The Power of the Present

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2 Corinthians 4:6-18 (7-8)

Doors are amazing parts of building structures. Functioning doors allows entry and egress. Doors give access. Unless they are sliding doors, most doors swing on hinges of some kind. Hinges are that apparatus that connects the doors to the walls, connects that which moves to that which is stable, connects that which has flexibility to that which cannot change.
The past is that wall which cannot be altered, changed, manipulated or massaged. The past is the past. It is what it is. And then there is the future; it is the unknown, yet to be discovered and experienced. The future is still a figment of my sometimes overactive imagination. It’s dreams yet realized, vision yet to come into fruition, it is possibility couched in the womb of hope. I’m so glad that our future does not exist based on my current status, on the contrary, our future exists despite my current state of being.
If the past is the wall that cannot be moved, altered, or manipulated, and the future is the dream and or vision yet realized, then what is the present and why is the present so significant?
May I suggest this morning that the present is like the hinges on the doors, the present connects the unchangeable pass to the unknowable future. The presence is the passageway between what was and what will be, between what’s behind me and what lies ahead, between my yesterday and my tomorrow. The present is the link between my ancestors and my children’s children. The present is the bridge between the struggles of yesterday and the opportunities of tomorrow. Furthermore, the present is the portal between past history and history yet unfolding.
Another way of looking at the present is this; the present is that time in space that is pregnant with possibilities. Like the hinges on doors, the present provides opportunities for movement. Like doors, movement is based on the action taken, you are either pushing a door opened or pulling a door opened, and in some cases you are even closing some doors. But regardless the direction of the movement, it is the hinges that allows the movement.
That is why I compare the state of our present to hinges on a door, anything that facilitates movement is powerful, and the state of the present is powerful. The present is powerful because what you do in this space will impact what will happen in the near and distant future. The present is that space in time that allows us to act in such a way that our future can either be good or great. Simply stated, the present sets the stage for the future. Every decision made today will somehow impact your tomorrow.
That is why you work hard and save now, so that you can enjoy leisure in the future. Study now and reap the benefits later. Simply stated, the actions you engage in now will result in some kind of reaction later, therefore you have to be strategic and deliberate about how you will maximize your present moments, so that you can experience the best results in your future.
However, in order to make the right decision now, we must do an assessment to determine exactly what’s going on with us now. Since this is Black History month, I’d like to borrow words from the great prophet Marvin Gaye and ask the probing question, “What’s going on?” What is the state of Black and brown people in America?
Well let’s start look at some statistics and some positive news. According to Pew Research Center, as of 2021 there are 47.2 million Black people living in America, a growth rate of 30% since the 2000 census.
Secondly, more than half of the nation’s black population (56%) live in the Southern states, up from a historic low of 52% in 1970. The state of Texas has the largest black population with 4 million residents, and New York City has more Black residents (approx. 4 mill) that any other metropolitan city, including Atlanta (2.2 mill) Washington, DC (1.8 mill) and Chicago (1.7 mill.)
Thirdly, the black population in the US is relatively young with the average age being that of 33 years, and the average median age is 38 as of the 2021 census.
Fourthly, some positive news. As of 2021, 26% of Black adults ages 25 and older (7.5 million people) have earned a bachelors degree or more, up from 15% in 2000.
Also on a positive note, the number of black professionals are on the rise as a direct result of the rise in academic achievement among Black Americans. When I use the word professional, I’m not just talking about talented people, I’m talking about those who are academically astute and those academics have launched people towards a more viable and sustainable career as athletes, musicians, lawyers, clergy, medical doctors, officers of the military, business executives, engineers and scientists being at the bottom of the ladder.
Even the rate of incarceration of Blacks in America has decreased over the years. According to research, as of 2020 the nation’s imprisonment rate as declined by 34% since 2006. While imprisonment as declined for Hispanics and White Americans, there has been a sharper decline of the black population in state and federal prisons. However, even with this encouraging trend, we all know that we are a long way from completely living out the truth of those last words of the flag salute, “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Oh we should celebrate our accomplishments. Presently we have Hakeem Jeffreys, the first African American Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives, a native of Crown Heights, NY.
Oh we have our own United States Cory Booker, born and raised right here in Bergen County. We have our own Kamala Harris, the first female South Asian - African American, and Sorority Sister AKA to serve as the Vice President of these United States of America. We have the Rev. Dr. Rafael Warnock, the first Black Senator in the State of GA, who won the seat twice, flipping that red state into a blue state. Oh we, as a people are everywhere doing awesome things, shaping legislation and policies, impacting and supporting the lives of those trapped in the margins of society called the “least of these.”
