“I am going to reignite the flames of the Holy Spirit that burn inside my soul, that cause me to move on and run on in the name of Jesus…that has me praying for those who despitefully use me and loving those who hate me.”
Our Jan. 27, 2018, prayer breakfast speaker was Rev. Dana Owens, pastor of Messiah Baptist Church, who took preached on Reigniting the Flames, reading from Daniel 3:12-20. The message focused on verse 19, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the King or worship his golden image. Nebuchadnezzar became furious and ordered the furnace to be heated up seven times hotter than usual and had his soldiers throw the three in the furnace.
He remarked that “It seems as though the pages of time have been turned back… that the words that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached in 1961 (“Do not stop now. Keep moving. Don’t get weary for we will wear them down with our capacity to suffer and we will overcome”) have become relevant again. It seems as though the flames of hatred, the flames of fear, and the flames of cultural supremacy have now been reignited. Then, he shared that some of those within his own congregation and within his circle of friends are fearful of these changing times. They are fearful of the speech and rhetoric they hear.
Rev. Owens proclaimed, “People have come and gone who ignited flames, but the truth is that the God that we serve has outlived those people… and will continue to outlive people like them… Every now and then the furnace will be turned up a little bit hotter…but by the grace of God, we have been able to endure the struggle, heartache, and frustration. We need to be reminded that God will not remove us from the flames. However, He will give us the capacity to endure the flames… you will come out of the flames.”
He added “We are one Kingdom because of the Lord and Savior that we serve…. God has given us different tongues to speak from, but by the grace of God, we are able to communicate with one another not be assimilated, but to keep what we had from our traditions and our history. God has given us the ability to come together as one people …what makes our country great is that we are a melting pot of different languages, different ethnicities.
Then, Rev. Owens pointed out, God will allow people to rise up to challenge our faith…God allows people to sit in powerful position so that our faith will be challenged so that we can always be reminded that whoever sits in the position of power does not have authority over our lives. God allows Nebuchadnezzars to rise up so we can see that God is all powerful. And we can see that kingdoms can rise and fall but the word of God will remain forever. God wants to know if we will be faithful even in the most trying times.
Returning to the Bible passage, Rev. Owens shared that the point of the story is often missed. “We focus on King Nebuchadnezzar and the fiery furnace and we fail to realize that the three of them stuck together. They went through the fire together.” Then he mentioned that what he loves about the civil rights movement is that they came to an understanding that if they don’t stand together as a people — not just as African Americans but as the human race — they will fall together, they will die together, so they decided to stand.
Rev. Owens exclaimed that now, in 2018, God is calling us to take a stand as the children of God … to not allow immigrants to be mistreated … not allow fear to become our friend in our communities… to take a stand for all people who are struggling and suffering…those in the inner city, those in Chinatown, Koreatown, from Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, and Africa…Every place that God created is not a blank hole…it is a place where children will be able to live and prosper because it is the Kingdom of God.
Then, Rev. Owens stated his own conviction… “I am going to reignite the flames of the Holy Spirit that burn inside my soul, that cause me to move on and run on in the name of Jesus…that has me praying for those who despitefully use me and loving those who hate me.” Then, Rev. Owens implored everyone to reignite their flames, reminding them that when Jesus died on the cross, it looked like his flame had been extinguished, only to discover that early Sunday morning, the flame was burning, fully on fire…He told everyone, “When you go through the furnace, there will be a Sunday morning experience. You will come out shining like pure gold.” Then, he closed out with a quote from 1 John 1:4 “…greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
We had gathered at St. Mark A.M.E. Church, where Rev. Dr. Kenneth Mitchem is pastor. Rev. Stephen Webb, the moderator for the program, invited Rev. Dr. Mitchem to give welcoming remarks and then shared a brief testimony about his experience at the Global Peace Rally in November 2017 in Seoul, Korea.
He introduced the Assistant Pastor from Park United Methodist Church, Rev. Harriet Johnson, who gave a testimony of her experience at the Rally. Before Rev. Johnson began her testimony, she shared that she had attended a prayer breakfast in October (2017), at St. Mark AME Church, where she heard people speak about their experience of praying for peace at the DMZ (the border between North and South Korea.) She was touched by their testimonies. Later that same day, she was invited to go to the Global Peace Rally, in Korea (on Nov. 11, 2017.) When she went to Korea for the Global Peace Rally, she met children of God there, from all over the world, from different faiths and denominations. They came together to pray for peace and unity, in Korea. She was impressed by the beauty of all the different people represented. When she returned from Korea she prepared a slide show and shared her experience with her congregation. She told her congregation that when she looked around the room at all the people of God, from all over the world, she saw a snapshot of heaven.”
She mentioned that there were many different workshop participants could attend after the Rally. In one of the workshops she attended, they shared some of the history of Rev. Moon’s life, “who was called at the age of fifteen… At one point, Rev. Moon was asked to renounce his belief in God, which he refused to do. In 1954, he prophesied that the people of God around the world would come together.
Rev. Johnson believes that Rev. Moon continued to work toward the vision that the Lord gave him throughout his whole life. She also remarked that Rev. Moon said that America has a special destiny to unite the people of the world. She added that, we should keep in mind that America must return to her Christian roots in order to fulfill that destiny.
Rev. Johnson was also deeply moved by the theme of the Rally, We are All God’s Children.. “It was a very uplifting experience to hear a Hindu, a Buddhist, an mmam, and a rabbi all say that we need to come together in love and unity.” “The Hindu person also said that religion has to be the center. The heart of God is love…. We should come together and focus more for our similarities than our differences.”
Rev. Johnson remarked that, “Korea needs to open its borders to peace and development. Ideas need to be planted for reunification.” Two weeks after the Rally, Rev. Johnson heard that North Korea would come to the Olympics. Then, a week later she heard that North and South Korea would participate as one united team. She exclaimed “Prayer works! We also need to pray for peace and unity in the United States….”
Rev. Webb added to Rev. Johnson’s comments about peace. He shared that he spoke with a woman at the Global Peace Rally who worked in South Korea but was originally from central Las Angeles. Peace means something different for her than people in Korea and other places in the world. For her, just going from her car to school without being shot is peace.
Rev. Dr. Michael Sykes was invited up to share some of the objectives of the cational ACLC. Rev. Sykes shared that one of the objectives of ACLC is to strengthen marriage and the family. He announced that ACLC headquarters set a goal to bless one million couples by the year 2020. As Rev. Sykes is a board member, he is called to help to accomplish this awesome task.
Rev. Greg Agulan gave the closing remarks. Bishop Rene Bellenas announced upcoming events, and thanked everyone for their participation. The clergy community was well represented by several different denominations.
The one common thread that binds us together, is that we are united to build God’s Kingdom, to create an environment where His Kingdom can grow and thrive, where everyone is welcome, in the family of God.
Submitted by: Rev. Kathaleen Sato/ NJ ACLC