Perhaps you are familiar with the greeting or call to worship whereby the pastor or liturgist declares, “God Is Good,” and the people, respond, “All the Time.” The pastor affirms, “All the time,” and the congregation declares, “God is Good.” Many United Methodists use it frequently as a liturgical response of praise. Maxie Dunnam has served as world editor of THE UPPER ROOM, a founding father of the Walk to Emmaus, senior pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, President and currently Chancellor of my Alma Mater Asbury Theological Seminary. Many people give him credit for this powerful liturgical act of praise, but it actually originated in Nigeria. His wife had a jail ministry in the 1980s in Memphis, and Maxie preached for her on a regular basis. The inmates there introduced them to this African praise greeting from Nigeria [--Personal e-mail RSVP from Maxie Dunnam, Chancellor of Asbury Theological Seminary].
Perhaps the place God has used it most powerfully is in another African Nation Liberia. To the Liberian Christian Community this greeting comes out of times of real distress and turmoil. For over fifteen years Liberia was ravaged with Civil War. They are a people who have experienced violence, hatred, and disconnection first hand. Yet it was through these devastating times that the greeting, “God is good; all the time; all the time; God is God” became real in the life of every Liberian. The United Methodist Church in Liberia is thriving, vibrant, and basking in the glory of Holy Spirit led Revival. To these triumphant disciples of Jesus, this is not some trite platitude. It explodes from the heart of a people who know what it is like to have their family members tortured and killed and their homes and property destroyed; from men, women, and children who many times could not find food to eat; from Christians who slept in the bush and stayed in displaced centers and refugee camps for months and years without knowing where their relatives, friends, and loved ones were or even if they were still alive; from a people who often became deathly sick without the availability of any medication; yet from a people who by the grace of God got well. “To the Liberian Church this greeting is their way of telling the story of what God has done and continues to do for the people of Liberia” [--e-mail testimony to The Rev. R. David Reynolds from Awah Cole, Administrative Assistant to Bishop John G. Innis of Liberia, Friday, September 02, 2005 3:32 AM].
Surely if Liberian Christians who have suffered so much brutality, malice, hate, and disconnection live in the assurance that “God is good, all the time,” we American Christians can as well. But again it is just our nature to often question, “If God is always good, how can He let such disasters as Hurricane Katrina which is the greatest American disaster since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, happen? How can He allow terrorism to get such a hold on our world? How can I be certain that He indeed is always good?
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