#Sukkot Message: Eternal Jubileee 🙌🏿🌬🙏🏿 🎺

My congregation Beth-El House of Yahweh observes all the Biblical Feast and it has been a blessing for me to observe these moedim or appointed times where we can take time out of our busy schedules and commune with each other and the King of the universe. This week is the Biblical feast of Sukkot aka Feast of Tabernacles, where the Hebrews remember how Yah kept them during their wilderness time after leaving bondage in Egypt.
My congregation usually goes away to a camp ground with other congregations from across the nation for Sukkot but this year we stayed in the South Bronx and each day we have activities and each evening we worshipped under our Sukkot and waved the fruit and branches as we are commanded to do in scripture.

From Hebrew for Christians: 

“In Biblical times, Sukkot was considered the most important of all the holidays, referred to simply as “the Feast” (1 Kings 12:32). It was a time of many sacrifices (Num. 29:12-40) and a time when (on Sabbatical years) the Torah would be read aloud to the people (Deut. 31:10-13). It is one of the three required festivals of the Yahweh (Exod. 23:14; Deut. 16:16).

The Torah explicitly commands three things regarding the festival of Sukkot:
To gather the “four species” (Lev. 23:40)
To rejoice before Yahweh (Deut. 16:13-14; Lev. 23:40)

To live in a sukkah (Lev. 23:42)”.

Our Theme for this Sukkot is: The Marriage Supper of the Lamb from Revelation 19: 6-9 and each night different groups from my congregation worked together as neighborhood based groups to lead the service based on various themes. My group was the Brooklyn/Harlem group and our theme was Jubilee. As a faith-based organizer working on economic justice or what some of my colleagues call the Moral Economy I LOVE Jubilee. Across the country clergy are using the Biblical Jubilee model to end economic injustices such as payday lending. For more information on this work check out: Pay Day Lending is a Biblical Issue.


For my group’s service I shared a reflection on Jubilee and how this Biblical practice can assist us not only financially but spiritually and emotionally as well.

I invite you to read my reflection below and offer your feedback.

Since this week’s theme is The Marriage Supper of the Lamb I wanted to share briefly on the connection between the traditional Hebrew engagement and marriage ceremony, the West African traditional engagement and marriage ceremony and how both point to our Messiah. When we look at the traditional Hebrew Marriage ceremony we see many practices that point to our Messiah’s return and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. For instance, in The Book of Revelation 3:20 Yahshua says:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Well did you know that when a Hebrew man wanted to marry a Hebrew woman he would go to her home and do a “knocking Ceremony” and if the sister wanted to accept his proposal she would open the door and the groom to be would be invited into a festive meal but if she didn’t want to accept it her dad would open the door to break the news to brother proposing, bringing a new meaning to the phrase “what’s behind door number 2.”


        West African Knocking Ceremony 

In West African countries such as Nigeria where many Hebrews migrated after the temple was destroyed traditional engagements to this day include a knocking ceremony where the groom to be knocks on the Bride to be’s door. When we read in Revelation 3:20 that Yahshua is knocking this is an invite for us as his Bride to accept him into our hearts. In knocking ceremonies if the knocking groom is let in the Bride, her family and the groom have a meal together to celebrate, like Yahshua mentions in Revelation 3:20. For more information on the Yoruba of Nigeria’s migration from Israel read Origin of the Yoruba and The Lost Tribes of Israel.



Photos of my friend Nina’s Yoruba    Traditional Engagement Ceremony (Can you spot where I am 😀?)

A wedding is a time of celebration, but in Hebrew culture our traditional engagement and marriage ceremonies point to more than just romance but they point to a divine love story between Israel and Yah. No matter how many times Yah knocked on Israel’s door and got no answer in return he keeps loving us and pursuing us as his bride.

Aren’t you grateful that Yah keeps pursuing us?

Though Jubilee was an awesome way to honor Yah, our Hebrew ancestors didn’t fulfill it and yet STILL Yah has a final Jubilee, a divine Marriage Supper for his wayward Bride and all who join her.

According to minister and author Jack Wellman, the word Jubilee in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word “Yobel” or “Yovel” meaning Ram’s horn, trumpet or Coronet. To announce the Jubilee year, the Shofar would be blown and this would happen on the Day of Atonement, which shows an important connection between Atonement, having our sins forgiven and being able to celebrate the Jubilee. When you heard the Shofar blown on the Day of ATONEMENT on the 50th year you knew that not only were your sins forgiven but that your debts were forgiven and if you were a slave you would be set free.

