When he came to Nazereth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim
release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
And he rolled up the scroll gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
— Luke 4:16-21
No doubt you have heard by now that today is known by many as Juneteenth. Some of you have always known it thus, and some have never heard before that odd nomenclature. Within the African American community, June 19th marks the anniversary of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, TX in 1865. It was the last locale to hear those historic words and the last public reading for that monumental act. Now, it is likely that some in Texas had already heard of President Lincoln’s freeing of the slaves, communication wasn’t that slow, but the people most effected by the proclamation, the slaves, were not likely to have heard earlier. In many ways, Juneteenth marks the end of the beginning. After all, freedom is the bare minimum Americans deserve.
As heirs to the words of Jesus, we have been given the task to “proclaim release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” and until all know their worth in Christ, our job is not done. That day so long ago when Jesus declared this scripture fulfilled, was only the end of the beginning.
I am reminded of the words of Dr. King, “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” Until the last soul knows she has been set free, until the last person knows that he is worth the very life of Christ, until the last child hears the good news, we are not done. It is only the end of the beginning.
We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome, someday!
Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome someday!
We shall all be free. We shall all be free,
We shall all be free, someday!
Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall all be free someday!
Loving God, bless us that we may be a blessing to our children. Help us remember who we are and from where we have come. Help us remember the things you have done for us in the past so we can teach them to our children. May we give them hope and enthusiasm for the future. May we give them openness to your holy message of forgiveness, grace, and love. May they too want to walk in the paths of righteousness. May your word live in them and for generations to come. Hear this prayer we offer today. Amen.
Pastor Tom Greener