Theme: What is Juneteenth About?
On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.
As I was listening to an African American preacher this morning, he made me think about something important. He emphasized how the slaves had been declared free, but didn't know it for over two years. Because they didn't know, they lived as slaves even though they had been declared free. He paralleled it to our spiritual lives. He raised the thought, "How many of us live as slaves to sin, lies, misconceptions, ignorance, feuds, or bitterness when we don't have to?" Sit on a rock and think about that one for awhile. I think most of us have lived days, maybe decades, in ways God never intended.
This preacher's comments also made me think about the role of General Granger. I had never heard of this man before reading about Juneteenth. He didn't have the power to create the good news, but he delivered it and he delivered it by the blood of many people. We don't have the power to create the gospel, but we can deliver it by the blood of Jesus Christ and many people who died for Him. And like General Granger, most of us will never be a big name in history. But we can be a big name in someone's life.
It's crazy, but as Devon read Mark 3 yesterday, the part that blessed me most was the reading of the 12 disciples. Even with these men, most are forgotten, the big three are remembered, James, John, and Peter (with Thomas just missing the podium but an honorable mention remembered for his doubt). These were no name middle eastern Jews who became General Grangers, sharing the good news. And thousands of years out, General Grangers are still needed because while Jesus Christ declared freedom on the Cross, the news has not yet reached many people.
At the end of the day, I hurt with and rejoice with my African American brothers and sisters. I also am thankful for their love and passion for the gospel. I have so many African American friends who have touched my life in a powerful way. This preacher, though I have never nor will likely ever meet him, helped me this morning gain a greater appreciation for Juneteenth and all it represents.
Scripture: Mark 3:13-15
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.
"Father, Jesus called the twelve and they came to him. He was with them and sent them. We are not trying to compare ourselves to the twelve, they were special people in history. We thank you for them and their dedication to Christ. We thank you for their courage and obedience to the call. We understand we stand on their shoulders. When we look back on the history of our nation, we see that joys and tragedies exist. Slavery was an unspeakable tragedy. The day General Granger showed up must have been a day of unspeakable joy. As you teach us, when we follow you, we rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. There is a connection you desire for us to experience, a love beyond words. We pray for an empathy and a love for others. We pray for a courage and obedience to do your will. We have hope because we have you as our God. Help us to be hope for others like General Ganger was many years ago. In the name of Jesus, Amen."