Danté Upshaw led a workshop with the Bay Area Chapter of The Gospel Coalition titled “Race in the New Community.” Speaking of the new community created by God through Christ, and sharing from his own experiences and Scripture, Upshaw opened a conversation around the necessity of handling race in a gospel-centered manner. Speaking from Ephesians 3, Upshaw encouraged a grace-filled approach to dealing with our divided history and experiencing the mystery of the gospel together.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Danté Upshaw: Gracious God, Daddy in heaven, I love you so much. And thank you so much for loving me. So it’s me, your son, and you’ve set in motion so many events, placed in my path so many people to allow me to present in this moment right now with you in this beautiful room, filled with your children, your beloved. So thank you for each of my sisters and brothers, many of which I have never met before. But for some reason, Daddy, you’ve appointed the time for us to be together right now.
All that you’ve been doing since the beginning of time and before, you’ve allowed us a small window of opportunity to be here right now and so mighty, sweet Spirit of God, we invite you and we rest in you to continue the work that you begun in each of us, your church, for your glory, the manifestation of the beauty of who you are. Will you please in this time continue to open our eyes and reveal to us the deep mystery of the gospel. We surrender and we’ll trust you above what’s natural, above what’s comfortable, above what we don’t even know. Thank you that you know all things. We pray this prayer with great expectation in your name, Jesus, and the power of the Spirit. If you agree, say Amen.
Danté Upshaw: Well, I want to say again, as folks are still coming in, come on in. We kept the lights on so you can hopefully find a seat. My name is Dante Upshaw and as your brother from a different mother, I just am glad to be here because again, as I’ve said, many of you I don’t know. This invitation to join the Gospel Coalition for this conference is an unexpected invitation. One of those ones you get, like, “Really? Oh, okay.” My dear brother, Pastor Andrew Hoffman and my family from Solano [inaudible]. Just like we practiced, that awesome, guys. That was awesome.
Okay. So let me get some workshop order stuff in place. I like to be interactive, okay? And a tad bit animated. So with that said, I’m going to be myself in God’s strength, in grace and mercy and power. And I’m asking the same of you. You’re here, be yourself. It’s okay. You got to have that if we’re going to talk about what we’re talking about today. So with that, in being here, I’m honored again for the invitation from our dear brother and the leadership of the Coalition. Thank you for the invitation because they are committed and really believe that the subject that the Apostle Paul is laying out, the different subjects throughout the book of Ephesians are so important and this one in particular as we look at race in the new community is central to the gospel.
So I’m going to say that upfront, put my foot through the door and we’ll catch up as to what that really means. Central to the gospel. I’m so thankful for our dear brother in this past session, I hope you were there to hear it, to hear what our brother shared. All of it. I feel like we have the chance now in this bit of time to dig a little deeper into some of the things that he laid out about the new community and how that new community, the new humanity has been formed. And with that formation of this third race, because the two have now become one, so I found some helpful language we’re part of a new humanity, a new community, a third race, a created, something special. Just like God spoke into existence Adam and Eve and formed them, Jesus, through His blood at the cross, has shaped and formed a new creation, the church, a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful thing.
And we can get on that one to have many conferences about the beauty of that and it’s just all good and people are singing songs, the [inaudible], my daughter just dancing. And then we go back to our monocultural, monoethnic churches. We can read all about what John saw in that vision in Revelations, right? Wow. Revelations 7, you’ve preached it, right? You’ve taught it. And then you look up and everybody looks … So what is it? What’s the deal, why are we having this discussion about race if it’s already done? If Jesus did it, what are we doing?
So, to go off the deep end in this discussion, I thought it might be helpful for you to have a little context about me as I share from the word and from my experiences and journey. Maybe it will be helpful to have a little context. I’m a context guy. So, as my brother Andrew and I have been journeying just recently, we’ve had some good conversation about stories, our stories and how this mystery of the gospel, the mystery of the gospel, plays out in our life. Because I’m trusting you, like me, have been radically transformed by the gospel, the message of the gospel. And as a little boy, when my Mama introduced me to Jesus … You’ve got to understand my mom. She had this crazy, radical family broken, busted and disgusted kind of journey, and so when she meets this Jesus, her life is radically changed.
