Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is a holiday that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South. Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in most states. In practice, the Emancipation Proclamation only freed persons held in Confederate States who were either behind the Union lines or close enough to take advantage of the Union advance. Therefore, the news and practice of freeing enslaved people moved slowly. The date marks the moment when the news of the end of the Civil War and the complete emancipation of all slaves was announced in Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865, over two months after the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia and Two Years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation and published it on January 1, 1863. We mark this moment as a Church not only as the end of the institution of American slavery, but also in the spirit of reconciliation and new life as we journey together towards togetherness and community.
Litanist: O Lord, we celebrate your strong hand of deliverance. We have seen your grace in the midst of life’s burdens. **Lord God of Hosts, on the anniversary of our freedom from slavery, we know that we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us. (see Phil. 4:13)
Litanist: The Emancipation Proclamation freed African slaves in the United States on New Year’s Day in 1863. But actual freedom for the last slaves did not come until a June day two and a half years later, This Juneteenth milestone reminds us of the triumph of the human spirit. **Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with HarrietTubman.The Constitution once defined African Americans as three- fifths human. But we have labored and died as whole men and women.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Frederick Douglas.The Thirteenth Amendment abolished the heinous institution of slavery, but we still struggle against the chains of racial discrimination.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Vernon Johns. The Fourteenth Amendment made us citizens by legislation because our blood, sweat, and tears helped to build this nation.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Thurgood Marshall. The Fifteenth Amendment said we could not be denied the right to vote because of our color; yet we have faced systematic exclusion from the political process, and we continue to struggle for full inclusion.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Barbara Jordan. The Twenty-fourth Amendment abolished poll taxes, voting tests, and other restrictions upon our right to vote; but these soon were replaced by gerrymandering and political apathy.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Benjamin Quarles. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 translated into law most of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement, protecting all citizens from racial segregation and discrimination. Let us remain ever vigilant in our commitment to proactive citizenship.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Stokely Carmichael. Our hopes soar to heights of joy when we remember the emancipation of Nelson Mandela in 1990, and his ascendancy to President of South Africa after twenty-six long years in prison. Blessed are the righteous.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you are with Desmond Tutu. Let us leave behind those sins that pulled us down in the old year, and answer the high calling of your will for our lives in the new year.
**Lord God of Hosts, on the anniversary of our freedom from slavery, we know that we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us. Let us ALL pray together: (From the Book of Common Prayer) O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A sermon given by C. Andrew Doyle on June 17, 2018 at St. Francis, College Station. You can listen to the sermon here.
If we opened up the Gospel of Mark and began in the beginning and made our way forward, we would see clearly that Jesus is in the mode of confrontation. He has been confronting both the religious and political leaders of His day. He has been doing works of power casting out demons and He has been casting a vision for the kingdom of God. As we reach Chapter 4, our gospel today, one would not be surprised as He launches into His teaching that those in authority are not happy. They are displeased. And Jesus's own message whether, it'd be subtle or in your face is wearing on them.
So to them and those who gather around He says, "People look, but they don't see. They listen, but they don't understand. This is the moment for seeing. This is the moment for understanding." There is an urgency in Jesus's words and in Mark's gospel. There is a literal urgency. Jesus speaks urgently the Words follow, come here, go there, do this, listen, see, hear, and do. Everything is in the present tense and it is urgent. There is an immediacy to the situation in which Jesus and His followers find themselves.
Jesus gives the story first about the sower that we normally recognize, and the seeds, as well as the story about the light, the lamp, and the basket. These are the ones that come right before our gospel today. If you have eyes to see and hear, then you will hear this differently. Jesus did not enter the world to be hidden like a lamp under the bushel basket. He is the light of the world and all are to see Him. The world is like a seed taking root, like the sower it has been planted. Jesus is present. It is growing.
The kingdom is taking root and growing quite frankly without your help. It is as if you went to sleep and you woke up the next day and the kingdom like a great field has grown up all around you and it is ready for harvest. This is a kingdom that will not be controlled by the powers, but when they wake it will be too late. The earth itself is responding to its creator's presence in their midst. The images of growth and harvest time are meant to conjure up in our own eyes and in our own ears this notion that it is a kingdom that is being brought forth because God speaks a word into it, and it is a good word. It is a word of hope and joy, of mercy and forgiveness.
When the creator, and the light, the sower is present, the bridegroom, nothing can stop the kingdom. God is present. And just as the prophets told you, this kingdom will grow like a mustard seed, like a weed by the way, the bane of farmers. I mean, I love mustard. If you're a good German, you love mustard. But let me tell you, the mustard seed is a pain for anybody who finds it in their roses, where it is not to be. The kingdom is like this voracious weed, this bush. It is large enough for the birds of the air to nest in it, and it will not be like one tree in the middle of a valley sucking up everything around it so that it may live. No, it will thrive in the barest of circumstances and spread until your whole field will be filled with mustard which is bitter to the farmer or the powers that bees own taste.
No, the kingdom will be like a massive infestation that will overcome whatever you have tried to control. And many who have not found a home in your society will find a home in this kingdom. I will tell you that in Jesus community there was a sense of immediacy, of urgency. The bridegroom was present. It was time, hope, and light, and love had come near, and people felt it. It was a movement because people were in that moment moved. This is something that continued in the first decades after Jesus's own resurrection. People felt God's presence in the spirit and had an own sense of urgency to share the good news.
Author and Pulitzer Price finalist Arthur Herman in his book "The Cave and the Light" characterizes this moment as a message that had resonated with the deepest needs of the citizens of Rome and their dissolving empire. They had a sense of belonging in the midst of disintegrating institutions. They found a moral purpose as their government had lost their way. It was a message of hope in an age of cynicism and pessimism. This gospel, this word, this light had a sense of abundance to it in a world filled with scarcity.
There was a God in the midst of these words and images and this preaching of-- teaching of Paul and the apostles of a God who is close. Of a God who cared of the things of men. And a God who was not happy at the injustice. These first Christians felt this so much that in their time they translated this urgency into care and into good deeds where hope and love were of substance and made a difference in the world around them. They were people who acted on behalf of those who had been forgotten by the Romans.
Now perhaps you and I, in our time hear these words. But perhaps we hear them in the midst of what The Monkees called a "Pleasant Valley Sunday."
Here in the status symbol land, mothers complain about how hard life is and the kids just don't understand. For creature, comfort, goals, they only numb my soul and they make it hard for me to see. Or maybe you live in a world where your ears are numbed into passivity because of the cynicism and pessimism which is all around us.
Either way, I fear we may have lost our sense of urgency. And that we may feel as though there is not much movement left in this movement. God and Christ Jesus come to us in Mark's gospel today in the midst of our service. Jesus invites us like the farmer in bed to wake up and see that in fact God is on the move. The seeds of this kingdom have been sown and the harvest is plentiful. Like a weed this kingdom will not be stopped and it is even now spreading. The light will not be hidden. And those that have no place to call a home, or lay their head, or dwell among loved ones are the ones who, like birds of the air, will find a home and nest in the arms of the true Jesus followers.
As it was in Jesus's time and Paul's, so it shall be in ours. The time is now. There is urgency for word and deed. We are being judged by our actions and our inactions. So hear, see, go, do, follow the way, follow, and like a weed you will grow.
"Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
"Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
"One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
"When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
"Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
"It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball