At The Movies: Selma

At The Movies

May 17, 2015

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Mike Slaughter

The Ginghamsburg AT THE MOVIES series has taken us on an unforgettable journey to be sure, but no film is more important to who we know ourselves to be as SELMA. This weekend in worship Pastor Mike -interviewing Ginghamsburg servants Johnetta Moore and Zach Williams - will call us afresh to action and reconciliation...challenging us to CHANGE THE WORLD by changing our own communities and families, one life at a time.


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Today's Focus

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8

Sermon Questions

At the Movies: Selma


Christian doesn’t just mean having a personal relationship with Christ. Faith has a public component. This week let’s look at our faith in the call to community through the power and act of reconciliation. Daily devotionals that accompany each day's reading are also available on Facebook. They are created by a great Ginghamsburg unpaid servant team. You do not have to be a Facebook user to access them. View here.

Day 1: Read Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus summarizes the Ten Commandments into two categories, thus upholding the commandments and still responding to the Pharisees. Which commands can be divided into each category: loving God and loving others? How does this make us responsible in our personal relationship and in community?

Day 2: Read Romans 13:1-20

Paul advises the Romans to submit to governing authorities, followed by several verses explaining love’s fulfillment of the law. Why submit to governments? How does love fulfill the Mosaic laws? Why does Paul tie these two ideas together?

Day 3: Read Acts 5:12-42

Acts records the persecution of Jesus’ followers. Was the government persecuting them? How were the apostles submissive to authorities? When were they not? Why? How was Gamaliel’s advice wise? How should leaders decide when, how and what to protest?

Day 4: Read Micah 6:1-16

God uses Micah to charge Israel’s sins. Micah responds for Israel in verses 6-7. In verse 8, God inspires Micah to summarize the 613 Mosaic laws into three. List them. What do they mean? Despite Jesus having fulfilled the law, how are these three ideas still wise and applicable?

Day 5: Read Proverbs 29:26; Isaiah 42:1; Micah 6:8

Act justly. How and why do we expect government to provide justice? How did the Israelites fail to act justly? How do we? Are there social issues today that require acting justly?

Day 6: Read Jude 1:17-22; Micah 6:8

Love mercy. How and why do we expect government to be merciful? Is it possible? Who is the source of mercy? When did you show mercy? Receive mercy? How can you love mercy today?

Day 7: Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Micah 6:8

Walk humbly with God. How is this an act of reconciliation in our relationship with God? How does “walking in someone else’s shoes” enhance reconciliation? How is this essential lesson also about acting justly, loving mercy and creating powerful community?


Sermon Transcript

May 16 & 17, 2015

Sermon Series: At The Movies: Selma

Mike Slaughter, Lead Pastor


It’s amazing how we worship the Lord around this place!

Thanks for joining us for our series, At The Movies, with this weekend’s feature, Selma. Can you believe it’s the last week—the last week for free popcorn!

When we were planning this series, before we identified any movies, I said I want to do Selma.

Selma is in my wheelhouse. This is what the movement of Jesus is all about. Today with racial relationships in our country where they are, you know from we just experienced in Baltimore. Someone told me yesterday the jury is about ready to come back on the case in Cleveland. The National Guard is on alert for Cleveland. We need to be in prayer. Not only thinking about what’s wrong but how we can make a positive difference. So before we go to the Lord’s word today, will you bow your head in prayer?

Pray with me that we empty our minds of cultural prejudice or traditions we may hold on to so that the mind of Christ may fill us fully. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Will you open your bibles this morning to Isaiah 61? Anyone who has known me for any period of time knows that I am skeptical of institutional church. That if Jesus came back today, the institutional church mostly represents something that He wouldn’t even recognize. As Christians in the institutional church, we have so lowered the standard of what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ.

There are two dimensions to which Jesus calls us. They go together—you can’t have one without the other. Here is the first: Jesus’ call is to invite him into our life to fully empower us; to live as children of God.

I am excited to share with you that we are starting a new series on the Holy Spirit next week. We will talk about the empowerment of God through the Holy Spirit; experience the presence of God through the Holy Spirit and God’s power in our life through the Holy Spirit.