My stepfather introduced her to the Lord and he was a young minister, the military. And so their marriage, when I was two, was about Dante having a solid family, a godly family, a gospel-centered family. So she introduced me to Jesus. Revelations 3:20, man. Stand at the door and knock, Dante. Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart. I got that. I’m getting that, he wants to come in. He wants to be your Savor and your friend. And that was working for me because I’m only kid, you know what I’m saying? Lonely, bored. Sign me up, I’m good.
And I believed it. So I’m telling all my friends, “I got a new friend, He’s Jesus.” And man. I walk through the house and I see my mom having communion with this beautiful God that she loved. She’s making breakfast in the kitchen, I’m smelling French toast and some bread, some stuff. I grew up down south and she’s just smiling and singing. “Mom, what are you singing [inaudible].” “Oh, it’s just me and Jesus, I love Jesus.” Okay, mom, strange.
But, my home was saturated with this gospel love message. The music, that first gospel song, Jesus loves the little children of the world. Red, yellow, brown, black and white, they are all precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children in the world. But as my journey fast forwards, I got confused and maybe the song should be more like, “But do people love the little children in the world?” Red, yellow, brown, black and white, they don’t seem to be precious in everybody’s sight.
Because in my gospel-centered home, my gospel-centered church, I mean, I had a pastor, Pastor Herman [Connelly], He’s with the Lord now, and he was thrilled about the gospel. We were a gospel quoting Scripture [inaudible] evangelical church and every Sunday, he made a way to get the gospel into the message. Jesus was going to go to the cross, He was going to die and raise. No matter what the subject was, that was going to get preached for real. But there was still something that still bothered me.
Also, at the same time, when he would comment about race things in society, he would be very clear to say that we are a gospel church, we’re not doing that social gospel. It’s foolishness. I thank God for slavery. So I’m hearing that. I get a little confused, like, “Okay.” I got really confused as I’m in this gospel-centered school, Christian school, Calvary Temple. Kindergarten through second grade. I’m there and one ride home on the school van, Alan turns to me, fourth grader, I’m in second grade. He says, “I’m better than you because I’m white and you are black.”
Hush fell over the whole van. We went the rest of the way in silence. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know what that meant. [inaudible]. We get home. Obviously, the driver heard something because he dropped me off last and walked me in to Mama and asked me to, “Explain what happened on the bus today, Dante, to your Mama.” I told her. “Alan said that he was better than me, Mama, because he’s white and I’m black.” And I remember my mom trying to help me make sense of that. That was my first face to face encounter with this thing called race in the church.
So I’m wrestling with this, I’m wrestling with this idea I found of this mystery of the gospel. This wrestling led me all the way to a point of wall impact. In high school, summer, going into my junior year, I’m a part of this summer enrichment program for disadvantaged kids, low income families. Especially be the first to go off to college, this is a great program to expose you, inspire you and equip you to go to college. So I go, kicking and screaming because who wants to spend your whole summer up in some classrooms. Math, English and then he had the nerve to put this African Studies class required for some of the upper class students. So I’m like, “Really?” I missed the first year, but the second year, Mom’s like, “You’re going to this program. You’re going to buy this house and some of that.”
So I’m there, my whole classroom from different schools in the area. So in class, our teacher is Mr. [Umoja]. This guy had the most radiant smile. African American, super intelligent, calm [inaudible] because we were trying to get to his nerves. What’s this brother’s button? We got to push it. Because we, this is the late 80s, early 90s, that time when black pride was not popular yet. It was actually our generation that got things moving with the Hip Hop movement in culture.
