When dealing with frenemies, can take our cue from Jesus, says the Rev. Jermaine Ross-Allam: ‘We come in peace, and we mean business’
May 31, 2023
Blessed by insightful and prophetic preaching by the Rev. Jermaine Ross-Allam, the director of the PC(USA)’s Center for the Repair of Historic Harms, more than 100 people joined in a joyous worship service recently celebrating the first 125 years of service in the Louisville community by Grace Hope Presbyterian Church.
“That’s a long doggone time to be in service to the Lord,” said Grace Hope’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Angela Johnson. “Today is not about us. It’s about what God is doing.”
The visitors were every bit as joyous as Grace Hope members and friends attending the 90-minute service. Among those in attendance were the Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and the Rev. Dr. John Odom, general presbyter of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery.
“Thank you for the work you’re doing,” Moffett said after being publicly thanked by Johnson for attending the celebration.
Among the hymns those gathered sang with gusto was “We’ve Come This Far by Faith,” which has been the church’s theme song. “Praise is what gets us through, in good times and in bad,” Johnson said. “We’ve been through some things and we’re still here.”
Ruling Elder Anna Bibbs shared a story depicting “Grace Hope at its best,” recalling how church members used to gather just before Thanksgiving to prepare food boxes each containing a complete meal for 25 or 30 families in need. “It was like an assembly line. We made sure every box got everything each family needed,” Bibbs said. “It used to take us all day. We were tired, but it was a good kind of tired because we were helping people. It never ceases to amaze me how God uses even the smallest thing for good.”
“We don’t have to wait until we cross the chilly Jordan before we have hope!” Johnson said. “We praise God for 125 years of hope, and we pray that God keeps on keeping on.”
Ross-Allam used Luke 19:28–42, an account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as his preaching text. “It’s rare we tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth of how Jesus landed on the empire’s short list for a historical lynching,” he said.
Ross-Allam touched briefly on Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, first asking God to “remove this cup from me,” then uttering what Ross-Allam called among the most holy words ever spoken: “yet not my will but yours be done.”
Before Good Friday, Jesus got himself into what the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis used to call “good trouble,” Ross-Allam said. “There is good trouble in the making once we turn our face to the Jerusalem of our time and place,” he said.
Jesus’ “frenemies,” the Pharisees, tried to warn Jesus after he’d entered the city to cries of “Hosanna,” Ross-Allam noted. Working people, the elderly and Jesus’ disciples “got so rowdy it made people a little bit nervous,” he said. It rankled them “that maybe someone was calling into question their legitimacy,” he said, when people in the crowd “removed articles of their humble outer clothing and laid them along the path where the Messiah was about to cross.”
The Pharisees “pulled Jesus to the side and said, ‘Teacher, make your disciples stop shouting,’” Ross-Allam said. “I think about this warning, putting a muzzle on Jesus’ fan club … Let us read ourselves into the text a little bit when the Pharisees say to Jesus, ‘Shush!’”
As the first director of the Center for the Repair of Historic Harms, Ross-Allam said he works “in the name of God and in service to God’s people” and operates with this message: “I come in peace, and I mean business.”
“I have eyes to see and ears to hear, just like everyone else,” he said. “It’s my prayer that God transforms the work of the Center into God’s holy work.”
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Grace Hope Presbyterian Church in Louisville, KY
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Samantha Davis, Associate for Gender & Racial Justice, Racial Equity & Intercultural Women’s Ministry, Presbyterian Mission Agency
DeEtte Decker, Director, Communications Ministry, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray
Gracious God, may we be bold to proclaim the good news of your love for us and for your whole world. May we reach out to support our neighbors and offer them kindness, hope and sanctuary. May we listen with care and respect. May we share our own experience of the gospel with joy. Amen.