Making Room for Harlem

For the past 3 weeks, we've been exploring what it means to make room for God in our lives and what that means for our definitions of Family, Reconciliation and Renewal. 

This week, Sarah Almodovar, shares thoughts and impressions of Pastor Kenny's sermon on Making Room for Harlem.


“Our vision is to plant a church where everyone can breathe.”
— Pastor Kenneth Hart

This past Sunday, pastor Kenneth Hart preached on the Lord's vision for the Harlem church plant, rooted in Micah 6:6-8.  Pastor Kenny shared the following statement, and then broke down the Harlem vision by justice, mercy, and walking humbly with God.

 

VISION FOR HARLEM

A Harlem where everyone is dignified and unified, because justice, love, and mercy are present.

So, what does it mean to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God in Harlem?

1. DO JUSTICE

  • Understand Harlem's history as the epicenter of black identity, a place that has been affected and even created by systematic racism.
  • See gentrification as a social justice problem, not simply a racial issue.
  • Recognize that "reconciliation is a byproduct of justice."  Remember that Jesus suffered the justice of God on the cross in order to make room for reconciliation.  Therefore talk of "racial reconciliation" is empty without the fight for justice.
  • Pastor Kenny's example: Chef (a friend, born and raised in Harlem) likes the idea of healthy food being offered through the new Whole Foods, but because the store doesn't accept EBT, the majority of the community is unwelcome there.  How can we reconcile races in the face of such injustice?

2. LOVE MERCY

  • Jesus is our example here.  In the OT, there was no image of God on the mercy seat; in the NT, Jesus IS the image of God!  He came to earth to love mercy.
  • "Preach Jesus, create jobs."  Consider ways to encourage, enable, and love those image-bearers who society has written off.
  • Pastor Kenny's example: A young man, a Harlem native, resorted to selling drugs in order to pay for his schooling.  Now, years later, he is unable to find a job because of his criminal record.  Can we choose to listen, rather than stereotype?

3. WALK HUMBLY WITH GOD

  • Humility is greatly lacking in the American church's relationship with its neighbors.  We'd rather give answers than ask questions to our neighbors.
  • We are called to learn first and teach second--to let our plan or agenda be shaped by those whom we love and seek to serve.
  • Pastor Kenny's advice: "If we're not careful, we can plant a church for ourselves and not for the community."

The sermon closed with a powerful reminder of the need for God's justice, mercy, and humility in our communities as Pastor Kenny called to mind the tragic death of Eric Gardner in July 2014.  Fueled by Gardner's last words, Pastor Kenny says, "Our vision is to plant a church where everyone can breathe."