The second part of the call from Jesus—you can’t separate this dimension from the first—is a call to engagement in Christ’s mission. God’s mission of reconciliation is that everyone who names Jesus as Lord is called into the engagement of reconciliation. 

First, he is calling all people to be reconciled to God, but we can’t be reconciled to God if we’re not reconciled to each other. That is what we are called to do, not separate ourselves into camps—republican, democrat, black, white, whatever—but to call all people to be reconciled to God and all people to be reconciled with each other. 

How many of you have seen the movie, Selma? It should be better than that. Of all six movies, I believe this is the most important movie to see, especially with children and grandchildren. That we remember.  It’s just like the first movie that I started us out with six weeks ago, Unbroken; it’s historical. The actors in this movie play real people including the white folks who died in Selma, Alabama, for the cause of voters’ rights.

The movie takes us back. A lot of you are younger here—most of you are younger than my generation—the movie takes us back to 1965, to Selma, Alabama. In 1964, The Civil Rights Act was enacted but it was not being enforced. People around the country, African-Americans, were denied their rights to vote.

The focus is Selma because there was a corrupt sheriff who literally empowered his police force to brutally beat and terrorize African-American citizens, including the murder of unarmed African-Americans citizens.

So we have to understand that today in African-American communities there is a distrust of the police force. Think back to the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s—many African-Americans experienced a police force that brutalized or terrorized. We need to feel why that is happening in our country today. Even though I believe the majority of police are great folk—and many are in this room—there are some corrupt police out there today.

Oprah Winfrey plays a real person in Selma named Annie Lee Cooper. Ms. Cooper tried multiple times to register to vote as she was trying coordinate the voting of African-Americans in her community. Watch this clip from the movie that illustrates what was going on in 1965.

Many of the pastors who organized the movements around the country invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Selma, Alabama, to organize a march. In 1964, I would have been in junior high school. I remember coming home that Sunday afternoon with Walter Cronkite reporting the news on our black and white TV.  How many of you remember it? It was called “Bloody Sunday,” when church people marched in their suits and ties, dresses and hats across the bridge when state troopers were turned loose on horses and bludgeoned the people with billy clubs—young people, old people—on that bridge. Those images are still imprinted on my mind today.

Now I have subtitles for every one of the movies in this series. My subtitle for this movie is Selma: Jesus Manifesto.

We have gone over this passage many times, but as long as I am your pastor, I’m going to keep repeating it until we get it. Jesus when he came in to announce the beginning kingdom of God movement and to announce his messiahship, he read from a scroll of Isaiah 61. 

Luke records it in the fourth chapter of Luke. Now here is what Jesus read, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.”

You have heard me say many times, if it’s not good news for the poor, then it is not the gospel. The word “anointed” in Hebrew is “mashach” which means Messiah. Are we remembering this stuff? I am going to give you a test in two months.

So Jesus is claiming messiahship and the beginning of God’s new order at this movement. He said to proclaim good news to the poor. “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom for the captives.” In the Greek version, it says to set the captives free and release from darkness for the prisoners. 

At this point, Jesus closed the scroll, but every Hebrew male would have memorized the rest of this passage for their bar mitzvah. They were very aware of the context.

Going on, he said in verse three, “To 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.” Oil is anointing which means favorite of the Lord.

Remember Jesus said that the least shall be first, and the first will be last. Continuing in Isaiah 61:3 and 4, “And a garment of praise instead a spirit of despair. They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the Lord for His display of His splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore places long devastated. They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Now look at verse eight that says, “for I the Lord love justice I hate robbery and wrong doing.”

God always stands in solidity with the( march?( of the wise ) ??

God always stands with the oppressed and never the oppressor. This is true throughout scripture. Travel through the book of Amos to see how God is working to right; turn right side structures that oppress people.

One of the greatest examples is the story of Exodus where the people in power, the Egyptians, were oppressing the minority Hebrew slaves. Here is what God said, “I’m going to do something about it.”

What prayers did God hear? “I hear the cries of my children.” Moses probably said, “Oh good God, what are you going to do?” God replied, “I’m going to send you, Moses against unjust structures.”