Right now people like Rosalind Brewer, 58, is the CEO of the drugstore chain, Wallgreens Boots Alliance, is the only Black woman currently lead a Fortune 500 company.
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, 35, a young black woman, was the lead scientist on the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine team.
NASA’s Victor Glover, 44, is the first Black astronaut to live and work at the International Space Station on an extended stay.
22 year old Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in US history.
There’s Rashida Jones, 39, MSNBC president and first Black executive to run a major television network.
23 year old Nicolas Johnson, Princeton’s first Black valedictorian.
Cynthia Marshal, 61, the first Black woman CEO in the NBA.
Noah Harris, 21, the first Black man to be student body president at Harvard.
Mellody Hobson, 51, first Black woman to serve as the chair of Starbucks board, and the list continues.
Our own brother David Banks, a Christian brother, is a prolific author and New York’s School Chancellor.
Moreover, if you just look around this room, you are sitting among authors, ceo’s, executives, lawyers, medical doctors and educational professionals. Everything from Custodial services to cosmetics is here, from broke to bankers, from First Street to Wall Street is in the room.
I’ve said it before and it is worth repeating, some good things are happening with and for our people right now. But in every imperfect situation, there are still some obvious concerns about the challenges Blacks and people of color face in America. Now the reason why I specifically focus on the United States of America is because this country was supposedly founded on Christian principles, and most the biased and racist practices inflicted upon Black folks in America were supported and practiced by Christians in America. And the polarization of this current climate in which we live supports the fact that although much has changed, much still remains the same.
Schools located in urban communities and largely African American areas still struggle because they don’t get the same kinds of resources given to the more affluent and predominantly White or Asian communities. Young black boys are more likely to be stopped and questioned by police than their White/Asian counterparts. There are still way too many incidents of Police shooting of unarmed black men, a scenario that never seems to play out in the White community. And although the imprisonment of Blacks in American has dropped some 15% over the last decade, there still remains a huge gap between blacks that are incarcerated and other cultures.
Healthcare and mental health issues plague the Black communities at a much more alarming rate that other communities. More black people died from COVID-19 than any other racial or ethnic group in America. Our society has yet to totally and completely accept our people as equal, not matter how qualified, no matter how gifted, no matter how talented, no matter how educated, we still have to work twice has hard just to sit at the table with people less qualified, less experienced, and less likely to succeed.
How do we exist in a space and time that demands of you a climb up the ladder of success, and when you reach the top, the ladder is moved. How do you engage a process that is protocol driven and once you complete the process, the protocol is changed? How do you keep on showing up when the environment is systematically rigged against your ability to climb, to excel, and to achieve? I’ll tell you how!
Determined Black folk have an intrinsic “yet” mechanism built into their fiber. There is a yet push, a yet determination, a yet calling, a yet response in the hearts and minds of every determined person in this room, in every determined person listening in, in every determined woman who will not be denied, in every determined man who won’t quit, there is a “yet” dynamic in everybody who like Jacob, who says, “I won’t let go until you bless me!”
Things are not always good, not always fair, not always easy; We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, perplexed, yet not in despair, persecuted, yet not forsaken, cast down, yet not destroyed. In this particular passage, the word yet and but can be used interchangeably and carries the ideas that although an unfavorable challenge should invoke a certain response, the opposite response is what I’m going to do. It speaks of reacting differently towards a circumstance that should have otherwise taken you out. There is a reason for this. There is a reason why we have the yet factor.
First we have because “we know something.” Verse 7 says, we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and now from us. Here in the text, Paul is speaking of the knowledge we gain based on our experience with Christ according to verses 1-6. While others are walking around in darkness, blinded by the god of this world, and ignorant of Satan’s devices, we who are his children, true believers, God has shone in our hearts the light of the knowledge of God’s glory by the face of Christ. We have a knowledge of God and we have a knowing about God that assures us that no matter what comes our way, God is going to prevail.
How is it that we know something? We know something because we’ve been through something. In fact, we are going through something right now! We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, yet not in despair, persecuted, yet not forsaken, cast/struck down, yet not destroyed. Right now, we are feeling the pressures of life, the pressures of tough decisions, the anxiety of trying to navigate our way through societal injustices. Right now are feeling the pain of rejection, the disappointments of setbacks, and the depression associated with the overwhelming pressures of life.
Like others, we are still wrestling with the disbelief that the lives of our sons and daughters are devalued so much so that people can shoot, beat, kick, stomp, abuse a person to the point of death on camera and still have the unmitigated gall to plead innocent. We are still in troubled that poor black people can’t get clean drinking water in Mississippi and Michigan. We are still reeling from the fact that it’s easier for our young people to get their hands on guns than it is for them to access funds for higher education.
