Seeds of Hope

Seeds of Hope

What are you sowing?  By what you do, are you sowing seeds of peace, love, joy, hope, and tranquility?  Is your goal to love your neighbor as yourself?  Do you feed the hungry and house the homeless?  Are you an advocate for the least among us?  Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) is doing these things.  They have trained some 930,000 volunteers for ERD’s NetsforLife that’s active in developing countries.

ERD has brought their services to:

  • Liberia where agricultural priorities are practiced;
  • Yangon, Myanmar through the Anglican Men’s Association (AMA) with demonstrations of smallholder farms;
  • Nicaragua where malnourished children are fed soy flour mixed with corn flour;
  • Nyanza in Kisuma, Kenya, where there’s 95 percent HIV-negative graduation rate for children;
  • Gaza Province of Mozambique Africans where there are making bricks to sell and build their own homes;
  • And in the Diocese of Tamale where there are education, seeds, fertilizers and an increase in crops.

Giving Back

What ERD is doing according to their past Lenten Meditations is giving back to society in education, skill, love, and training.  Are you doing the same with your talent and treasure?  You may have benefited through a scholarships from a university.  Are you dedicated in doing charitable work?  Like thousands of these volunteers, the poor, hungry and homeless are depending on you.

Giving Joyfully

It’s good to be a happy giver.  As a charitable giver it’s gift to have a sense of humor to share with those you meet.  A human touch will put a smile on a face.  Sharing in such an undertaking enlightens a recipient in knowing that you care, and are giving from your heart.  Your attitude will be positive.  Some givers make jokes and are friendly.  Receivers of their gifts are happy to be with them.  It beats being negative, and depressed as though you’re carrying the burden of millions needy on your shoulder.

Whether it’s through the Diocese of El Salvador that provides services and training to many, or being an advocate for the over 50,000 unaccompanied children from Central America that cross the U.S. Border, you should play your part in creating a future for the least among us.  The seeds you sow send roots deep down into the soil of hopefulness.  Remembering that you’re mainly a branch of that eternal vine is an apt way of focusing on how you care.  But through faithfulness you’ll make it possible for your branch to bear fruit in abundance, so that when the harvest comes you’ll be awarded your just reward.  ERD’s website can be accessed at: https://www.episcopalrelief.org/.

 

Our Eternal Soul

An author, political activist and lecturer Helen Keller (1880–1968) said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”  Developing this aspect of one’s life was seen as crucial for our soul’s development.  People’s souls usually go through trials that serve as catalysts for their successful growth.

Depressed People

Many people are weighed down by problems.  During our earthly pilgrimage our souls experience torments.  During these moments individuals will have difficulties.  Such conflicts are one of uncertainty, skepticism, and denial.  They may make comprises that are troubling, and some they may regret.  By feeding on evil bombarding their psyches, their actions may become negative.  That’s why Christians sing hymns about their wretched souls.  It’s feared that continuing down these perilous paths they will lose their souls.

What is the soul?

In Hebrew Scripture the soul and the body aren’t sharply distinguished.  The Rabbis of the Talmudic period recognize a separation of body and soul.  In Genesis, God is known to have breathed a soul into the first man, Adam.  From this beginning our soul was considered a separate entity from the body.  Christians believe in a soul that’ll live on when they die.  In following the footsteps of Jesus Christ they look forward to their resurrection after death.

A soul shares this earthly life with the body.  Judaism like Christianity believes in the soul’s immortality.  A Greek philosopher Plato (428/427 or 424/423 B.C.–348/347 B.C.) taught about immortality, while Christians believe in an embodied resurrection.  Another Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 B.C.–322 B.C.) reasoning was somewhat differently from Plato, when he stressed that the soul was the human being.  An Italian Catholic and Dominican theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) promoted the view of an individual’s immortality.  Since 1869, it was the Roman Catholic position our soul is conferred at the moment of conception. This fact is regarded as an inviolable truth by the Catholic Church.

Sustaining the Soul

It’s imperative that people strive to have peaceful souls.  In our worldly journey our souls mustn’t be burdened with evil.  By embracing what’s pure they can be perfected.  In this way we grow spiritually.  During our lives it’s good to practice the virtues of love, joy, faith and peace.  These attributes rejuvenate and refresh us.  Christians in the inner recesses of their beings are spiritually nourished. These gifts are achieved in churches that are God-centered, for believers are able to cultivate blessed souls.

An English novelist and journalist George Eliot (1819–1880) recognized the importance of the influence of a human soul on another when he wrote, “Blessed is the influence on one true, loving human soul on another.”  A poet and essayist Walt Whitman (1819–1892) wrote, “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.”  Undoubtedly the truth of life is paramount for the full and authentic development of our souls.

