It’s Friday and Sunday’s Comin’!
I was fortunate to be able to attend a Juneteenth celebration this year because the University of Indianapolis had been planning a Juneteenth event for many months (long before Congress voted overwhelmingly to make it a federal holiday). There were speeches and picnic food, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament as well as music and dancing. It was cool to celebrate the first of many Juneteenth celebrations that will go forward to shape the university’s traditions just as past events have been apart of its heritage.
As you know Juneteenth has been celebrated by African Americans for many years. Texas slave holders had refused to acknowledge the end of the Civil War or to honor the Emancipation Proclamation. Finally, more than two years after Lincoln issued the proclamation, Union troops arrived at Galveston Island on June 19,1865 to make the announcement and former slaves found out that they were free. It is said that black people who heard the news erupted in a celebration of “indescribable joy.”
The fact that white people have been unwilling to celebrate the freedom of black people and the end of slavery is a sad reality regardless of the federal government’s action. Many people died to bring about the end of slavery and many more people died and suffered while they were enslaved. One would think that we would all have received the news with indescribable joy and that the success of overturning slavery would be an important part of our national identity. Instead that success gave way to practices of discrimination and racism from farming practices to housing to wage inequities to “separate but equal” and more.
Overcoming racism is about more than grand gestures; it requires daily effort from each of us. It requires a spirit of generosity and an openness to change. It requires finding our identity first of all in Christ and looking for our identity in following Jesus. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians when he was urging them to support a relief fund for people in Jerusalem, he sited the example of the Macedonians, “While they were being tested by many problems, their extra amount of happiness and their extreme poverty resulted in a surplus of rich generosity. I assure you that they gave what they could afford and even more than they could afford” (2 Cor. 8:2-3).
Whether we are giving money or words of celebration or a new way of doing things, I hope we can think deeply about giving what we can afford and even more than we can afford for the sake of the kingdom.
Grace and peace,