The Septuagint translation of the Bible renders the word Jubilee in Hebrew as a blast of liberty! Jubilee meant that those who had to sell themselves into slavery due to poverty would be freed and indeed don’t we sell ourselves into bondage when we sin?

But the Good News, the Great News, the Gospel News is Yahshua came to give us Jubilee Freedom and we know this because he began his earthly ministry by reading Isaiah 61: 1-4 in the Temple:

The Spirit of YAH is on me,

because Yah has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of Yah’s favor

and the day of vengeance of our Yah,

to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of Yah

for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins

and restore the places long devastated;

they will renew the ruined cities

that have been devastated for generations.

The Year of Yah’s favor that we read about in Isaiah 61: 2 is the Jubilee year so by reading this scripture to start his earthly ministry Yahshua is letting us know that he is beginning a Jubilee!


Blowing the Shofar for the Feast Days in Nigeria at the Community of Hashem Congregation 

Jubilee was more than a year of celebration but it was a year of liberation. Jubilee was the 50th year in the Hebrew calendar after the 7th Shabbat year or what some call the shmita year where the land laid fallow and was allowed to rest. Sadly, though Jubilee was an awesome gift to Yah’s people like my sister Shanay reminded me the Hebrews never fully kept the Jubilee which is one of the reasons we went into captivity. Instead of fully keeping the Jubilee the Hebrews would try to play Yah by doing things like not giving out loans in the 49th year. Have you ever tried to play Yah, by finding a loop hole not to completely follow his commandments? For instance, some Hebrews would try to get out of taking care of their parents by saying “I need to pay my offerings.” See one aspect of a religious spirit is trying to play Yah aka having a form of being Yah like while denying Yah’s power.

           Yah can’t be played or mocked. 


We will reap what we sow, unless we come under the banner of Yahshua’s love and grace by answering when he knocks on the door of our hearts.

Who would agree that most of our people are in economic bondage?

How many articles and documentaries do we see on Black economics and yet Yah created a plan for our economic liberation and it’s called Jubilee.


Jubilee was instituted for our people coming out of Egyptian slavery so no one would ever have to live in slavery again. Who knows that economic debt can feel like slavery?

Jubilee means slaves are set free and debts are forgiven and land was returned to those who lost their land to debt.

How many people need to be set free?

Well the Apostle Paul lets us know in Galatians 5:1:

It is for freedom that Yahshua has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

This scripture is also alluding to the Jubilee and making a connection between Yahshua and Jubilee like Isaiah 61.

Jubilee in the Natural

Do you know why items are removed from your credit reports after 7 years? This is because the credit industry on a small level is following Torah Jubilee. If you have items that are older than 7-years on your credit report seek credit clean up services because it’s illegal for those items to remain on your report.

Yes, even the banks prosper by taking from our culture.

Bankruptcy only last 7-years because even our sinful financial system has enough sense to at least half way follow Jubilee. Remember every 7 years is a Shabbat year where the land was to allowed to rest and after 7 Sabbath Years which is 49 years the next year, the 50th year is the Jubilee year.

Did you know that different Christian denominations had a campaign called Jubilee 2000 to ask world governments to forgive African countries of their debt (which is weird to me because the sin was committed against Africa not the other way around).


2015-2016 was a Jubilee Year and during this time the United Nations urged America to pay reparations due to slavery. This is why it’s important to keep up with current events in light of the Bible because Yah is moving and we don’t want to be left behind.

I participated in the United Nations fact finding mission as a testifier on the impact of Mass Incarceration on Black Women and Girls, you can read my testimony here. After these fact finding missions the UN decided ancestors of the slave trade deserve reparations.

I mention these natural examples of Jubilee because we as Yah’s people left this practice on the floor and now others are attempting to use it but with Yah we his people still have a chance to practice Jubilee and get it right even though we have been dead wrong.

I also share these natural examples of Jubilee because first the natural and then the spiritual so let’s talk about the Spiritual Jubilee which is that time when we will be with Yahshua united as all 12 Tribes of Israel and those who join Israel.

Revelation 19:6-9 tell us that:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!

For Yah the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and exult

and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself

with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of Yah.”

On that Great Day all of our debts natural and spiritual will be no more. Who is looking forward to that eternal jubilee of Joy?

So as my Pastor Jonathan reminds us these Feast Days or  moedim are dress rehearsals for that wonderful time when we are with Yah and living in that millennial period, BUT how can we practice Jubilee now?

Well maybe you aren’t a big multi-national bank but almost everyone in this sanctuary has someone in their life that owes you a debt, the debt that is owed to some of us is money and for others the debt is emotional but guess what right now we have a divine choice-we can be like our Hebrew ancestors and not fully keep Jubilee or we can answer the call to set those who have hurt and offended us free.

