History Black and White

What a fitting text our Black History Committee has chosen for the theme of this Black History Sabbath and month—the words of our Lord Himself: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). One hundred-fifty years ago Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring: “And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons. . . . And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God” (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/emancipation_proclamation/transcript.html). A century later, in a speech now immortalized by history, Martin Luther King, Jr., cried out to the masses gathered at the marbled foot of the Lincoln Memorial: “Free at last, free at last—thank God Almighty we are free at last!” But the sad reality remains that fifty years later we are still not “free at last.” Not as Black Americans, not as white Americans, not as Latino Americans, not as Asian Americans, not as Native Americans, not as Adventist Americans. Shackled by social and cultural norms that still separate us, we gather today in worship. Shackled by ecclesiastical and judicatory norms that still divide the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the United States, we gather today in worship. Shackled by the bondage of our addictions, our dysfunctions, our sins, we gather today in worship. We gather today in worship because our only hope resides in the promise of Christ: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” What other hope can break the chains of our cultural and societal bondage? What other hope can break the chains to the tired arguments of the past that keep the Adventist Church in “separate but equal” division? What other hope can break the chains upon our souls? On this Black History Sabbath that is surely more than about a history black and white, how fitting that the promise of Jesus is the prayer we are called to pray. “O Christ—have mercy on the church—have mercy on this people—and please, dear God, set us free, set us free at last.” Amen.

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