[The text of this sermon for Sunday, June 28, 2020, is provided below. A video of this sermon will be available on Monday on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/4409sspotswoodrdgordonsvilleva.]
I don’t know about you, but I really love history. In fact, of all my courses in school, the ones that I enjoyed the most were in American history. And I have always loved reading about the history of the American Civil War. Recently, I was reading an article from the website for the U. S. Senate that gives us a little antebellum history as to how people were getting along with each other just before the Civil War started. This historical article told about an incident that happened in the Senate chamber on May 22, 1856 (about five years before the War began). A Senator from Massachusetts by the name of Charles Sumner had just given an anti-slavery speech in which he harshly insulted Andrew Butler, who was a Senator representing the state of South Carolina. Andrew Butler was not present to hear all of the ugly slurs against him, but Preston Brooks, who was one of Butler’s cousins, as well as a member of the House of Representative, got wind of Sumner’s remarks and it absolutely infuriated him. In fact, Brooks was so angry that he walked over to the Senate chamber where he found Sumner busily doing some of his Senate paperwork. And before anyone could do any about it, Brooks took his metal-tipped cane and swung it like a baseball bat at Senator Sumner’s head and then proceeded to strike him with that cane again and again, rendering Sumner both bloody and unconscious. Having completed this hate-filled task, Brooks then turned and calmly walked away as Senate aids and shocked Senators looked on. For those in the anti-slavery movement, the wounded Charles Sumner became a hero. Similarly, those proponents of slavery were so delighted by Preston Brook’s attack that they sent him boxes of canes, presumably to shatter the heads of any other victims Brook’s might find appropriate. Although Brooks resigned from Congress, he was soon reelected only to meet an early death only two years later at the age of 37 when he died unexpectedly of a severe case of the croup. Senator Sumner eventually recovered from his injuries and resumed his seat in the Senate, where he served Massachusetts for another 18 years. It’s too bad the people of this country, on both sides of the slavery issue, didn’t learn anything from this tragic incident by turning away from harsh words and avoiding violence—because had they done so, they might have avoided the four years of Civil War that shortly followed and devastated our country by killing over 750,000 Americans from both the North and the South.
That was the atmosphere in our nation 164 years ago. But, in all honesty, it would not be surprising if something like that were to happen today—our politicians and our people are so at odds with one another. So, what can save us from such senseless violence happening all over again?—The senseless violence of a Congressman beating a helpless Senator with a cane until he was unconscious; the senseless violence of a white man walking into a church in Charleston, South Carolina only five years ago during a bible study and shooting the black pastor and eight black church members to death—including some elderly women; the senseless violence of a white police officer openly, and without mercy, suffocating a man on the street while others pleaded for the man’s life, all to no avail; or the senseless violence during which people’s businesses have been burned or their storefronts smashed and looted by angry rioters and thugs whose apparent answers to our social ills are found in the same source of hate that prompted the caning of that U. S. Senator all those many years ago leading up to the Civil War.
Can it be that history can give us the answer? And yet what history will we have to review now that those same rioters and thugs are tumbling statues, and pressing for the renaming of schools, military bases, parks and other public places? Do we really gain anything as a nation by destroying monuments of the past without taking the time to reflect upon the historical contexts and social upheavals that led to the construction of some of those monuments in the first place? In a sermon not too long ago, we talked about Samuel raising “his Ebenezer”—it was a monument of stones erected to remind the people of Israel of one of their great military victories that came about once they returned to God and came to rely upon Him for their guidance and protection. In this passage found in 1 Samuel 7, it reminds us how important it is to preserve our history and to remember our mistakes in order to avoid repeating them. The Russian author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, rightly stated: “If we don’t know our own history, we will simply have to endure all the same mistakes, sacrifices, and absurdities all over again,” and again.