Or maybe you don’t need to set someone free but due to sin that has you bound you need Yah to set you free. Are there sins that have you in slavery? Well guess what Yahshua came to set you free and give you an eternal Jubilee!

Invitation

So I want to invite you to a time of personal prayer where you ask Yah to help you forgive someone who wronged you that you need to set free or if a sin has you in bondage take the time to pray and ask Yah to set you free from the sin that has you in bondage.

So take a few minutes to silently pray. 

Remember we can practice Jubilee everyday by walking in liberation and extending liberation to our brothers and sisters through the power of forgiveness. In this way we can begin the Joy of our Eternal Jubilee today! 💕


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Dark AND Lovely: The Call to Love the Black Woman’s Body

This sermon was preached at St. Lydia’s Dinner Church for the “This is My Body Series”

  

Prayer for Black Women Who Have Died in Police Custody

Divine creator thank you for this day and this meal, bless all the hands that prepared it from field to plate. Bless each person here and give each woman present a divine revelation that she is fearfully and wonderfully made and that her body as it stands now is a gift from you. God of Sarah, Rebecca and Leah we confess to you that we have been silent when the lives of Black woman have been abused by the systems of racism and sexism. We confess that we have diminished the mothers of creation, while worshipping an idol constructed by our biases. Forgive us for not standing up when in July 2015 five Black woman died in Police Custody, we call out their names now:

  • Sandra Bland
  • Kindra Chapman
  • Joyce Curnell
  • Ralkina Jones
  • Raynette Turner

God please comfort the friends and family they left behind and help us as the church to take a bold stance against the societal sins that caused their deaths. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight oh Lord my rock and my redeemer. May your Holy Spirit enter this place. Amen

Scripture Song of Songs 1: 5-6

I am black but beautiful, 
    O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
    like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
    because the sun has gazed on me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
    they made me keeper of the vineyards,
    but my own vineyard I have not kept!
Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
    where you pasture your flock,
    where you make it lie down at noon;
for why should I be like one who is veiled
    beside the flocks of your companions?

When we think about the Black woman’s body we see even within our scripture translations that there has been an attempt to diminish it’s beauty because most English translations of Song of Songs 1:5-6 will read I am black BUT Beautiful while in the Hebrew the verse can read I am black AND beautiful, the Hebrew word can be translated BUT or AND yet Bible translators due to the implicit bias of racism choose BUT beautiful which is an apology for Black beauty as opposed to I am Black AND Beautiful which is an unapologetic celebration of Blackness. So the scripture should read: 

I am Black AND Lovely
    O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
    like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
    because the sun has gazed on me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
    they made me keeper of the vineyards,
    but my own vineyard I have not kept!
Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
    where you pasture your flock,
    where you make it lie down at noon;
for why should I be like one who is veiled

    beside the flocks of your companions? 

 

Since encountering colonial powers the Black woman’s body has not been afforded the respect or curtesy that the White woman’s body has been afforded.   

Pregnant African Women Brenda Hardaway Woman Beaten by Cops in Rochester, NY

http://youtu.be/kFRTNHA5mbg

 What does it mean that according to research the average Christian in the world today is a woman of African descent and yet in America the average person entering prison for the first time is a Black woman of child bearing age? What does it mean to have prolife Christian activist who are silent when Black pregnant women are beaten by cops? To date there have been multiple incidents of visibly pregnant Black and Latina women who were beaten by cops the most recent being a 8 month pregnant woman who while being hit by the cop was told you better be happy I didn’t make you lose your baby! 

The dark woman’s body is deemed sinful even in our criminal justice system. Villanova University researchers studied more than 12,000 cases of African-American women imprisoned in North Carolina and found that women with lighter skin tones were sentenced to 12% less time behind bars than women with darker skin tones. The study took into account the type of crimes the women committed and each woman’s criminal history to generate apples-to-apples comparisons. 

Data from the Office for Civil Rights at the US Department of Education show that from 2011-2012 , black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide were suspended at a rate of 12% compared with a rate of just 2% for white girls and more than girls of any race or ethnicity. Researchers say that within minority groups darker-skinned girls are disciplined more harshly than light-skinned ones.


The dark woman’s body is deemed sinful, yet the oldest human remains were of an African woman named Lucy by anthropologist, the mother of humanity is dishonored yet our sacred text tell us to honor our mother that our days maybe long in Exodus. This dishonor and disregard is indeed sinful and yet throughout history Black woman have risen up and declared their beauty and power, the most recent example of this were the three black women that started the Black Lives Matter Movement and Bree Newsome who didn’t just talk about the confederate flag but removed it while reciting scripture and declaring her faith in God! My body and the body of my sisters is indeed beautiful, holy and whole, made in the image of God and as my ancestor Sojourner Truth declared:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them. Amen!

