This past Sunday was Juneteenth, as Grant prayed about so movingly during his prayers of the people. Juneteenth remembers the day in 1865 when the last slaves in Galveston, Texas, finally heard the good news of their emancipation — a full 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation had declared them free and equal under the law.
I grew up in Texas, where Juneteenth was a state holiday. I saw my Black neighbors celebrating with street festivals and block parties, and a strong sense of joy permeated the day. I remember watching the director of my middle school gospel choir (who was also the school janitor) pour his heart and soul into leading the choir in Lift Every Voice and Sing at a school assembly. I still remember the look on his face, which seemed to 11-year old me to be caught between joy and pain. I didn't understand then the longing that permeates this holiday, right alongside the joy, as it celebrates both the reality of freedom and the ongoing hope for that freedom to be fully realized in a more just and equitable society.
Juneteenth is a now-and-not-yet holiday if ever there was one. That 2.5-year gap between proclamation and emancipation was a tragedy and a scandal. So was the nearly 250 years of slavery that preceded it. And so are the continuing effects of racism and slavery on our society today, too often still visible in our churches, schools, housing, prisons, and more.
On Sunday I preached on Galatians 3:23-29 (I re-recorded the sermon since the Zoom audio wasn't great — so sorry Zoomies, working on it! — you can hear my sleepy Monday morning voice spliced with Katie's beautiful response song here). This passage just absolutely knocks me over with the power of the gospel every single time: "no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."
But when we read Galatians 3 and then look around at the church, we see the same kind of scandalous gap between proclamation and emancipation. The liberating gospel proclaimed at Jesus' resurrection — a gospel that topples the old divisions and offers God's grace freely to all — is not yet fully realized in our lives and churches. This scandal would have broken Paul's heart; it breaks mine too, and I know it breaks many of yours.
And so Juneteenth also gives us a picture of living in the now-and-not-yet. We can celebrate the freedom and unity declared in Christ's resurrection with an exuberant, strong, defiant joy that announces to the powers of evil and death that their time is limited. And with our next breath, we can cry out "how long?", lamenting how little we've experienced that freedom and unity in our lives, churches, and world. We can live in the reality of this powerful gospel and make that reality more and more visible for those around us, pointing toward the ultimate emancipation of humanity that God has promised. Amen, come Lord Jesus!
Wild Wonder is in full swing, and MY GOODNESS, what a foretaste of the peaceable kingdom it's been! Read Josie's blog and sign up to lead one Sunday at 9:30am! This invitation to lead is open to all, not just those with kids; email Josie (email@example.com) if you've got a great idea!
I've been enjoying this wonderful Juneteenth playlist and slideshow; the photos alone are incredible (thanks to our beloved pastor emeritus Liz for sending it to me!)
Last call to update your blockout dates in PCO! The new summer schedule will drop soon. PCO instructions are available on our Volunteer page.
I could really use some extra hands to help setup and run sound on Sundays at 9am. It's a fun skill to learn and I will train you! Email me if you're interested!
What a joy it is to be your pastor! Email, text, call, WhatsApp me — I love hearing from you and am always up for a walk, coffee, meal, or chat.