Now listen to what Jesus said, this is for every follower, church, every follower. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” What is our job? Our job is to right side oppressive structures. 

Here is my problem with institutional religion; I see my brother DS, retired DS, in the audience. I’ve got a meeting today in Nashville with the Connectional Table—you know what that is, right? The Connectional Table oversees the coordination of mission, ministries and resources across the United Methodist denomination.


I always go to these meetings a bit cynical because so much of the institutional church has been part of the problem, and sided with the oppressor rather than standing with the oppressed.


For hundreds of years, where was the institutional church? It was supporting and using the bible to support slavery; using the bible to support segregation. In South Africa, the entire apartheid system was Christians—people who called themselves Christians—basing their actions on scripture. 

Now the problem folks is that we have these culturally imbedded traditions that we bring into the gospel that means, it’s no longer the gospel! I wouldn’t be up here this morning if it weren’t for my grandparents. I was raised in a cold Methodist Church; you know where they never even talked about Jesus. Everything was this vague kind of God, Gawd!

I went to my grandparents’ house for two weeks every summer; they were Southern Baptist. Every morning, we had breakfast on my grandmother’s summer porch, and there were always bible stories.  As a matter of fact when I went to seminary, the bible stories I knew were from my grandmother. When I was four years old, she taught me the most important truth I would ever learn: John 3:16, for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

But my grandmother was a racist. When she heard that my parents were sending me to an integrated school, she said, “Oh no, you’re going to get diseases sitting on the same toilet.” She had all these embedded cultural traditions. Her grandfather owned slaves.

Look at the screen; I have this document that I want to show you. My grandmother came from Conway, Arkansas. Her family was wealthy when they had slaves. At the outcome of the Civil War, her grandfather had to sign the document you see on the screen. His name was James Moroe Blessingame; he was my grandmother’s grandfather… my mother’s great grandfather and my great-great grandfather?  Is that right? 

The document reads—can you see it—“J. M. Blessingame defend the constitution of United States and the Union of the States there under and that I will in a like manner abide by and faithfully support all the laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves, so help me God.” He had to set his slaves free, but at the same time, this institutional religion that has run through. I am the child of slave owners. 

Do you remember King’s dream? What did he say? “I dream of the day when children of slave owners and children of slaves will walk together hand in hand.” Do you remember that? “Will walk together.” That’s the kingdom of God, sisters and brothers. 

By the late 90’s, I was becoming so discouraged as a pastor at Ginghamsburg Church because I would see hundreds of people coming into the church and professing Christ but little being changed in their world view. It’s like they were bringing Jesus into their worldview, instead of being transformed to his.  So I began a serious search of scriptures.  I ask the question, what is the essence of the kingdom movement? I have identified the essentials, and here it is. 

Here is the first, Micah 6:8—it’s the great requirement. What does the Lord require of you? Do you notice it’s not a suggestion? There are certain things that are suggestions—eat pork; don’t eat pork.

This is not a suggestion: to do justice. Do you see that? Do you remember what the bible said in Isaiah 61? “I, the Lord, love justice… I hate wrong doing.”  Micah 6:8 says, “To do justice and to love mercy and walk humbly with God.”

Sometimes to do justice, we have to march against the unjust laws of the land. That is exactly what King was doing. The movie portrays a scene from a true story of a young African-American male who was murdered in a diner when cops came in and beat his father—an elderly man of 80 years old—with billy clubs. The young man got up to protect his father trying to separate them; they shot him right there in that diner. King preached at that young man’s funeral. One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was spoken there. Watch this clip from Selma.

That’s my favorite King quote—one that I have reminded myself of throughout my life. “Our lives are not worth living if we are not willing to die for those we love and for what we believe.”

In the past, this church has marched to raise awareness in our own government. In 2005, we sent two buses filled with folks to Washington, D.C. to march for Darfur and against Genocide—to raise our government’s awareness for intervention. Was anybody in the room today part of that effort? There are a few hands in the back.

Then in 2007, my son and several others in this church organized Dayton for Darfur at the Dayton Convention Center. Nick Clooney, George’s dad, participated in Dayton for Darfur.