But at that point, we were very resistant to the idea of being African. I ain’t African. Because all the negative things I’ve heard about Africa, things that my Pastor has said who was a missionary in Africa. There was still this subtle hatred, self-hatred. So, I’m the most vocal in class to Mr. Umoja because I got the gospel. I don’t need that. That stuff Reverend King was doing, it’s the gospel. So Mr. Umoja, in such patience, he just asked me questions about the gospel, about the Bible. And about a couple of weeks and my head is spinning, watched a few films, read the autobiography of Malcolm X. Yeah. I became one signature away from joining the New African [inaudible]. To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t sign the creed. I learned it [inaudible] that the Spirit protected me.
But I’m in conflict, if you can imagine, with my Mama who says, “All the children of the world. Where do you get this black stuff from? I didn’t raise you like that. To love everybody.” “Yeah, Mama, yeah you did. But will you please explain to me what I’m seeing? Is the gospel not strong enough, powerful enough, to break some of this stuff? Why is there a first baptist black and a first baptist white? One Lord. Help me out, Mama, I’m trying to understand.”
Well. That wasn’t enough for me. I’m sorry, I’m the white guy. That was not enough for me. I need to understand. So I press and I press and I press. This pressing leads me further deeper down this road. I end up leaving Atlanta, going to Chicago and there, I saw and experienced how the gospel was not only being proclaimed but also demonstrated. In the ministry there really gave me some hope in my journey. But I continued to see, over and over again, around the country, the underbelly of the body of Christ. It’s not pretty. They tried in the south to use the Bible Belt to hold up the belly.
But it’s shameful what’s been done and perpetrated within the church. As our brother said, “Racism is an affront to the gospel, an affront to God.” But we’ve tolerated and allowed and, too often, perpetuated this sin. A couple of stories as I transition, I want to share with you, hard but real.
In 2016, there was a movie made called Birth of a Nation. Now, you might have heard about the original Birth of a Nation, a movie back in the early 1900s. But this one tells a story, dramatic story, of Nat Turner how led the largest, though unsuccessful, slave revolt in 1831 in Virginia. Now, Nat wasn’t just your average enslaved man. He was a Baptist preacher who believed God had given him visions and dreams an a calling to free enslaved people at the expense of killing white folks.
There is a scene in the movie that sticks to my mind. Nat and his master on one of his visits to a plantation, because he would be taken to plantation to plantation to preach the gospel to those enslaved people on that plantation, that was his job, his calling by God. On one occasion, he’s taken into a barn and the owner of the plantation is there with several enslaved men who are chained and bound. And they have their mouths locked open because he’s force feeding them. They are rebelling. One of the ways enslaved people would rebel in those times was to starve themselves to death. But this master, when hearing that [inaudible] don’t eat. So he’s force feeding them. And as to make it even better, he’s chiseling, knocking out their teeth to make sure the food goes down. Nat is watching this with his master and they are in shock.
The owner looks up at him and Nat’s master makes introductions, “This is Nat, he’s a preacher.” [inaudible] just as long as he gives them the gospel,” is what he says. [inaudible] wrecking my brain. I’m like, “What? What did he just say?” All these years, I’ve been wrestling with this idea of how we’re doing it in this [inaudible] scene. Nat goes out and he’s with now a group of the enslaved folks from that plantation and he, with tears streaming down his cheeks, begins to recite Scripture. He was a very intelligent man, memorized most of the Bible. So he knew the word. But can you imagine the conflict in his heart as he’s looking at his sisters and brothers in chains, telling them to obey your masters? Verses that we know, right? The gospel? Gospel?
That may seem like, “Oh, that’s extreme. Obviously that’s wrong. That’s just totally amiss with the gospel.” But even in recent … I was a part of a very large church at one point, an elder on the leadership team and if you recall, back in 2015, a young 21 year old white man walks into a Wednesday night prayer meeting in South Carolina and after sitting with them for about an hour, decides to kill nine of them, the pastor included. They call him the next day and his own confession, he was wanting to start a race war. He was real. That’s Wednesday night.