Speaking of education, right now in the state of Florida, there is an ongoing battle over the a course called Advance Placement African American Studies that is designed to teach truth about the history of America and it’s inhumane treatment of black folks. Governor Ron DeSantis and many of his lawmakers, along with like-minded governors and thinkers across this nation are opposed to such a course siting that it teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. He states, that the Advance Placement African American Studies course is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida Schools. Democratic leaders in the state are pushing back stating that DeSantis whitewashing of history and book bans are his lates assault on American history and our First Amendment rights. DeSantis and others like him have chosen to ignore the reality that this nation legislated slavery, segregation, Jim Crow Laws, and other forms of government that aided and enforced the oppression of people of color. (Axios.com)
Y’all we are troubled on every side, perplexed, persecuted, and even cast down. And yet, we are not distressed, not in despair, not forsaken, neither are we utterly destroyed. Why not with all of this cray-cray going on all all around us?
Because we’ve seen God work. We’ve seen God move. We’ve seen God bring the high places down, bring the low places up, straighten out the crooked and make the rough places smoother. And because of that, we know..if God be for us, Who Can Be Against Us!
Secondly, We Believe Something! Verse 13, says, “Because we have the same spirit of faith, we believe and therefore we speak. We believe and therefore we speak. Here it is clear that no matter what you are facing, there has to be an element of faith to get you through. You must believe in the power of God to raise you up out of any and all situations, the same way God raised the Lord Jesus. Paul was so confident until he said in my past I believed therefore I spoke, and in my current state of being, I believe and therefore I speak.
The inference is this, no matter what your challenge may be, no matter what your suffering is, the suffering you are going through is no match for the power of God. Your trouble is no match for God’s keeping power. Even though death seems to be working in you, destruction is all around you, disruption is inundating you on every side, You’ve got to believe that it’s not over until God says it’s over.
It looks like there are more who are against you than those who are with you, but it’s not over till God says its over. It looks like you are always struggling financially, struggling emotionally, struggling in the corridors of your mind, struggling with a poor self-image, struggling to survive in life, struggling just to keep up, but I want to encourage you…it’s not over until God says it’s over.
I know there is still injustice, still double standards, still backroom deals cloaked in corruption and the honest man and the honest woman can’t seem to catch a break, don’t you get weary in doing right; it’s not over until God says it’s over. Scheming is not match for God’s power, lying, corruption, hypocrisy, when your enemy comes upon you to eat up your flesh, something will happen, they will stumble and fall…Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity for they shall soon be cut off. But trust in the Lord and do God and you shall be fed!
I believe it therefore I speak it!
And if that is you stance, then you back your faith up with your words, I believe, therefore I speak! Our ancestors believed enough to declare some things. The believed in freedom and declared, “I shall be free.” They believed God to be a deliverer and declared, “If God delivered Daniel from the Lion’s den, Sharach, Meshack, and Abednego (A Bad Negro) from the fiery furnace, then surely God will deliver me.
If you believe it, then you’ve got to speak it!
Lastly, the present is powerful because of its potential to impact the future, in other words, “We Expect Something! Right here in the text, verses 16 -18, Paul teaches how to have expectation, how to have hope. And he begins with a declaration that we who know something, we who believe something are now the ones who expect something. And if you are expecting something, the first thing you must understand is that you cannot lose heart. In other words, you cannot lose courage.
Why does he say this, its because when I look around me and evaluate my situation, it looks like everything around me is getting worser. It seems like instead of things getting better, they are getting worse, conditions are declining, can’t trust nobody, nowhere to turn, no one who really cares, and it’s easy to feel like you are all alone. The bible says, not to get caught up by what it looks like because is you know something, if you believe something, then you can expect something...
For though our outward man seems to be perishing day by day, inwardly I’m being renewed day by day…and because I’m being renewed my faith is still in tact. I still have faith and I believe God. I’m troubled on every side, but I believe God. I’m perplexed at times, but I believe God. I’m talked about and unfairly judged, but I believe God. I’m even caught off guard and struck down, but I still believe God, because my faith tells me…that the light afflictions that I’m dealing with now, are temporary, compared to what lies ahead.
I’d don’t know it all, but I know there will be some glory after this. For the first time in this message, tell your neighbor, some glory is coming after this...
Better, greater, stronger, wiser, blessings, prosperity, healing, peace, joy, a fresh anointing, wind, new fire, new gifts, increase, access, victory, I see it…because I’m not looking at the things which are seen, but I’m looking at the thing that are not seen. What I can see is temporary, but what I cannot see is eternal.
I’m holding on today because I want a better tomorrow. Praying today, believing today, hoping today, building today, running today, living today, for a better tomorrow.
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