in New York City the home of The Ramones! That’s how I justified my circumstance. “I’m living in the home of the Ramones, my favorite band of all time.” But it was not cool at all.

My first night here I was scared to death. I didn’t know where I was going or what would happen to me. I found refuge in a place called Bellevue Mens Shelter on East 30th Street and 1st Avenue. I stayed there for a little more than a week. Every day I would let my caseworker know that I wanted to go to college, because an OG or seasoned veteran of the shelter system said that would be the only way I would find myself in any place but Bedford & Atlantic Mens Shelter in Brooklyn.

Bellevue Men’s Shelter 30th Street in Manhattan, NY


When someone arrives in Bellevue they are put thru metal detectors and checked for weapons or any other contraband. I was terrified! My first night there I waited for a bed for like 7 hours. My friend from Queens would come and encourage me, but every night I still stayed there and I still had no contact with my dad, and my mom was in Florida. I wanted to be on my own, I got my wish. But I didn’t want it. I quickly started recanting all my decisions but I knew that God had me there for a reason. I often had to encourage myself that God had a plan and purpose for my life. That I am bought at a price and that I don’t own my body any longer. That I go wherever God wants me to go. I can not begin to explain to you the feeling I would feel when I would arrive to the shelter late, because I was lost and have to beg for my bed back. The fear of not knowing, where will I sleep tonight? But, it’s in these moments that my ministry was unfolding. I didn’t understand it then, but now I see clearly why I had to experience homelessness.

Paul similarly explains the foolishness of God, as in order for God to get all glory. Paul was concerned with being a radical difference to the ways and customs of modern life, but he also was strangely aware of how insignificant all of our pursuits at prestige and know how can be. Paul articulated to a people who did not know the knowledge of the aristocrats or pharisees a nobility that in their very low circumstances that they were a chosen people. To show the glory and goodness of God. That it was to confound the wise and provide a stumbling block to the old guard.

I remember being a new christian and wanting some incredible conversion story, which seemed to be so popular to have in evangelical circles. But, I was just an ordinary young man, who did not know anything except that I was filled with fear, anxiety and anger and then I was filled with peace. There was no Billy Graham experience or theological degree, not even a GED. It was solely God and for that He gets all the glory.

I believe that when Paul was encouraging the church of Corinth, he was saying, who you are and where you are from is enough! It’s not your wisdom, in the essence of the Hellenist or the rigorous obedience to the Torah. It’s in your weakness, your foolishness, your humbled circumstance that you are going to change this world. It’s not what aristocratic position you have. It’s not man’s ways but God’s.

A commentary I researched for this message suggested that the very usage of words like wisdom, foolishness etc…found in 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31, speak to the hierarchical oppressive nature of class division in Rome. In that day the value was on aristocratic wealth, hellenistic philosophy or wisdom, and for the Jews attention to the Torah. But, the audience that Paul was preaching too were not privy to such knowledge or had the luxury of prestige. These were ordinary men and women, like you and I. Paul, was calling them out. He was saying and reminding them that although you are being persecuted by Rome and experiencing friction with other Jewish believers you are not to be caught up with their standards, for its in your simplicity that you will bring glory to God. It’s in your “foolishness” and “stumbling” that God will get all the glory.

I once believed that this scripture was a simple one, that I don’t have to have the greatest education, be a philosopher or rich. But, this is much deeper than that. It truly means that the kingdom of God, is not by human standards. The calling of God is grace and that grace will make the world’s wisdom foolishness. Only God, can take a high school dropout from a broken home and not only change him from antisocial to a humanitarian but even transform him into a socialite and owner of not one degree but 2 degrees and working toward a third, He could restore a relationship with his mom, restore a broken silent relationship with his dad for 10 years and bring it back full circle to have a healthy thriving relationship. That He could take a broken young man who has only seen divorce and teach him how to love someone else. I testify to you that these are only some of the glories that God has done in my life and He will do even greater in you! Remember when you were called!?!