So my heart, anticipating Sunday, like, “How is this going to be addressed and handled?” This is a national deal. Many are in uproar about this. That Sunday morning, to my hurt, it was not even mentioned during our service. Went home, my daughter, my wife and I wrestling with this. What do we do? [inaudible] really go off. I wrote an email that night to the leadership saying basically, “We missed it. We missed it.” Here was an opportunity for us as sisters and brothers to show empathy and compassion with other sisters and brothers. I don’t understand why we didn’t even acknowledge what had just happened in short.” I got a few responses but the most enlightening was when I talked with one of the pastors on staff. And hearing his take on the situation, the discussion that Sunday morning, the decision that was made and his personal thought was the church was a part of a traditional African American denomination. And so in his mind, he wasn’t quite sure if they were even believers. I mean, do they read the same gospel?
And because of that conflict in him … I appreciated his honesty. To say out loud what I found many to really think and feel in their hearts that sometimes our theology has become a blind spot to our being compassionate to another person’s humanity. Did it matter what denomination they were part of? Did the fact they were part of God’s image bearers mean anything for me to be empathetic and to pray for them, to weep with them, to lament the horror of this? Is the gospel not powerful enough? This is my struggle. This is my honest wrestling because I’ve heard the gospel message proclaimed so much but in times when it’s necessary for us to be present, not so much. Not so much.
I don’t know where you’ve been journeying because we all have, we’re all at different places on this journey of understanding the gospel implications in our lives. But there is one thing I want to say that I pray and trust will resonate with you or cause you discomfort till the Spirit gives you peace is that there is something about the mystery of the gospel that we’ve missed. It is the it in all of this discussion. It’s the it that people of color are wanting white folks to get. When will they get it? It’s the it that white folks are wanting people of color to get over. When will they get over it?
The it. The it, my sisters and brothers, is the mystery of the gospel. Ephesians 3:6, you’ve got your Bibles. I invite you to turn there so you don’t think I made up a term. It’s one of those [inaudible]. It is what I believe our brother Paul was getting at and I promise you, like so many things, something that I missed, was mistaught, overlooked. I recently was reading a blog about the mystery of the gospel and the writer of the blog in no way mentioned anything about race. He just kept the narrative about what Jesus did at the cross.
Truth. But so short, so narrow. So here, in the chapter, Ephesians, because I just love the word how it rings in our hearts, I’ll begin with the verse 1. For this reason, I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, on behalf of you Gentiles. Now, that would be us, right, in case somebody here, Messianic Jew. Hey, bless you sister, oh bless you. Yes. Now, for all of us others, assuming that you’ve heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation as I’ve written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ which was not made known to the sons of man in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the spirit. Verse 6, this mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
When was the last time you heard a sermon break that down? I so appreciate what our brother just shared in our last session. You saw, he brought it up to the edge and so I get to … Because you’ve heard it, we’ve heard it. We sang it, we’ve taught it, the gospel. Jesus Christ died for my sins because I am so wretched, in need of a God, need of salvation. He was buried, He rose, victorious, conquering death in the grave. And through that now, I have access to this loving, amazing God that I don’t deserve.
And, again, my pastor would preach that every Sunday and he was a big man. He’s got that robe on, he get the shaking and crying and nothing cute about a big black man crying. Not cute, not cute. So I’m not doing a good job because I get a little emotional with my brother here. We’re in touch with our humanity. But it’s not cute, hugging and crying, because we’re so gripped by this love that is real and if it doesn’t touch you on that level, I pray it does. I’m not going to judge, I just pray it does touch you like that. But, does this touch move you beyond that emotional experience to think about this horizontal part of the gospel? We’re really in touch with this vertical thing but it’s here where it gets messy and sticky. It’s here when it’s talking about Jew and Gentile, black and white, slave and free, male and female, that the mystery gets really, really strange.
And I’m getting it. It’s mysterious that this works out. That a Jewish … And he described to us this relationship between Jew and Gentile. Those weren’t just words. Paul uses words very carefully. Hostility. So that Jew Gentile relationship that he’s describing in the text, if we were to modern day work it, it’s like the hostility level that we see in countries where they’re killing and hacking people, different tribes going at it with machetes. It’s here in the West, the ugly genocide of native people, how this country stood military and a Cherokee, African American and white folks, hostility, that’s the same intensity of this.