So let’s fast-forward from that ugly scene in the U. S. Senate chamber back in 1856, to the setting of a House Judiciary Hearing conducted earlier this very month. This was the House of Representatives’ first major hearing following the death of George Floyd and the violent national protests that have ensued, and even continue today. George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, testified before this body regarding the slogan, “Black Lives Matter.” He could not have expressed things better when he gave a heartfelt message that black lives matter because “all life is precious.” And indeed it is—for we are all made in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 After Mr. Floyd had finished, the next witness who appeared at this congressional hearing testified about a death that was not so well publicized by our “impartial” [NOT] news media. The name of this witness is Angela Underwood Jacobs. She too had lost a life that mattered very much to her. You see, her brother, 53 year old Patrick Underwood—also a man of color—was a member of the Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service. He was murdered in the line of duty trying his best to protect a federal courthouse building in Oakland, California, against those rioters and thugs who took advantage of George Floyd’s death to commit their acts of mayhem. This is what Ms. Jacobs had to say during this House Judiciary hearing: “When I think about all of this, [what I do know] is that my brother wore a uniform and he wore that uniform proudly — I’m wondering where is the outrage for a fallen officer that also happens to be African American?” That’s a good question. But, in light of all the fawning that our media has lavished upon those rioters and thugs, I am afraid that it’s one of those uncomfortable questions that is so easily shuffled under the rug. About the only response that Val Demings, a Democrat from Florida, could give was this: “This is not a black issue or a white issue. It’s not a Democratic issue, a Republican issue. This is an American issue that has turned into yet another American tragedy.”
So as we gather here this morning, let us consider what is the solution to this “American tragedy”? Well, the answer just happens to be the same one that must be given to the “Human Tragedy”—the tragedy that has haunted humanity since the very beginning of our existence. And the answer isn’t found in the Republican playbook. It isn’t found in the Democratic playbook. The answer isn’t Donald Trump. It isn’t Nancy Pelosi. It isn’t found in Hollywood. The news media with all its “talking-heads”—whether conservative or liberal—they don’t have the answer. In fact, they don’t have a clue as to what the answer is because the only answer lies in . . . “HISTORY”.
Now, you might look at me and wonder why I would say that. You were probably expecting me to say that the only true answer lies with JESUS CHRIST. Well, actually, that is what I just said—just in a little different way. But maybe it would be clearer if I used the words of more learned people to explain this point—this connection between world history and Jesus Christ. The great English pastor, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), stated: “Christ is the great central fact in the world's history. To Him everything looks forward or backward. All the lines of history converge upon Him.” The Scottish theologian, J. S. Stewart (1896-1990), tells us: “God raised up Jesus, not simply to give credence to man's hopes of life beyond the grave, but to shatter history and remake it by a cosmic, creative event, ushering in a new age and a new dimension of existence.” And who could sum it up any better than that great American essayist of the 19th century, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), who pronounced: “The name of Jesus is not so much written as plowed into the history of the world.”
Yes, our only hope to prevent the “American Tragedy”, or the world “Human Tragedy” for that matter, is to know “HISTORY” because the only answer to “HISTORY” is exactly that—“HIS STORY”—the STORY OF JESUS CHRIST. His Story is written in His love, His mercy, and His forgiveness. They are the stories that we must learn to live by. We need to replace the narratives of hate written in our hearts with HIS WORD—which is the entirety of God’s Holy Bible, which tells us the importance of history in general. And what does God’s Word say about history? It says many things about history. But, it especially it calls us to take on an attitude akin to that expressed in the Book of Job: 8 “Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, 9 for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. 10 Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their understanding? 11 Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh? Can reeds thrive without water? 12 While still growing and uncut, they wither more quickly than grass. 13 Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless.” Job 8:8-13 (NIV)
In other words, before pulling a monument down, look at it. Study it. Think about what it represents in history and learn from that history. And yet, the truth is that we’d all do well, to pull down some monuments. Yes, we need to pull them down without any further delay! But they are not the statutes that have been fashioned by the hands of Man. Rather, what we need to pull down are those idols that have so falsely dominated the landscapes of our hearts. The monuments of hate, malice, anger, violence, prejudice and injustice that would compel a Congressman to cane a Senator, or an officer of the law to show nothing but complete lawlessness in murdering a helpless black man in the street, or the hate and anger that would cause someone to murder a brave federal officer just trying to guard a courthouse from a violent mob.