To some of you sitting here you may be on the fence about Jesus, you may be thinking that this all sounds good, but what about suffering, oppression, class division now? I am only sharing scripture, what about their reality and to that I would say, I have known pain, I have known sorrow but it was God and His Word that carried me through. Many times in those rooms cluttered with others who may not have had my best interest in mind, God was with me, and like the Psalmist David said, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.”

I know that it can be hard to believe the gospel message when your life seems so far away from it, but I can assure you that God cares about you where you have been, where you are and where you are going. I believe that my time in Bellevue helped me to trust in His faithfulness.

Years later I would learn and study about the holes in the system, which brought me back to my humble beginings of homelessness and dependency on the goodness of God and the kindness of others. We are not excused from responsibility but it is with this humility that we can pick up the shattered pieces of our pasts. Not everyone might be able to relate to this, I ask you to think of those moments in life where you have felt most vulnerable, the teaching applies. It’s God’s goodness and grace that you are here today, not just human will.

To help me stay hopeful, I would often walk over to the water by the shelter and I would look at the Hudson River and sometimes I would cry, I would argue and talk with God, “why did you bring me here, to only suffer”, “I know that you are with me, but sometimes it really feels like it’s just me”. God would show up in those moments, I have always found great peace in looking at the water or going to the Cloisters near Washington Heights and would lose myself in the park. I love nature and I believe that we need that connection.

I have often struggled since those days with why I had hope and support and others don’t; or don’t get to realize it. We have hope all around us. A friend of mine when I was beginning to write this shared with me, that I had hope and support but I also had a will to understand and fight for change. I not only fought for my own change in life but for others. That’s why I am here now. Because, after that experience I realized that everyone deserves dignity and respect. Everyone deserves to know that God loves them and actually cares about their suffering, I believe that I have been homeless in order to help others understand homelessness. I was not homeless for a long time but I internalized those experiences and when I am in seminary or helping others make a latte at work, I am aware that my purpose in life is to bring hope to this world. I am to be an agent of God’s agency to humanity.

Those times in my life has challenged me in so many ways. It’s hard to erase the stigma that the past can put on us. Sometimes it seems its not enough that Christ has washed all of our sins away. Oppression seems never ending and justice seems like it may never roll down like a river, but I know that God is for the weak and in time, all those that were cast away will be brought back. So if we are struggling with doubt, we don’t have to stay there, its in our struggle and in our lack of qualifications that God signs our approval and we begin or continue to excel and grow in service to others. We can relax and find solace from the storm in the first chapter of 1st Corinthians verse 26 and take a deep breath and remind ourselves where God called us from and where he take us, it’s not us, it’s all about God. What we consider folly, inexperience, lack of education or too much, God calls wisdom and our opportunity to remember who we were and rest knowing that it’s not man’s will but God’s.


All Angels Episcopal Church located on 80th and Broadway behind Zabars. AAC was established in 1846. This was the sight of this sermon and the dynamic homeless outreach that inspired me for seminary. The ministry was called Our Place Cafe and the founder was Eric Mull. Eric is pastor of Ascension Table in Long Beach, Long Island.




Heavenly Father we thank you for your wisdom and your foolishness, because your ways are so much beyond us. Give us patience and grace to accept our challenges and blessings with humility and seek to do all we can to provide a place of restoration for others who also may suffer or need someone to celebrate with. Lord, help us to remember who we were when you called us. How many of us didn’t have all the degrees or homes or cars etc… That we have now, but that we were in a place of desperation to a tumultuous storm raging inside of us. You are the calm in the storm. Father, I pray for every person here who maybe experiencing homelessness, that you would provide them sustainable housing, If there is anyone here who is experiencing drug and/or alcohol addiction that you would help them to get clean and/or sober. Lord that you would bless those hear who are not in those circumstances but have other circumstances, that they too would experience your grace and mercy that they too will remember who they were when you called them, and that in the end it’s not our wisdom or strength but your spirit that we can confound the wise and bring glory to your name!!! Praise God!!! in Jesus name Amen!!!