And we’re saying that the gospel has the power on this level. But I look at what’s out there and I’m like, “That’s mysterious. That’s a mystery.” But I think the messiness of the mystery causes us to shrink back into our silos and comfortable places and I can work through and figure out this all day long and sing it until I’m crying. But, I don’t know how to engage. My mom didn’t have the words to engage here because all she had was a bunch of memories of being called a nigger and having rocks thrown at here when she was in Alabama. And that’s why everybody don’t want to tell you those stories because you would turn, just like you did just now, all bitter and angry. I don’t want to be bitter or raise a bitter son so I didn’t tell you those stories.
But, Mama, it’s real. You’ve just got to wash it away like it never happened. We don’t understand part of this mystery and how we can have Jesus in our hearts to the depths of us being transformed but still got Granddaddy in our bones to the depths of us being blind to each other, blind to a real view of God, and a real full understanding of the gospel. So blind that a white slave master could do his business with his slaves and then go and be a minister. Singing songs, good old hymns like we sang this morning. Hello. And then they say, “Amen,” and go out into the courtyard and lynch some black people.
You may think, “That’s obviously crazy. No one does that.” But do you, are you in touch, with your own sin because your brother, in my journey, I’m stilling getting in touch with the depth of granddaddy’s genes inside of me. Yeah. But, oh, for the grace that I found in the power of forgiving. Forgiveness. And this isn’t like forgive and forget. I don’t know where that is. I know forgiveness is real, but forgetting is a whole another deal. I think that helps to keep the lamenting present. It’s out of lamenting that we get understanding of how to respond but we have to first lament to be willing to feel the pain, get in touch with our own pain as we get in touch with the pain of others.
But I can get it how it would be somewhat self-incriminating for a white slave master or a wealthy person right now to be in touch with somebody else’s pain when you’ve inflicted the pain. It’s a messy journey. I want for you to have some time to reflect. I’m trusting this isn’t your first opportunity to hear what’s been shared at the conference, in this workshop. I’m trusting it’s not. But for those that it is, welcome to the conversation.
Recently, with the good brother, my good brother, as we were praying and dialoguing about this, he introduced me to a song that’s gripped my heart and keeps me in this posture of lamenting, of just feeling. I believe it’s part of the journey, it’s part of the process that’s necessary for us to truly be this new community because, again, we can get on the train for all things new but there is something that makes the newness sweet and sweeter when I understand how bad it’s been. As our brother said, “When we remember how we were cut off, when we remember the pain of folks having limbs cut off so that this new thing, this new humanity that God has created can truly be sweet.” But I have to first start with lamenting.
So I want to play this song for you. And as you’re listening, it may cause you to feel uncomfortable. That’s a part of lamenting. It’s okay. I’m going to tell you, as a speaker, because I got permission and a little bit of authority, it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. Yeah. The messy, it’s okay. So whatever that means to any of you where you are, it’s okay. The pain, it’s not an indication that you’re doing something wrong. It might be an indication that you’re moving in the right direction. Understanding this Ephesians book right there in chapter 6, the Apostle Paul talks about this idea of spiritual warfare and the attack and the work of the enemy. So don’t think it’s strange that things are a little crazy and hard and difficult. It’s part of the reality that we’re engaged in.
As you’re reflecting, as you’re listening to this music, I want you to have some practical questions to ponder. So, here is what I would like for you to ponder. How has God recently been coming to you? How has God recently been coming to you? That’s the first thing I want you to quiet yourself and ask and think about. What circumstances, people? Second would be for you to quiet yourself and think about how might God be wanting to reveal the mystery of the gospel, a better picture of God, a better picture of yourself, a better picture of others? See, in all of this, in our time specifically now, my prayer is that you would have an eye-opening moment, that you will, by God’s spirit, have the eyes of your heart enlightened as the Apostle prayed in Ephesians. The eyes of your heart. I’ve had what I call these conversion moments when the eyes of my heart just got, “Oh, okay.” So it’s not a one and done thing.