Early Black Souls

The soul within us is impervious to any sort of degradation.  It was Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), an African-American social reformer, and abolitionist, who said, “The soul that is within me no man can degrade.”  But with the introduction of film in the United States African Americans were stereotyped.  The Flights of Nation (1907) depicted a lopsided and demented black culture.  D.W. Griffith (1875–1948) with The Birth of a Nation (1915) chronicled the story of the free South in the civil war that showed the revenge of the Ku Klux Klan on blacks.  This movie that was considered a masterpiece set the precedent of portraying blacks as idlers, brutish, vagabonds, and outcasts.

Role of Blacks

 In this depiction blacks never really had a chance to be presented as leaders.  It was Colin Powell (b. 1937), formerly secretary of state of the United States, who said, “I think whether you’re having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude.”  Early blacks never had the opportunity to display these traits because of racism, and society excluded them from holding important positions.

Other films showed the grizzled tramp in Jim Tully’s tale of the lowly Beggars of Life (1928), the seaman in James Craze’s Old Ironsides (1926), black roles in Showboat (1927), Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1927), and others in the early sound films like Dudley Murphy’s St Louis Blues (1929).  But some blacks played conventional roles as chorus girls, convicts, boxing trainers, ill-mannered servants, and persons of disrepute.

In the 1940s and 1950s, white actors Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll were the talent behind the popular radio show Amos ‘n’ Andy.  These two actors were masters in their imitation of the degrading dialogue most Americans associated with blacks.  These condescending techniques made for the popularity of the program.

Stereotypes

 Chinua Achebe (1930–2013), a Nigerian novelist, and poet wrote, “The whole idea of a stereotype is to simplify.  Instead of going through the problem of all this great diversity – that it’s this or maybe that – you have just one large statement, it is this.”

In the era of TV, white actors were replaced by blacks in Amos ‘n’ Andy and this show’s popularity continued.  Eventually the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was able to persuade Hollywood to abandon negative stereotypes of blacks in their films, and TV followed suit.  Such a decision didn’t produce changes overnight, but there was some progress being made.

Christianity & Racism

 Many Christians have long been opposed to any form of racism.  Throughout history there have been a number of abolitionists in the United States and abroad.  The Gospel tells us that whether we are Jews or Gentiles God looks at our hearts.  People can’t hide their feelings.  Jesus Christ was forthright in warning the rich about the exploitation of the poor.  Many blacks belong to the lower class because of a past of slavery.

Although many Americans consider themselves Christian racism is still a problem in the society. The Christian faith reminds us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  The story of the Good Samaritan is alive and well for everyone to note.  In the 1960s with prayers, sacrifice, and dedication, and social change the Civil Rights era began impacting these wrongs that were degrading our society of its true Christian way of living.

Battles Won & Lost

In David’s Song of Ascents we could picture “those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.  He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing sheaves with him” (Ps 126:5-6).  The wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, and the greedy man curses and spurns the Lord.  His thoughts are, “There is no God” (Ps 10:3-4).  But when the joy of our salvation is restored and a willing spirit sustained, then he will teach transgressors his ways, and sinners will be converted to the Lord (Ps 51:12-13).

Soul Winners

An author, historian, and diplomat Washington Irving (1783–1859) wrote, “There is sacredness in tears.  They are not a mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”  These are the same tears which missionaries shed as soul-winners, rejoicing over the battles that are won, and being upset over souls that are lost.

Soon these evangelists realize that they aren’t always victories.  Yes, they do experience highs, but there are lows too.  Billy Graham (1918–2017), a Christian evangelist and Southern Baptist minister said, “The Christian life is not a constant high.  I have my moments of deep discouragement.  I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’”  Christians of faith cry when others’ salvation is at stake.  It may not be for this reason only, but when they pray and try to convert the wayward, who refuse to see the light.

But how must they think of people who have transitioned to the great beyond?  There could be lots which can be said.  Believers wish they could have been more open to these individuals, but now it’s too late.  Abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) wrote, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”  At such moments it takes our loving Savior to put our hearts at ease.

Tears of Joy

Yet there are happy tears especially when evangelists’ prayers are answered.  They jump for joy and are delightful over every saved soul.  Hosea Ballou (1771–1852), a Universalist clergyman and theological writer said, “Tears of joy are like the summer rain drops pierced by sunbeams.”  What a magnificent image that captures the delight of God’s blessings of those who are sinners!  A better life awaits them and they will live in peace.

This life though is a mixed bag of emotions.  An activist on behalf of the indigent insane, Dorothy Dix (1802–1887) wrote, “There isn’t a single human being who hasn’t plenty to cry over, and the trick is to make the laughs outweigh the tears.”  Evangelists prefer to be laughing especially when there are joyful victories.  Laughter sets the right tone for future efforts in missionary fields.  But these Christians might be on a roller coaster.  It is therefore wise to view such variations as gifts.  For believers may never know when such problems can be blessings in disguise.

A Spanish mystic and Roman Catholic Carmelite nun St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) said, “I think you have to pay for love with bitter tears.”  Tears can be expressions of joy and sadness.  But their significance to Christians is profound for they reveal a caring nature.  For these Christians pride themselves by putting their hearts and souls in their evangelical works for other people’s welfare.