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”.

Maundy Thursday: Jesus Washes His Disciples Feet

Maundy Thursday:

Jesus Washes His Disciples Feet

 

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you? ”he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:1-15

 

My favorite day of Holy Week is today, Maundy Thursday. I did not always have a great appreciation for this day. A few years ago I started to attend an Episcopal Church with a dynamic outreach model. I was humbled to think there was a church with a concern for the homeless and vulnerable that I could vibe with. One Thursday I was invited to attend Maundy Thursday service. This would be the service where the congregation would take turns washing each others feet. I had heard of this practice before, but had never seen it in action. Funny how as a christian I have a belief in Jesus, or that Jesus does an act and I still don’t follow it, interesting. I went to this service and was in awe. Honestly, this service solidified me as an Episcopalian. Moreover, it was the fact that I saw not only congregants and wealthier, cleaner members of the church washing their partners or friends feet, but I saw congregants washing the feet of the homeless, the vulnerable, those that were in need of love and support, and in return those same individuals washed the feet of those of the congregation. I was humbled by this, brought to tears. I realized then in that moment that the table of Eucharist was for all, even during holy week, especially during holy week.

I close with this, this day March 24th, let’s think about the humility of Jesus, he did not ignore or shun or cast out the “other” he stood with them, and washed them and inspired them. We in this fast of #EmbodiedSolidarity have been demonstrating that not only my christian brothers and sisters feet should I wash, but my Muslim and Hindu and Buddhist and Jewish and even Atheist friends in the human community. In addition that I should offer my mind, body and soul to understanding my neighbor and their struggles. As we walk and stand for justice for the “least of these” let us remember that, we are equal and we are called to struggle, soldarity and love. To God be the glory, Amen.

Dear God of all creation we thank you for this opportunity to hold up our brothers and sisters who are in need and who are being persecuted, we stand in solidarity with their struggle and commit to washing their feet and being humble to allow them to wash ours. In this we embody solidarity, in this we see #TrueReconciliation, have interfaith collaboration and restoration. I thank you because your divine love and revolutionary grace, brings me to this and to the highways and byways. We thank you all knowing, all loving, all accepting, all believing God of creation. Amen.

 

Bio: I am a seminarian in New York Theological Seminary studying Liberation Theology and Queer Theology. I intern and volunteer at the Micah Institute and Ecclesia Ministries. I have been involved in homeless outreach and solidarity with the poor since 2005. After discovering the radical Jesus on the streets of NYC through a storefront church called Underground Church NYC (RIP) that reached out to the Bowery area near CBBG”s (RIP) and the parks. Being heavily inspired by the Simple Way community in North Philly (Shane Claiborne) and the writings of Tony Campolo, my best friend and I lived in intentional community with our friends on the street in an abandoned squat in Williamsburg, Bk. The house provided alternatives to the shelter system and the often overwhelmed environment of social work agencies. There was a doc about it www.ourhousethefilm.com (like $4 on Amazon Prime) all proceeds go to local initiatives to fight poverty and homelessness. I live in Asbury Park, NJ with my best friend, his partner their son.

 

#SermonFromSuicide

  
I preached on #SuicidePrevention and #MentalIllness a while back. When I preached from the context of my personal bouts with suicidal thoughts and how even after “becoming” a Christian I still struggled. Being a Christian is a great thing we have a shadow side as all major religions do but Jesus pulled me out of darkness. Now I’m not saying I’m all smiles now, I suffer with depression not as a illness but as a state of being that I haven’t been able to shake even with the”Holy Spirit”. I say this because to many times we are pressured into being sanctified or healed and not enough in the moment of pain. We need to sit in our people’s pain and learn to listen. We need to listen or we will lose whatever supporters and friends we have left. I know that God is real in my life but that doesn’t mean that you will feel that way. So on behalf of a outreach workers, hey! I’m sorry for trying to recruit you when you were clearly going through something. I’m here and I will listen. If you don’t want to talk to me then please check out @HeartSupport.Com a great resource using message boards both public and private to help you with your struggles. Jake the founder is the singer of August Burns Red and he lives what he teaches. 

Lastly, I know it’s hard when you feel so alone, when life left you feeling abused and shamed and in pain etc…but you are more than your pain, your pain is part of your story but it’s not all you are, we are more than our pain. 

My prayer tonight is that anyone reading this that you would know that your not alone and that God has lavished God’s love on you through Jesus. Jesus was a revolutionary and he died fighting for peoples freedom to love and be loved without fear or restriction.

Please if you are ever or are dealing with thoughts of suicide now or were don’t hesitate to leave me a comment, we can do this, together. That’s why I’m writing this. 

I Love you,

JP ❤