In 2011, Chuck Ray—I see you back there—was one of the folks who drove members of the Sudanese community in Dayton to Nashville—others drove to Washington, D.C. Once they arrived in Nashville and D.C., they voted in a referendum to separate and become their own country—the newest country in the world that exists today. In addition, we created a camp for their children at Fort McKinley so they would be safe while their parents were gone to vote. That is the great requirement.

Here is the second essential I see of the gospel, I call it the great commandment, but it’s really the new command. Jesus said, “A new command—singular—I give you; that you will love one another as I have loved you by this all people will know you are my disciples.” Wow. The early church movement spread from a small group of 120.  In 200 years, this movement was in India; it was all over the place. Do you know why? They would look at Christians and say, “My, how those people love! My, how those people love one another. “

I don’t know if you noticed, the Peer Report came out this week. Christianity is dying even at higher numbers in this country than predicted. Why? Because they are looking at us and what are they not seeing? They’re not saying… my how those people love.

Here is the third essential: the great commission. Jesus said in Matthew 28, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations—not church attendees—baptizing them in name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” This is not a cafeteria, sisters and brothers. “Lo, I am with you even to the end of the age.” In another words, every one of us that names Jesus as Lord has been enlisted to equipment other people for God’s redemptive work of reconciliation in the world.

Let us read from 2 Corinthians 5:18—All of this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself though Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” When you are reconciled to God through Christ, guess what, you are in the Army now. You are a minister of reconciliation. He has committed to us the message of reconciliation; we are therefore Christ ambassadors.

Ephesians puts it this way, that Christ came to tear down every wall, every barrier that stands between us so there is no longer Greek nor Jew, male nor female, slave nor free person but that every person becomes one and has the rights of one living as children of God together.

With what is going on in Baltimore, Ferguson, and Cleveland and around the country, we are quick to draw opinions or to choose sides. Reconciliation means that I don’t first see the situation through my own experience, but that I have become a student of other people’s experiences. That I really try with empathy to understand what they feel.

My sister started a group in the high school we went to over a decade ago called Student Leadership Team. After I became a Christian at the age of 18, I began to work in my community. One of the first things I did was to start a Youth Movement in 1968 after King was killed. There were riots in the Frisch’s at North College Hill. The National Guard was there with machine guns on back of their Jeeps. Kids where burning lockers in our high school. Now, at the age of 18, I’m a minister of reconciliation. Six months earlier, I was busted for selling beer to minors as a minor. At 18, Jesus had come into my life and empowered me, giving me a new identity. I was bringing the black kids and the white kids together in our community. I’m still working in North College Hill. 

This past Thursday, Dan Bracken and I went to meet with the student leaders at North College Hill. Ninety percent of the kids at this high school live below the poverty level. Any student from this high school that goes to college is first generation to do so in their family.

We pulled together 11 of these student leaders, some of whom I’ve been speaking into since they were kindergarten. We had a few questions for them. What do you feel about race relationships in the United States? How do you experience it as young students? I want to see things through their eyes. Watch this video.

Video Transcript

Question (Mike Slaughter)

What do you feel about race relationships in the United States? How do you experience it as young students?

Answers (Students)

I think it still needs some work.

I feel like some people are trying and trying to make a difference trying to be comfortable with all that but I still feel like some people are just kind of close-minded about it and still have certain stereotypes that are really true.

So I feel like we have made a little bit of progress but we still have so much more to get through before its considered good.

I believe that there is an advantage. I had an advantage. I didn’t choose the advantage but I had an advantage of being born a white male. There has been privilege that comes with that.


Question (Mike Slaughter)

Do you all feel that there is privilege; racial privilege or you have better advantages if you are born white then you are African-American?

Answer (Students)



Question (Mike Slaughter)

How do you, talk about that?

Answers (Students)

I feel like if you are born a white male or just white period you have more advantage. People see you as being successful being the higher class rather than African-American you feel like oh they’re not going to succeed in life they are not going to be nothing. They are going to be a regular dope dealer just never going to succeed in life. That’s one of the stereotypes you were talking about how people still stereotype every one. There are good people and there are bad people but that is both sides also.


