Sunday, June 18, 2017

Now Is the Day of Salvation

Brothers and sisters: As your fellow workers, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: In an acceptable time, I heard you and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  1 Corinthians 6:1-3

” But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow."  Matthew 5:39-42

Some had lost their way in a barren desert;
found no path toward a city to live in.
They were hungry and thirsty;
their life was ebbing away.
In their distress, they cried to the LORD,
who rescued them in their peril,
Guided them by a direct path
so, they reached a city to live in. Psalm 107:4-7

Now. Is. The. Day. Of. Salvation.

June Nineteenth. When I lived in Houston in 1984, I learned about a holiday
Floyd Cooper reads from his book "Juneteenth
for Mazie." (From Urban Faith website)
which this white boy who grew up in New Jersey never encountered.

Today is the day of salvation in more ways than one.  Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is a holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, and more generally the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South. Celebrated on June 19, the word is a portmanteau of "June" and "nineteenth." Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in forty-five states.  New Jersey was not one of them when I lived there.  It is now. 

According to an internet posting by Jacqueline Holness on Urban Faith, while the official date of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves was enacted on Jan. 1, 1863, it would take two years for slaves in Galveston, Texas to learn about their freedom.  That happened when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in the city and told them they were free. June 19 began to be celebrated across the country as Juneteenth and in 1980, the Texan legislature established Juneteenth as a state holiday. Still, the celebration of Juneteenth, which has been inconsistent throughout the course of history, has yet to achieve the recognition and popularity of other official American holidays.[i] [ii]

How appropriate that our passage from Matthew is tied to peaceful civil disobedience and peaceful resistance that Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. King made famous in the last century. Now is the day of salvation.

In this era of more than instantaneous communication by TV, radio, the internet, text, and social media, it is hard to fathom news taking two years to spread.

Ms. Holness reports that the Rev. Ronald V. Meyers Sr. is chairman of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.  He has been working since 1994 when he helped organize the foundation that is working to have Juneteenth recognized as a national American holiday. “Forty-five states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or a special day of recognition or observance. We’re still missing North Dakota, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Montana, and Hawaii,” says Meyers.

Despite this progress, our prayers remain with the nine members of the Mother Emanuel community -- nine members of our American family -- whose God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were so cruelly snatched away two years ago.  Our hearts continue to go out to their families, their friends, and the entire city of Charleston. 

As President Obama noted in a statement in 2015: 

“We don't have to look far to see that racism and bigotry, hate and intolerance, are still all too alive in our world.  Just as the slaves of Galveston knew that emancipation is only the first step toward true freedom, just as those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago knew their march was far from finished, our work remains undone.  For as long as people still hate each other for nothing more than the color of their skin - and so long as it remains far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun - we cannot honestly say that our country is living up to its highest ideals.  But Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are.  Instead, it's a celebration of progress.  It's an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, things do get better.  America can change. “

So, no matter our color or our creed, no matter where we come from or who we love, today is a day to find joy in the face of sorrow, to count our blessings and hold the ones we love a little closer.  And tomorrow is a day to keep marching. “

Please pray Psalm 107 for the intentions of:
  • Freedom for those still trapped in any kind of slavery.
  • Protection and intervention for those at-risk of becoming victims.
  • Salvation, repentance, and redemption for those who are oppressing and enslaving people who have been displaced by war, violence, and poverty.
  • Truth to be revealed and justice to happen for the refugees.
  • Those trapped in slavery to know the hope and love of Jesus.
  • Strength for those sharing the gospel in the refugee camps and in hostile countries where they could lose their lives.
Cry to the Lord to rescue them from their peril.

[ii] Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and the District of Columbia also observe other dates for Emancipation Day based upon local events in the 1860s and how the news spread.  

1 comment:

Claudia said...

As a Canadian, I had some difficulty relating to some of the material today. I do have an interest in history, so the story about the Juneteenth was interesting and also new to me. I had to look up the reference to "the nine members of the Mother Emanuel community".

Since I do not watch television, and I read National newspapers only once in a while, I am not always informed of the "violent details" of events that are perpetrated in the world. And that is okay. I prefer to keep the number of newsworthy bytes that enter into my psyche on a daily basis to a minimum, I find I am more at peace. Enough "stuff" still filters through via the Internet, so I am not completely in the dark.

I pray for the heart of the world every day, for light, peace, and God to enter in, and I think this will do more good.