Questions for Reflection: 

  • Is Dark skin a sin?
  • In what ways do the sins of racism and sexism intersect in our faith communities?
  • How can men be allies to women facing sexism? 

Women of Virtue Blogtalk Radio Series: Organizing, Black Biblical Destiny & Women of Valor

This morning my cousin Author and Women of Virtue Host Day “Dream” Alston interviewed me for her Women of Virtue Series on Blogtalk Radio. We discuss Prophetic Whirlwind: The Black Biblical Destiny, community organizing and who the Virtuous Woman in Proverbs 31 really was and what this means for us as women today.

Check out the interview here: Women of Virtue Series

Day's BookCheck out Day “Dream” Alston’s insightful book on relationships: The Not-so-Patiently Waiting Handbook.

 

 

For more information on the true meaning of the Proverbs 31 Virtuous Woman visit: http://www.unveiling.org/Articles/women.html.

                                                                  Be Blessed! 

The Black Presence in the Bible: Uncovering the Hidden Ones

The Last Supper from The Roman Catacombs

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while over the past few months I had a great deal of changes and additions to my life which I am grateful for. I recently started my own organization Prophetic Whirlwind: Uncovering The Black Biblical Destiny which is dedicated to producing Bible Study and devotional materials as well as workshops and lecturers concerning the Black presence in the Bible. I am a theology nerd but the spirit reminded me it’s not enough to collect all this info for yourself but you owe it to your ancestors to share it. Check on the Prophetic Whirlwind page on this blog for more information.

I hope all is well with each of you, remember stay connected to the Most High and you will be reminded of the truth.

Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” –Psalm 68:31

This was originally published on Sojourner’s God’s Politics Blog

Isaiah43The Bible is a multicultural book. This statement may sound controversial but archeology, history, and the text prove it to be true. In 2013 this controversy played out in the media when viewers of The Bible miniseries were upset that Samson was played by a black man. A second controversy occurred when a Fox News broadcaster confidently declared that Santa Claus and Jesus were white, yet when people researched original depictions of Saint Nicolas, they found pictures of a dark brown man. It appears that our faith has been distorted. As we celebrate Black History Month and prepare for Lent, how can uncovering the black presence in the Bible aid us in mourning against the sin of racism? One of the effects of racism is the whitewashing of history and sadly this has taken place even in our biblical studies.

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They Found Everything As Yahshua Told Them It Would Be

Mark 14:12-21

12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ 13So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” 15He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’16So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ 19They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ 20He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’

Reflection by Onleilove Alston

Often when I have a need, I worry, fret, and plan though I know Yah’s word tells me “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present my requests to God” ( Philippians 4:6). But like the disciples, I have a relationship with Yahshua. Yet I still struggle with trusting that he will meet all my needs. Countless times throughout the Gospels we see the Disciples struggle with trusting Jesus – Thomas who demanded a sign, Peter who stepped out on faith to walk on water but then denied knowing Jesus, even Mary and Martha felt Yahshua was late when it came to their brother Lazarus.

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Life of Pi Inspirational Review

Caution: Spoiler Alert 

Image credit: Peter Sorel

Today I saw Life of Pi (the movie based on Yann Martel’s best-seller) as an Sunday treat to myself. I will try not to give away too much of the movie but I felt led to reflect on the overall message. The main character named Pi (as someone with a weird name I was already on his side, LOL!), is a spiritually curious Indian boy who decides to follow Hinduism, Christianity and Islam in a search for God’s truth.As a child I also looked into many religions of my own accord and through a mandatory extra period of World Religions class required by the “gifted” program I was placed in during Junior High School. I  ordered a Book of Mormon but before it could arrive at my house I discovered what Mormons thought of Black people prior to the 1970’s and ended up throwing it away and writing a Black Power note on the reply card and promptly sending it back to the Mormons (my first Act of Black Liberation Theology). I read some of Siddhartha and found Buddhism attractive not as a religion but as a call to find my own spiritual path.

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Poetry Challenge Day 14: Clarity

         Quartz taken at the Museum of Natural History in NYC

I used to see into the mirror of my heart dimly, but now I see clearly.1

Clarity is more valuable than diamonds, rubies, emeralds and

all the precious stones deep within the earth.

What lies within is the greatest wisdom,

release all you own to obtain it

and once you have this truth sell it not.2

1. 1 Corinthians 13:12

2. Proverbs 23:23