Our brother Peter, as the speaker, alluded to in the session, had his aha moments when the eyes of his hearts … When he got it, when he got it. Oh, God, it’s not partial. Oh. But it took him three wrestling moments with the Spirit to get it. But then later, as we saw in Galatians, he had to get it again. This revealing, seeing the mysteries of the gospel beyond just the gospel, how might God be revealing, pulling back the veil from your eyes to reveal more of who God is, the depth of your brokenness, blindness, we’ve got some blind spots, right? [inaudible] so that you might be able to see others in a very different way. I promise you, as I’ve worshiped and prayed and cried out to God, oh, with my eyes clenched and closed, I open them up and I look at someone and I’m like, “Oh, my goodness. What?”
One time at Moody as I was a student there, I would sit oftentimes with the international students at their table because I was just intrigued with accents and stories and this is so … Oh man, cool, man. So one day, I’m leaving the table to take my tray up and I forgot something, just typical of me and I looked back at the table that I just left and I saw, for one of the first times, they were all from European countries, but I saw five different looking white folks. I know this sounds weird, right? But I’m looking at them and I stood there in my way of doing, “What? You all look different.” And they looked back at me, “Yes, Dante.” Okay.
My eyes, my point is, my eyes, as I listened to their stories and get to hurt and feel with some of them and what they were going through, uncomfortability being in this majority white campus but we’re not really white but we are, I’m hearing all this, my heart began to be pricked. God was revealing more, more so I could see more. So, how might God be revealing more, more of the mystery of the gospel in others. What’s God doing with the eyes of your heart?
Danté Upshaw: So, with those questions and in silence because it’s always good to be quiet and still, so gracious God, I want to invite you to speak and allow us space to listen and respond. Thank you for your long suffering patience with us, with me, with your church. For these last few minutes, I’d like to have some dialogue. It’s funny, time flies, you realize how much you’ve been [inaudible] your mouth and in a conversation, that’s not good. This isn’t a conversation, that’s a monologue, it’s a dialogue. We’re talking about a conversation about race in the church so there needs to be some feedback. So I’m very curious about what you’ve heard or what you’ve been hearing. So I ask my brother Pastor Andrew to join me in this part because we’ve been having some dialogue, sharing and exchanging our stories and hearing these common places that we’ve walked in separate places and it’s been refreshing, it’s been redeeming.
So, I want to ask you, what have you heard, as I’ve shared, as the speakers have shared? What do you hear? What might God be saying to you? Any questions, thoughts? Yes, sister.
Danté Upshaw: Yeah, thank you. What’s your name sister?
Danté Upshaw: Jackie. Thanks for sharing.
One thing I found to be a complication within the Christian conversation is sometimes our theology. Our theology becomes a blind spot because we, in our theology, don’t realize how much it’s culturally shaped because we’re thinking, “It’s pure theology.” It’s not politicized, it’s culturalized, it’s just pure, it’s just pure.
I’ve heard it said, this was from one of my mentors and good friends, he’s a theologian, Dr. Carl Ellis, he teaches in many seminaries and places. He’s interacting with students about theology. And he had one student, a white young man say, as Dr. Ellis was talking about, contextualized theology, “That’s not right. That’s just theology, that’s proper theology.” And this other substuff like black theology, liberation theology, feminist theology, Hispanic theology, no. Just proper. Okay. So you wouldn’t think that there would be other … That’s not valid.
So, during the break in that class he goes to the library and brings back for his young white brother Swedish theology. He was taken by that because I believe, in his mind, he’s thinking there is just proper theology i.e. white theology. And all those others will just accommodate them but they are not real theology. That way of thinking is an example of how our conversation sometimes gets sidetracked, shuts down, breaks down because we’re not in a real way looking at one another with this mindset of being image bearers of God.
One of the best theology classes I had was when I sat in this class, it was a Hispanic theology class at Wheaton College and in my class was this mix of citizen brothers from Latin countries and then Hispanic American citizen brothers. And we’re in this class together, wrestling with theology, the doctrine of sin and all this stuff. And it was so rich. I would encourage you to explore that thought and maybe ask yourself, “How has my theology been shaped? Who has spoken into my way of thinking about theology?”
