O Little Town of Portsmouth
by Sarah Jinright
December 5, 2012
Scripture reading: I Corinthians 1:26-2:12
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” This statement is made of Bethlehem in Micah 5:2, nearly 700 years before the birth of Christ, and like the Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” it creates a soft, nostalgic picture of Bethlehem in the mind.
The stark truth however, is that during the time of Christ's birth, there was nothing warm and cozy about the city at all. Though Bethlehem was the burial place of Jacob's beloved wife Rachel, and the birthplace of King David; at the time of Christ, it was simply a city without fortification located a short distance from Jerusalem with a population of barely 100 people. (jesus.christ.org). Yet despite it's seeming insignificance, it was chosen to be the birthplace of Christ!
Similarly, Portsmouth boasts a past full of historic significance, but today it struggles along. As Bethlehem was located near an area of large importance, so Portsmouth finds itself near the oldest Naval hospital in the U.S., as well as the largest Naval Shipyard. However, observing Main Street, one sees the actual predicament of the city more clearly. Real estate signs fill the windows of empty businesses. Home sales have dropped steadily since 2007. Unemployment is nearly 10%, and more than 15% of the population live in poverty (city-data.com/city/Portsmouth-Virginia.html). The need of the city is great.
The challenge set before Calvary Baptist Church is to see the need of our community, as Christ saw the need of His community. As He offered the light of Himself, we must also offer His light. Though we may fear a lack of acceptance or ability, we must carry on, knowing that Christ understands our fears, and is able to work greatly, despite our weaknesses, backgrounds, and failures. God knows we are incapable of human perfection, but he sees the humble heart, the loving heart, and the servant's heart. Not only does He long to see this heart in us, but He also longs to give us His eyes, so that we can see this heart in others—regardless of their mortal flaws.
Though Christ was without sin, he faced doubt and disbelief on every side, even by those who eventually became closest to Him. In John 1: 46, when Christ was calling his disciples, note Nathanael's response to the place of Christ's upbringing: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Are we guilty of asking if anything good can come out of Portsmouth? As we minister to the people that God has brought through our doors, do we secretly doubt the good that we can do—more importantly—the good that GOD can do in their lives?
Fortunately, God is in the business of using weak and imperfect people. Consider Abraham, who had a child with Hagar because he doubted God's ability to fulfill His promise through Sarai. Consider Rahab, a prostitute, but also the great, great grandmother of King David. Consider King David, who fell into adultery, but was still called a man after God's own heart.
Truly, God does glorify Himself, by using weak things to confound the mighty! O little town of Portsmouth, how much God loves you, and by His grace, how much He will do here in this community!