Sister Sybil Mack
The celebrations on July 4, 2021 (Independence Day), focused on the emotional relief from the sweeping devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic that impacted the world. To all who received the vaccine, July 4th was like “Partying like its 1999,” as song by the great songwriter Prince. In salute to the greatness of Prince, as we are definitely experiencing a “Sign 'O' the Times,” as 2021 is a banner year for Black American’s due to the recognition of Juneteenth (June 19th) as a federal holiday. After hundreds of years of trials and tribulations, on June 19, 1865, enslaved Black people of this nation were freed from the unimaginable bondage of slavery. Juneteenth represents the culmination of the multitudes who fought the brave battle, cried desolate tears, shouted against the inhumanity of slavery in utter anguish, and marched proudly and carried the bloodstained banner based on God’s Grace and Hope! “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Were the slaves, incapable of controlling their fate, able at best to lament their difficult existence and just cry out in pain? There is a similarity found in Exodus which tells of slaves who did not offer any resistance, and could not even defend themselves from the cruelty of an Egyptian master although they numbered in the thousands. In both instances, the people cried out to the Lord, and God heard their cries and indeed sent his “Good Graces!” God’s Grace is unmerited favor given to all by the one true and living God. It was given to the Hebrews in their liberation from the Egyptians, and given in the emancipation of Black slaves from southern White plantation owners. It is freely given to believers no matter what the situation. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Grace is the power that God willingly gives to help us do what we could never do on our own. He also sent prophets to guide, lead and give belief to those of any nationality who were in bondage and had lost hope. Leaders like Frederick Douglass touchingly reflected on the paradox of our nation in his July 5, 1852, speech “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July.” An orated masterpiece dripping with God’s Grace of heartbreaking truths of that time and immense courage for all to continue the fight for freedom and equality no matter the cost.
God’s Good Grace can change this nation. We must acknowledge that despite the struggles described in the legacies of slavery and de jure segregation represented in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, and even today amplified by Black Lives Matter, there is power in Grace. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Juneteenth is another step forward to acknowledging the past with reverence and humility. We are commanded, in each generation to tell the story as if we, ourselves, were slaves in Egypt or America. While there is still slavery, while there is still oppression it is all too easy to find first-hand accounts. The goal, however, is not to re-live the slavery. The goal is to work to share the redemption and to march together in our mixed multitudes toward that shared dream of a Promised Land.