Faith of a Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington

“At midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me.  And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?  It hurts you to kick against the goads.’  And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.  But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles— to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”  (Acts 26:13-18).  A final occurrence of Faith event in the Acts of The Apostles.

The new governor of Caesarea, Festus, is even more perplexed than his predecessor about how he should handle this prisoner left by Felix.  He admittedly determines that not only is there no proof of the crimes that the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem have charged Paul with as they for a second time plot his assassination, but, “when the accusers stood there, they made no charge against him of the kind of crimes I had expected, but they had disputes with him about their religion, and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”  Unable to define Paul’s charges, he seeks the counsel of King Agrippa in direct response to Paul’s appeal to Caesar.

I am reminded of the perplexities, the complexities of the American Legal system.  For some reason these words have rung in my ears this week— “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”.  That Sundays when I stood on the steps of Paine Chapel with a woman whose righteous indignation was finding expression in her work with the Penal System.  She spoke of there being no chance for released prisoners, particularly black men to ‘re-enter’ this society.  She made mention of the little to no rights that they now have and the ‘set-up’ for them to soon return to prison.  I added that the exception is the Black Muslim movement in America.  There is something in their message that releases Black men from the penitentiaries with a renewed value system so powerful that they would put on a suit in the heat of the day, stand on the street and sell newspapers!  And America is worried about it being the fastest-growing faith in this country.  Something missing from the Christian Church’s Sunday after sunday after sunday message to the Black man in America…

The NAACP’s 100 Year Celebration Forum aired on C-Span.  The panel included Benjamin Hooks, Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson, Dorothy Height, Andrew Young and more.  It is one that every conscientious Black Church pastor, preacher should study.  There just has to be something in the message on Sunday morning…; but, Jesse Jackson says that we have celebrated freedom and now we are free.  He names only 3 cities where there is a single downtown building owned by Black Americans and says “now it is time to work on the ‘equal’.”

Then there is Bryan Stevenson who finished Harvard Law School.  But unlike most who have earned one of America’s most prestigious degree that has propelled some into the office of President of The United States; Stevenson see the ‘Unequal Justice’ that this System has dealt to Black America.  He speaks of the “Death Penalty” being “an extension of Lynching”; no longer ‘outside the Justice System… but now ‘inside’ the Halls of Justice.  When States have refused to release innocent men who have been wrongfully accused and sentenced to death, he argues the case before the highest court in the land —The Supreme Court!

For more than two years, now into the second governor’s administration, Paul was being held a prisoner in the Caesarea prison; and the perplexities of the governors, the complexities of their systems could neither charge him nor let him go.

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