Thanksgiving Thoughts

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Thanksgiving Thoughts 2015

“It all begins with a table–or a TV tray, or a lap–but either way, meals in our apartments or homes with other people or by ourselves are an occasion to remember and be thankful.

The practice of “saying grace” or “asking the blessing” or “giving thanks” for the food–whether it is a meager bowl of soup or a filled table of a thanksgiving feast–is to acknowledge that we and our bodies rely upon something outside of ourselves to sustain us. We give thanks for the people whom we don’t see or often acknowledge the people who plow, plant, and pick, the people who grow, harvest, and process, and the people who bring it to our markets, our doors, and our tables.

We also say thanks for the people who are around the table and remember those who have no table to gather round nor loved ones with whom to gather. We take a moment to PAUSE and acknowledge our need for the sustaining physical and spiritual nourishment which we receive from God our Creator–asking that God would bless our food that we might truly be a blessing to others.

So, when you gather with friends, family, and loved ones this Thanksgiving, remember–and be thankful.”

Happy Thanksgiving,
– Rev. Joseph McBrayer, the staff, & students of Emory Wesley

Power, Fear, & Love

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“Power, Fear, & Love”  // The sermon I preached on Sunday October 18, 2015 at University Worship at Emory University on following Jesus, servanthood, Amelia Boynton Robinson, Civil Rights, Selma Alabama, and Mark 10:35-45.

University Worship in Cannon Chapel, Emory University, Atlanta, GA Emory Office of Spiritual and Religious Life.

“The Greatest Must be Servant of All”

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“There’s something about kids and how they can make us stop in our tracks…a child changes our perceptions of a scenario or situation….”

This was a difficult sermon/homily to write in light of the ongoing crises in our world and how they disproportionately affect vulnerable people groups and children. This is my Homily/Sermon from this past Weds Night Worship on Mark 9:30-37 at Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University in Atlanta, GA on 2015.09.16.

Bishop White: Letter to Martin 2015

Bishop White 2015

This year, I am honored to again film Bishop Woodie White reading his annual “Letter to Martin” (Martin  Luther King, Jr.) on the state of race relations and racial justice in America. Bishop White is a retired United Methodist Bishop, was an active leader in the Civil Rights movement, and continues to teach and work for racial and social justice. He is the Bishop in Residence at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga where he teaches, preaches, and works to equip future leaders of the church for the transformation of the world.

Bishop White is a graduate of Paine College in Augusta, Ga and Boston University School of Theology. From 1969-1984 he was General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church. Elected a bishop in 1984, he served the Illinois Great Rivers Area prior to his service in Indiana. He was president of the General Board of Discipleship from 1988-1992 and president of the Council of Bishops in 1996-1997. Bishop White was elected to the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

You may link to or embed this video on social media or your church website and it may be downloaded (in vimeo) to use in worship, Sunday Schools, Small Groups, or discussion groups for the purpose of further engaging in the conversation on Race and the Church in America.

The images used here are from various sources including Candler School of Theology, Emory University Libraries, United Methodist Communications, Wikimedia Commons, Twitter, and from news articles. The sole intent is for Fair Use of these images in order to show historical context of both earlier and more recent events.

Many thanks to Bishop White for his writing, his prophetic voice, and his work to aid the church in being a part of racial justice and reconciliation in America and beyond. My personal thanks to Rev. Brian Tillman (Johns Creek UMC), Claire Asbury Lennox (Candler School of Theology), and Joey Butler (United Methodist Communications) for their collaboration, encouragement, and interest in this project.

Full text of the Bishop White’s Letter:

Dear Martin:

I begin this letter mindful of the events that took place in our nation 50 years ago, events that changed the United States.

As you and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference accelerated the challenge to the discriminatory practices prohibiting black people from registering and voting in several Southern states, a special campaign was launched in Alabama.

A march from Selma to Montgomery was planned. At the end, the demonstrators were to present the governor with a list of practices encountered by black citizens of the state. Hundreds gathered on Sunday, March 7, 1965.

State officials had determined the march would not occur and banned the planned demonstration.

As the marchers began to move across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, they were met by a sizable police presence on the bridge. Some of the police were on horses. When the peaceful marchers refused to disband, they were attacked by the police, beaten and trampled by horses. Mass hysteria erupted. Wounded and bloody, the nonviolent, peaceful protesters were turned back.

Millions witnessed the brutal attacks on television and in newspaper photos. So vicious were they that the day became known as Bloody Sunday. The nation was horrified to see peaceful citizens so brutalized as they sought to be granted the right to vote in their own country.

Only days later, Martin, you called for a second march. This time thousands responded. Celebrities, church leaders, pastors and ordinary citizens gathered — and the march was fully racially integrated. It ended on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery, with leaders presenting their concerns, grievances and demands.

Five months later, in August, what is commonly called the Voting Rights Act was law. Congress passed the 1965 Civil Rights Act because of the bold leadership of President Lyndon B. Johnson. For the first time, black citizens anywhere in America had the right to register and the right to vote protected against intimidation, unfair and discriminatory regulations, fear of reprisals or violence.

Imagine, Martin, it was only 50 years ago, that the most basic right of a democracy, the right to vote, was guaranteed to black American citizens! Only 50 years ago!

