As we look for answers to the moral and spiritual unrest in our world, West Angeles takes a look back to July of 2015 when Ambassador Charles R. Stith delivered a powerful message of comfort, about the strength and solace which can be found beneath the wings of angels.
A few weeks ago, Ambassador Charles R. Stith, a long-time friend of Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., worshiped with the congregation of West Angeles Church of God In Christ, alongside his wife, Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith. I was reminded of a powerful, insightful, yet comforting sermon Ambassador Stith delivered last year. The sermon addressed America’s burgeoning spiritual unrest; punctuated by troubling events in Ferguson, MO; the tragic shootings at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
His message, simply called, “Angels,” was inspired by Hebrews 13:2 –
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some have unwittingly entertained angels.
“Implied in this text, said Ambassador Stith, “is a profound word of caution: be careful how you treat folks…Be careful who you ignore…That person you ignore just might be the one bearing your blessing.”
“St. Thomas Aquinas said that ‘an angel can illuminate thought in the mind of a person by strengthening the power of their vision.’”
“Moses Maimonides said that ‘everyone entrusted with a mission is an angel.’”
“We make all sorts of assumptions about people. We harbor all sorts of stereotypes about people. And what the evidence reveals is that more often than not, these assumptions, these stereotypes, are not true.”
“Race is not an arbiter of content or character.”
“You need to be careful about the assumptions you make about people…You never know. Anybody can be an angel” – Ambassador Charles R. Stith
“Martin Luther King Jr…His moral vision defined the last half of the last century, and continues to provide a moral compass for this century.”
“You need to be careful about the assumptions you make about people. You need to careful about the stereotypes you harbor about people.”
“The stranger might not simply be a chance encounter, but it could be someone special. That person could be an angel.”
“You never know. Anybody can be an angel. They don’t come with wings or dressed in long white robes. They’re not perfect vessels unscarred or embattled by life. They’re not necessarily saintly or models for how you ought to live your life.”
“I believe that, just as God moves in and out of history, He moves in and out of the vessels He uses.”
“These angels that He sends work in mysterious ways and come at mysterious times; speaking word of truth or demonstrating random acts of kindness that cut to the heart and soul of the human condition.”
“Anybody or everybody can be more than they seem…Someone you’ll meet when you leave here this morning, or somebody you met on the way, could be an angel.”
“Sometimes the worst wrong we can do can do is not a sin of commission but a sin of omission.”
“We need a change in the entire country’s culture.” – Ambassador Charles R. Stith
“Sometimes the worst thing you can do to a person is to neglect them…to treat folk as if they’re invisible, as if who they are and what they represent doesn’t matter.”
“Neglect and indifference often does more damage than outright dislike.”
“Despite what Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nixon’s head of HUD, said in the 1960s, there is no such thing as ‘benign neglect.’”
“Neglect, beloved, is a cardinal sin. So powerful is its impact that Jesus made it one of the conditions to inherit the Kingdom. Hear Jesus: ‘When I was a stranger, did you take me in? And remember, whatever you did to the least of them, you also did it to me.’”
“Neglect…this is the source of the cry that Black Lives Matter.”
“The devil kills the conscience of those he possesses.”
“What we miss, or choose to ignore, is that there are politics and policies that kill whole communities. It is such policies and politics that neglect the needs, the hopes, the dreams of communities like those around…communities like this one, and they provide an environment for hate…to grow.”
“You need to take some time to discover the angel within you.” – Ambassador Charles R. Stith
“What I’m trying to tell you this morning, church, is that we don’t just need a change in police culture, we need a change in the entire country’s culture.”
“If God can use the person sitting in front of you, behind you, or your neighbor down the street, or the stranger you pass or have yet to meet, He might just want to use you.”
“To be all that you can be is about the extent to which God is in your life.”
“The bible says that we were created a little lower than the angels and it seems like some of us have been working to get lower ever since.”
“You’ve got to know Jesus. If you know Him… you can be the good you want to be.”
“What is your mission? Will you master your mission or miss it?”
“You need to take some time to discover the angel within you.”
SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES – Hebrews 13, Matthew 25:31-46, Romans 1:16.
Ambassador Charles R. Stith serves as Chairman of The Pula Group International, and is founder of the African Presidential Archives and Research Center of Boston University. He was appointed as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to the United Republic of Tanzania by President Bill Clinton in 1998.
Ambassador Stith received a Master of Divinity degree from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA, and a Master of Theology degree from Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. By the age of 30, he was Senior Minister at Union United Methodist Church in Boston, the youngest minister ever appointed to the position at the church. Ambassador Stith is also founder of ONE, the Organization for the New Equality, a non-profit organization devoted to generating economic opportunity for women and people of color.
 McIntosh, J; “Angels : A Joyous Celebration” (1999). Running Press, PA. Pg. 121.
 Maimonides, Moses; “The Guide for the Perplexed” (1919) George Routledge & Sons, Ltd. London. Pg. 160. (Google Books; Accessed 7/23)
For more about Emmanuel AME and the stellar accomplishments of its pastor, the late Senator Clementa Pinckney, please click HERE to read “President Obama Defines The Meaning of Black Church.”