Let It Shine! (A Juneteenth Meditation)

A.J. Tindall-Schlicht, Elder

Happy Father’s Day!

Today is also the day that we celebrate Juneteenth. Junteenth is the holiday that commemorates when America turned back its own original sin: the abduction of African people into slavery. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. However, slavery continued in the states of Louisiana and Texas for more than two years, because the word had yet to travel there. Texas and Louisiana finally got the good news on June 19, 1865, and newly freed people broke out in spontaneous celebration. It was the end of legalized slavery in the United States of America. So this is a day of celebration, and great joy.

This repudiation did not solve all of our problems. We still feel the same issues of violence, division, and racism, reverberating down the halls of history to affect us today. Some might say, especially today.

But today is a celebration. And that’s hard. It’s hard to celebrate in the face of mass shootings, and racism, and formula shortages, and war and atrocities in other countries, and unexpected hospital bills, and partisan politics, and armed rioters planning to attack Pride events. This country—this world—seems more divided than ever before. Slavery is the ultimate division—creating a boundary between those who are people and deserve rights, and those who are not.

We may look around us and feel like Elijah, at the end of our ropes, out of options, hiding in a cave, waiting to be fed. Waiting for what will nourish us, what will heal us.

As Elijah is there on that mountain, he sees a hurricane, and an earthquake, and a wildfire—horribly destructive events. And then the question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

What are we doing here? Are we too, hiding in the cave, waiting to be fed? Waiting for what God will provide us?

Because God provides us with so much. I contend that the food that Elijah was provided is the fellowship here in this room, and on this Zoom. Where people from many different walks of life, races, cultures, and geographical locations come together.

Because God was not in the hurricane, or in the earthquake, or in the wildfire—just as God is not in gun violence, or in racism, or in partisan politics. God is not in our division.

I want to share with you another reading from this week’s lectionary—from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. This is Galatians 3:23-29: “Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is 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. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”

Did you hear that? God has spoken. Jesus has come, and there is no longer division. There is no longer Jew or Greek. There is no longer slave or free. There is no longer male or female. And I imagine if Paul were writing this today, his list might be longer: The is no longer Republican or Democrat. There is no longer gay or straight. There is no longer citizen or illegal immigrant. There is no longer trans or cis. There is no longer division. We are, all of us, heirs to God’s promise. It is our mission to end this division in our world.

So friends, let’s celebrate today! Celebrate the freedom that was fought for—the freedom of our friends, family members, and siblings in Christ. Let’s celebrate all the beauty that Black Americans have wrought in this world.

As we sang earlier today, “Jesus gave it to me, I’m gonna let it shine!” Otherwise the journey will be too much for us. So let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!