In a few months, thousands of us will again gather at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We will remember those who led the way, some even giving their lives, that we might today exercise the right to cast a ballot freely.

Sadly, we will do so in the face of new threats to that right, as many state legislatures enact laws to make it more difficult for citizens to exercise that right.

The struggle continues.

Martin, we are again reminded of the deep racial divide in America. The deaths of a number of unarmed black youth and men at the hands of police have drawn national attention. Those who died in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Cleveland; and Ferguson, Mo., were males in their teens. Two of the deaths — one in Ferguson and the other in Staten Island, N.Y. – went before a grand jury. Neither resulted in an indictment against the police involved. The failures to indict have resulted in thousands demonstrating in major cities across the nation. There is general outrage and anger in the black community and beyond.

Is America again to have two societies, one black (or non-white), and one white, separate and unequal? And composed, as many hold, of two justice systems, one for white citizens and one for non-white citizens?

Is there the belief that black life is not as valued in our nation as white life? Indeed, a new slogan has emerged: “Black Lives Matter.”

A national conversation on race is emerging. With it is coming the revelation that white and black citizens view race dramatically differently. Even in these two widely known incidents of unarmed black young men meeting death as the result of police action, a significant number of white citizens conclude the deaths were clearly the fault of the black men, while black citizens believe they were caused by an underlying racism that views white and black people differently. White life is valued more than black.

Perhaps, Martin, that is still what is at the heart of the great racial divide in America. Still, it appears, the matter of one’s worth as a human being is finally about the color of one’s skin — not the content of one’s character, morality, ability or competence. Indeed, there seems no correlation between scoring a winning touchdown or basket, or between one’s abilities, political positions or party and one’s determined ultimate worth as a human being. Could it be that in the minds and hearts of so many, skin color determines worth and value?

We continue to face a lot of work in this nation on the issue of race. At times, we appear to move backward and forward simultaneously. The truth is, Martin, the events of the last 50 years are evidence of how far we have come on our journey to become “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” But, the last 50 days are evidence as well of how far we have yet to go!

But, I still believe, Martin.

We shall overcome!


Prayers of the People 2014.08.03


2014.08.03 Prayers of the People
written for The Gathering at Glenn UMC

“In order to see we must first admit we have been blind…”
-Rev Josh Amerson

God who leads us, loves us, and heals us,
we have come here today seeking you–
Open our eyes through music, fellowship, song, and scripture;
we pray that the Holy Spirit continues to teach us,
that we might know your healing touch,
See you at work in the world,
And be surprised and changed by encountering YOU.

We all come today with concerns:
with questions, with prayers, with longings;
we pray that your Holy Spirit would stir up in us
the courage to listen, to hear,
to challenge, and to be changed.
We pray today for people–
–people both near and far from us–
who need to experience your love and care:
for those who are fighting cancer,
sickness, and mental illness,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be your healing hands.

for people who are in the midst of
injustice, war, and violence,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be instruments of peace .

for survivors of every kind of abuse,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be compassionate, listening souls and shoulders.

for people who are caught up in systems
of oppression and economic injustice,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be agents of justice and change.

for people who are blinded and consumed
by consumption and materialism,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and live out of your abundant economy.

for people who lead our
nations and local communities,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be compassionately engaged, civil, civil servants.

and for those who appear to be near to you
and those who appear to be far off,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
And help us recognize and behold you among us.

May we, all your people, know your healing touch–
and, by the power of your Holy Spirit,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
And GO to be the servants of your kingdom
with, and to, the hurting, broken, and surprising world. Amen.

Jesus Revealed

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This Fall Semester at Emory Wesley, we’re starting a NEW SERIES: “Jesus Revealed” // Jesus was born to poor, humble, Jewish parents around 2000 years ago in the backwaters the Roman Empire. He was one of many traveling teacher/healers of the ancient near eastern world. He didn’t write down his teachings, never became wealthy or owned tons of property, and didn’t tour the world with speaking engagements. Today, some 2000 years later, billions of people believe he is the son of God and many others debate just who this Jesus really was. Despite many people’s professions to know Jesus personally, a surprising number of Christians know surprisingly little about Jesus’ teachings and life found in scripture.

SO, journey with us as we rediscover Jesus.
Wednesday Night Worship @645pm

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Long Walk to Freedom: Jesus, Mandela, & Lent

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Long Walk to Freedom: Jesus, Mandela, & Lent
 For MONDAY NIGHT WORSHIP at Emory Wesley (Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory) during LENT (40 Days from Ash Wednesday to Easter), we’re going to be focusing on Jesus’s walk towards Jerusalem where he will face persecution, trial, death, and, eventually, the Resurrection at Easter. SO, the Emory Wesley Worship Planning Team has decided to partner Jesus’s journey with Nelson Mandela’s journey towards freedom for ALL South African people, chronicled in his book “Long Walk to Freedom.” If you’re an Emory student,  feel free to join in Monday Nights 8pm at Cannon Chapel at Emory University.

Here’s the first homily in the series from Monday Night Worship at Cannon Chapel on 03.17.2014:

“Wilderness” // Long Walk to Freedom: Jesus, Mandela, and Lent week 1 from Emory Wesley on Vimeo.


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