Focus – A Mighty Ramrod

By Major Anne Pickup – 

Baseball is not a passion of mine, but it captures my attention from time to time. First, it was Cal Ripkin and his 2,131 consecutive games. Now, it’s Jackie Robinson and the 50th anniversary of the first black American to play major league baseball. This great American pastime keeps teaching me spiritual lessons! First a lesson in faithfulness, now a lesson in courage and principle.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson appeared on the starting line-up of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a triumph over barriers of prejudice and segregation. It was not an act of kindness or rebellion by the Dodgers, it was the recognition of a person’s ability to steal bases, hit balls and play hard. Jackie was good. Jackie was gifted. Jackie should play! Color of skin should not be a hindrance.

I just returned from touring the United Kingdom with the Concord Corps band. One of the 15 stops was Clacton on Sea, England. In this seaside town I visited the room where The Salvation Army co-founder, Catherine Booth, died. Standing silent, being embraced by the spirit of my heroine, I was reminded of the barriers of prejudice and segregation she climbed over through her natural abilities and spiritual giftings. Women preachers! Women participating fully in ministry and leadership in the Church! Gender should not be a hindrance.

Pentecost Sunday, 1860 at Bethesda Chapel in Gateshead, England, Catherine stepped forward at the conclusion of the service and stated, “I have something to say.” At her starting line-up appearance she said, “I have come to know that I have been living in disobedience…I have come to tell you this, and promise the Lord that I will be obedient to the heavenly vision.” A vision that included herself and all women in ministry through the Holy Spirit’s enabling.

That stunning moment led to an organizational mandate granting women freedom to serve in all areas of ministry within The Salvation Army. Barriers of Church leadership and ministry were challenged by Biblical truths and personal giftedness. Placing women in ministry was not an act of kindness or rebellion, it was the recognition of the Holy Spirit’s revelation and empowerment available to all people. When the Holy Spirit dramatically appeared in Jerusalem following the resurrection of Christ, he came with a dynamism which blasted through cultural and religious barriers, setting people free to be and do whatever!

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people–sons and daughters, young and old–even on all my servants, both men and women.” Acts 2:17-18

These Spirit-filled women and men courageously challenged the barriers of race, religion, caste and gender of their world. Inclusion was the spiritual principle.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

People tend to package life in nice, neat boxes which grow into walled fortresses of prejudice and stereotypes. The Holy Spirit comes as a mighty ram-rod breaking through barriers, setting people free to be and do, worship and serve. Only God can put limits on his creation, but he doesn’t choose to! All are one and all are free through his Son, Jesus. Catherine and Jackie challenged barriers impacting their world in significant ways. Facing a new millennium, what does the Spirit say to us this Pentecost season?

Fire that takes a stand for Jesus,
Seeks and saves the lost,
Fire that follows where he pleases,
Fearless of the cost.
Fire that turns men into heroes,
Makes of weakness, might;
Fire that makes us more than conquerors,
Strengthens us to fight.

John Lawley

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