And as someone recently told me, they looked at their list of influential speakers and writers and preachers, they were all white dudes. God blessed them, God used them but that’s a narrow, very narrow view of a God that’s … So that’s to me what I found a major blind spot. Yes, sir, doctor?
Audience: I think part of the complexity in my journey, and this is [inaudible] too but getting in conversation and that’s what I hope this has been today with somebody who has a different perspective and has lived through different experiences [inaudible] I come from one of the most diverse high schools in the United States and I walked on campus and in those days, it was very white. So I found the African American student group and joined them and there was a day when we were reading through the prophets, the minor prophets, and I was hearing their experiences and how they were processing being pulled over in Chicago, driving while black, processing that through the minor prophets.
And the concept of justice suddenly leapt off the page. So, it wasn’t like there was a new theology there but there is an ability for me to see it through the eyes of somebody else’s experience which is incredibly important for us to be building the kinds of relationships and friendships where that’s going to be happening. And then we’re going to actually get a fuller, more well-rounded, as you’ve been saying, picture of who God is.
Danté Upshaw: But if I’m not in conversation, in relationship, in proximity with another view, I miss, I miss, I miss it. I miss the truth there. As it says, the Jew and Gentile wall is down. This gives us a chance to live it out beyond just words. Here is the challenge, an encouragement as we go, this month, February, is set aside as African American heritage month where we acknowledge and celebrate contributions of those of African descent. That’s been going on for years. Carter G. Woodson put that in place, praise God for him. This becomes an opportunity, if we’ll see it, an opportunity for the church to live out, live into, Revelations 7 when John looks out and he sees the sea. People, nations, tongues, in that sea were some black people. They were all wearing white robes but they just put the robes back. “Oh, some brother from Nigeria in there.”
John looked out and he saw you and I in that crowd. He saw my ancestors, he saw those women and men who died for the sake of the gospel, they were huddled together in dark places as they were in chains and they were worshiping God in secret because they weren’t going to let the master and the law prevent them from pressing into God’s presence, even if it meant death because for many it did because if they were found, they had their tongues cut out. They were hung for their love of God in the gospel.
But they’re going to be at that scene at the throne, worshiping. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to hear their stories. But in the mean time, I get to practice in celebration that. So things like Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Pacific Islanders, these celebrations, ethnically, are our opportunity now to celebrate image bearers of God that are sisters and brothers. So I pray, I encourage you as a takeaway when you go back to your places of worship, to think about that. Or have you just missed it and you just see it as talking about black sports figures. The schools get it, what’s up with the body of Christ? Do we get it?
Danté Upshaw: Because when was the last time you heard from your church pulpit a sermon by Frederick Douglass or how many of you in your seminary experience have read one of Dr. King’s sermons? You’ve read from a Hispanic theologian. You are familiar with Watchman Nee. This is the gospel on display, this is the mystery of the gospel lived out. And it is somewhat mysterious that we haven’t. It’s a mystery. I know, I get it. I’m getting it. It’s very mysterious, very uncomfortable. But oh, when we press into it, trusting that the spirit of God that began this will bring to completion what God has started. I invite you to get on board. Yes, sis, my sister.
Danté Upshaw: Thank you. There is so much to unpack, so much left unsaid. So I pray you will continue to have your hearts opened, poster yourselves to continue to receive, to share, to engage. I want to be mindful of the time because we do have … The body is diverse and in heaven, there will be time, people. So, I want to practice with my brothers and sisters right now.
Sweet Spirit, go with us now as we leave this place but never your presence when we be mindful of this work, this ongoing work of reconciliation, the spiritual process that requires repentance, forgiveness and justice to restore broken relationships and systems to the place that you intended them to be. Give us courage to be ambassadors of this ministry that you’ve given us and we’ll be careful with humble hearts to say thank you. In Jesus’ name we’re praying with great expectation and if you agree say Amen.
Danté Upshaw: God bless you.