Today is Juneteenth, a commemoration that might be new for you. As you probably know by now because of media attention, it marks the final emancipation of those enslaved in Texas—two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It took the power of the Union Army to enforce it but that day ended the enslavement of Black women and men, young and old in the United States. This day has long been remembered in the African-American community, and this year, because of the tension our nation is experiencing over the brutality and deaths of Black men and women during contacts with police, many White people are joining in the observance of this day in solidarity with the Black community in our nation.
On the one hand, it’s encouraging that the White culture in our nation is becoming more aware of the disparity that still exists in our country for Blacks and People of Color. Their stories and struggles are being heard by a wider range of Americans; many are beginning to learn the history of the Black experience in America from the point of view of those who live with it on a daily basis. It is sobering and it offends sensibility—it should. While it is painful to hear, the story needs telling and it is encouraging that White people are listening.
On the other hand, it shows how far we have yet to go as a nation to heal the wound of racist ideas that are embedded in public policy and indeed our very hearts. Because they have been encultured, those not impacted—the dominant White population of the United States—largely don’t even notice their existence. Worse yet, some in that demographic deny that racism exists among us. But note, if you will, that no-one from the Black community makes that claim. This should compel our attention.
The true mark of a nation’s greatness is seen by how it cares for the vulnerable. Every nation has its class of power and wealth. This alone doesn’t qualify it as great, for wealth and power can be had through exploitation and dominance. A nation that puts it power and wealth in service to the weak, voiceless, and vulnerable delivering opportunity, equality, mercy, and justice for the sake of human flourishing that all may enjoy is indeed great. This kind of a nation will also reflect the heart of God, for even a cursory glance through the pages of scripture will reveal God’s heart for the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable.
Our session is reflecting on the events our nation is witnessing and considering how best to lead our congregation’s thought and action in response. Please join them in listening for the voice of Jesus amid the clamor of the day. Though we won’t have all the answers at hand, we remain confident that God does, and we are determined to listen closely and well for the sake of displaying God’s heart of love, mercy, and justice in the current cultural climate. At the very least, this requires all of us to present ourselves to God’s Spirit asking that any trace of racist ideation in our personal lives be revealed for the sake of repentance and preparation for what lies ahead. As we do this, we’ll be at our very best to join in God’s work of healing and unity in diversity.
This Sunday I’ll be speaking from Mark 12:28-34. It’s a familiar text, but I want to draw our attention to one line that is often over-looked, or assumed. See if you can sort that out as we prepare to unpack it this week. Sunday is Father’s Day, so we’ll show a clip we’ve made from your submissions—Dads with their car or their kids. We give thanks for the Fathers and Father figures in our lives who have loved us. Hamburgers for breakfast! You’re welcome Dads!