Question (Mike Slaughter)

Is there a fear that comes with that? How is it different being a young African-American male? I have never had that experience. Right now when you see young African-American males shot whether they are guilty or innocent what is felt?

Answers (Students)

I feel like it is, like really, really scary. Like I remember I got pulled over last week, I was oh, my God I’m so nervous what did I do, did I do anything wrong? And all it was my back brake lights were out. I was so nervous like I didn’t know if I was going to get a cop that was racist or if he was going to be laid back or like when I see stuff like that like African-American males getting shot for doing simple things that really scares me.

They are doing everything wrong. They are beating us down. They are shooting us for no reason and just like what happened in New York and he took action and he killed two white officers in their car just sitting on patrol. It’s going to come to that just like in Baltimore it is going to come to that that we are just going to riot until we get what we need to change. 


Question (Mike Slaughter)

Do you feel rioting changes things?

Answers (Students)


It makes things worse.

I want to do positive things in the world. I don’t want to be negative. You can even ask some of my friends I’m always that kid, always laughing, joking around. What motivates me the most is my parents and the people that say negative things. They always tell me I can’t do things.


Question (Mike Slaughter)

Now one of the things I hear—that I am learning from you today—is all of you say that the success you are experiencing and the future goals you have, positive goals, have something to do with role models in your life.  Would you agree with that?

Answers (Students)


My dad’s not a father figure to me. I got other father figures like coach Snow, or the coaches or my mom or coach Smith it may sound funny but sports like motives me too and my mom; it all comes together. I hate being born to a family that there is no education at all. I hate that.


Question (Mike Slaughter)

How important is this group to you all?

Answers (Students)

Real important.


Question (Mike Slaughter)

In what way does this group help you?

Answers (Students)

If it weren’t for this group, I probably wouldn’t even like helping people at all.


There is no middle. I’m either going to be part of the solution in the world or part of the problem. And then it’s by people looking at you and going that’s what I want to be like. They will look at you and go that’s what I want to be like because you looked at someone and said nah, I don’t want that but I do want that. I do want that.

All these kids will go to college. They are all first generational college students. With the money I make from books, Carolyn and I sponsor four kids with four-year scholarships. The young woman that we gave it to this year has a 4.1 accumulative grade point average with AP courses, and she’s 17th in her class. 

Isn’t this how we should be making a difference? How do we close the education gap? That is key because part of the problem is the diminishing middle class, and education is a way out of poverty.

Now I want to introduce you to two people, two members of our Christian family here at Ginghamsburg Church. First, give a shout out to Zack Williams who is a Dayton police officer. Next is Jonetta Moore. You have seen her as a singer, but singing is her ministry, and was a minor for her undergraduate degree. She has a MBA, and is the only person that I ever met who does what she does. Tell them what you do, Jonetta. I work for the United States Air Force; in short, I buy aircraft for the US and our foreign military allies. She spends your tax dollars and they are really big tax dollars.

Zach, you are only 25 years old and a police officer. Tell those in the room one of the proactive ways you are working as a police officer to bring the community and the police of Dayton together.

Me and another officer, Terry Purdue, started a community forum—a conversation—after the incidents in Ferguson with Mike Brown. I’m 25 years old and I graduated from Wayne High School in 2008. Through social media and my friends, I still have a real good tie to some of the younger people with whom I went to school. I could see that there was a lot of distrust, and I guess you could say “misknowledge” in some of the ways that we actually do our job. So Officer Purdue and I brought the community together. The first conversation was at the Fort where we had a discussion basically over race relations and building relationships with the police officers. Since then, we have had two more at the Point, and a handful of “Coffee with Cops” events throughout the City of Dayton.

Both of you are obviously African-American. You have young kids—how old are your kids? (Zach) Layla is three and Zachery is two. (Jonetta) I have two boys, Cameron who is seven and Caleb who is two. As family, we have to understand life through each others eyes. Jonetta, as a mom with two young sons, is that different for you through your experience of being African-American right now in our culture than it would be for me and my grandchildren?

