Summary: To be included overall is a seekers goal whether it is in the Christian faith or in another phase of living. How can boundarys be broken down that can cause one to ve included rather than excluded other than by mercy and forgiveness being a primary goal

When I and Thou become Them and Us

Sermon by

Thomas F. Bracewell

Opening Statement

One of the truly great preachers who was a product of the Alabama West Florida conference, was Dr. Andrew Turnipseed. Dr. Turnipseed was among the forerunners of the age of reason in this conference and it cost him his pulpit at one of our great churches in Mobile. Because he was willing to speak out against

racial injustice in the late fifties he found himself ostracized by his local churchmen and the religious and political leaders in Alabama. The Methodist conference in New York state offered him one of the great pulpits in metropolitan New York and reluctantly he moved from Alabama to the Abig apple@. He and his family left the burning crosses and hooded terrorism of the Klu Klux Clan, the fire bombings of churches and killing of innocent children, but they carried with them the heart and soul of the Methodist people they had loved and cared for in Deep South.

When my dear fiend and mentor Bishop W. Kenneth Goodson came to the state in the early sixties, a delegation of concerned ministers met with him to urge that Andrew Turnipseed be brought back to Alabama. While the Turnipseeds were in New York, their daughter was killed in a terrible accident. That, along with the battles fought in the segregationist South, all but broke the spirit of this great man. Bishop Goodson offered Dr. Turnipseed an appointment in one of the small circuits so prevalent in the rural south and this great preacher came home to a much more simple life than the one he had left some years earlier.

Andrew Turnipseed was a preacher for our time. He was on the program at Annual Conference to open the morning session with the traditional Morning Prayer. The place was packed with clergy and lay-people anxious to hear what this great man was going to say in this prayer. He walked over to the pulpit with great dignity, bowed his head and with that great orator’s voice began the prayer with, "Oh Holy God, have you read the Montgomery Advertiser today?"

One of Andrew Turnipseed’s last appointments in our area was at Bethel United Methodist church in Dale county Alabama. I was serving a nearby appointment at the time and we invited Dr. Turnipseed to preach our revival services in the mid-seventies. There were more preachers in the congregation most nights than parishioners because every young minister, and some not so young preachers as well, wanted to hear this great man preach. One particular thing I remember from those series of meetings was a sermon with the theme "The Last Words Of a Dying Church are

Scripture lesson: 1 Peter 3:13-17

The Sermon

Martin Buber was a Jewish Theologian who along with other Americans and Europeans such as Paul Tillich and Dedrich Bonhoffer influenced the study of Theology during the formative years of my ministerial education. Along with the teachings of Charles and John Wesley, Whitfield, Asbury and Coke; young Methodist ministers were exposed to a healthy and sometimes spiritually lethal dose of modern thought in religion. I say lethal in the sense that for many it was too much and drove them away from the ministry rather than drawing them further into it.

Dr. Buber wrote the book on the man and God relationship entitled "I and Thou". His prompting to do this came from the radical theologians and their thoughts on man’s relationship to man as a stepping stone to man=s relationship to God. There was this pattern of worldliness that indicated a theology of "I and IT", denoting that God was a thing and not a personage. Buber pointed out that in the relationship with man that God was the Thou and sometimes the I thereby giving warmth and caring to the creator and His ultimate creation,.. mankind. Buber helped draw the young ministerial students away form the negative and insipid teachings that have been so prevalent in the latter part of our second millennium of Christianity.

Much in the way that Buber shared some insights with those struggling with Christianity’s head on collision with the twentieth century, there is a need to address some particular problems that are ripping Methodistism apart as we stand on the doorstep of the third millennium. On one side are many well meaning liberals who are assured that the key to solving our problems revolve around the social issues of the current time. The other extreme are the conservatives, both traditionalist and evangelicals, but lumped together by liberals under the derogatory label of "fundamentalists". This term was first used in America about the turn of the century, and at that time had a fairly definite meaning. However it has now become a vague term of abuse, just as the label "Left wing liberal" and "Bleeding Liberal" are abusive.

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