God demands that you pull down and destroy those monuments that cast ugly shadows in your heart. And what does He expect of you instead? His Word is clear. The prophet Micah gives us God’s requirements of us when he tells us: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV) Can you do that? Your individual history—your very destiny depends on the answer to that question. It’s the only answer to our American Tragedy as well. The answer is Jesus Christ. But the thing that so many Christians fail to understand is that Jesus calls us to be “protestors”. What? Protestors? Yes, radical protestors. Listen carefully to what Jesus tells us. He tells us, rather than striking out in violence, to learn to turn the other check: THAT IS RADICAL. He bids you to leave hate behind and come to love our enemies—SOMETHING TRULY RADICAL. And instead of pushing and shoving for what we claim to be our share, Jesus calls us to give freely to others, even to the extent of serving them and walking that extra mile in their shoes—THAT’S COMPLETELY RADICAL IN THIS DOG-EAT-DOG WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE. But, Jesus is also very clear in telling us something to remember when sharing His radical message. He tells us to remember to examine the huge plank that is in our eye before criticizing someone else for the speck of sawdust that they have in their eye.
His Story—the history we must imitate—offers the only way out of the sorry state of affairs into which our country now finds itself. We can no longer afford to act like either Congressman Brooks swinging our canes in anger, or as the original Cain who left his brother, Abel, dying in the dust. If we all act like them, we will become like them—either dying early like Congressman Brooks or becoming hopeless wanderers in life like the original murderer, Cain. Yes, we live in some very trying times—times of great turmoil and change. But, it is also a time of great opportunity. It is a time to point people to the only hope of peace in our country, and certainly the only hope of peace in your heart. That hope is Jesus Christ!
But we all need to do a little soul-searching in this regard. Maybe you don’t realize it—but could it be that you need to stop being such a vandal?—such a rioter and thug? “What me—a rioter and a thug? No way! I’d never do something like that!—I love my country?” YES—BUT DO YOU LOVE JESUS CHRIST? Have you truly allowed Him to be Lord of your life? Maybe you are a bigger rioter and thug than you realize. Maybe you have been spray painting God’s monuments and dishonoring Him for a very long time, but just don’t realize it. You see, if you haven’t surrendered your life to Christ, if you fail to regularly worship Him as you should in His house on Sundays, if you love to hate others, if you are short on compassion and forgiveness, but full of hate and vengeance—then you too are a rioter of the worst kind by the way that you rebel against God. In a word, you sin against God and every sin is like a rioter throwing bricks in His face. If you have never truly accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, if you are too busy spray painting the monuments of His Word and rejecting His love—today is a great opportunity for you. So, don’t wait any longer. Don’t hesitate—pull down all of those worldly monuments that dominant your life, and raise a New Statue in their place. Put Jesus Christ where He should be on the highest pedestal in your heart. History is an important thing. But, HIS STORY is infinitely more important. Start letting your life story walk in HIS STORY today.
Let us pray.
Forest Hill Baptist Church
June 28, 2020
Darvin Satterwhite, Pastor
©2020 All Rights Reserved
 “The Caning of Senator Charles Sumner,” https://www.senate.gov. Guy Gugliotta, “New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com (April 2, 2012). Wikipedia, “Preston Brooks,” https://en.wikipedia.org. Wikipedia, “The Caning of Charles Sumner,” https://en.wikipedia.org.
 Robert J. Morgan. Preacher’s Source Book of Creative Sermon Illustrations, “History,” Thomas Nelson: Nashville, (2007) p. 435.
 Katelyn Burns, “Republicans tried to ‘both sides’ police violence after testimony from George Floyd’s brother,” VOX https://www.vox.com (June 10, 2020).
 Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World.
 Matthew 5:38-39 38 "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (NIV)
 Matthew 5:43-44 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (NIV)
 Acts 20:35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (NIV)
 Mark 10:43-45 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (NIV)
 Matthew 5:41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (NIV)
 Matthew 7:5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (NIV)