It’s absolutely different. As a mom, I want to give my sons the best. I have him in private school. I have him in one of the better schools, however even at the age of seven, I ran into a situation. I was kind of taken back—it just put me back into reality. Even though we think things have changed, and I agree we have come a long way, we have so far to go.

(Mike) What was the situation?

He was on the playground at his school playing cops and robbers, and he did his hand like this with the shape of a gun. At the age of seven, he was suspended from school. He had never been in trouble before never back talked, or cursed at school or anything like that. I got a letter in the mail that said I did not understand his intentions; I did not know what his intentions were. I was like, he is seven—his intentions were playing on the playground with his friends. Then on top of that, he wasn’t playing by himself but he was the one suspended. I had to have a very serious conversation with my son and you don’t want to have the colored discussion, white, black, Hispanic, you don’t want to have that discussion.

As a parent of young African-American children, I feel like I am doing myself a disservice if I don’t prepare him to deal with situations like he experienced at the age of seven. I have to tell him, son, even because of the color of your skin, you have to understand that because you are predominately in an environment where you are predominately around white people all day and white children, you can’t do what your next friend may do because it may not be taken the same and he had no understanding of that.

A couple of days ago, we were talking about some of the things that were going on in the media with the police. With all sincerity, he asked me, “Well mom, what is it about the color of my skin that makes people scared?” I just stopped and I paused and I said, “I don’t know.” I mean how do you answer that?  How do you answer that from a seven year old? I just told him, “Son, I have no idea however I think of my skin as beautiful.” You know we just kind of had that conversation. What do you tell your son? You have to prepare him to deal with it because in reality he will probably be faced with that situation.

Now one of the things I am proud of is that in America today and even the United Methodist Church where I work in the United Methodist Church less than 9% of United Methodist are persons of color.??

At Ginghamsburg Church, we are between 33 and 34%; this campus is however predominately white.  But in all of our worship attendance today, the total will be closer to 34%.

You both are a part of us. This is where you are raising your children. Why have you chosen this church?

(Zach) When Emily and I decided to come to Ginghamsburg, we walked in the door and were greeted with hospitality. It was great! The main reason we have stayed is that the kids care ministry is absolutely out of this world. The way that they love our children, show them God and demonstrate acts of God is just amazing. You know some of the things I hear Layla say about what she has learned in church is amazing not to mention that Clark Miller baptized both of my kids here. This is our home; this is where our kids are going to grow up.

(Jonetta) For me at this stage of my life, religion is a wonderful thing but I am more focused on what I feel like God is calling us to do. I feel like God is calling us to reach out, and to help the oppressed and to help those who sometimes may not be able to help themselves. What keeps me here is I believe—truly believe—in the mission of Ginghamsburg. I truly believe in the work that we are doing and the outreach. Above anything else—above any cultural differences that may exist—I feel like we are truly focused on what God calls us to do—to be proactive and to reach out in the community. That’s what keeps me here.

(Slaughter) What really excites me is the kickball game that will take place this Tuesday night. Zach is part of this also. We are having a kickball game close to our Fort McKinley campus with the Dayton Police and community. So on one team, will be police officers and community members and on the other team will be police officers and community members. So it’s a pizza/kickball party. Isn’t that a neat idea? This is what we should be doing in our communities. If you want go, it’s going to be at Salem and Pitsburg Avenue, right on the corner. If you want to participate or help serve in that, that would be a welcome kind of thing. 

Should we be part of the solution and not part of the problem? Am I right? I see some of you right here including my friend Mel. Can I say this, Mel? Mel is a police officer. Can I point you out? Will you stand up for just a minute? She is a police officer who has your back, there are multiply ones around here. Mel you are a detective. Come over here so you can say it on the MIC, because I get it wrong. What do you do as a detective? I am a human trafficking detective. And, she has twins. Again what we need to remember is there are so many followers of Jesus Christ whose ministry is making our communities better. They serve as police officers. We need to pray for all people involved everyday and again be ministers of reconciliation.

Well I really look forward to next week; we are starting a new series. I’ll be here with you. It is a series on the Holy Spirit. God bless you; see you next week.

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