Joy and pain. They come together sometimes. And this is one of those times. As I write this, we are exactly between two important days.
The first is the memory of a painful day. On June 17, 2015 people attending a bible study at their church, Emanuel AME, welcomed a newcomer to their study. The young man was a Christian, a member of an ELCA Lutheran congregation. This gospel vision of hospitality and community was suddenly destroyed when the young man killed nine members of the group because their skin color was different from his. He put his faith in white supremacy and intended to start a race war.
As Christians we are all accountable to the love of Christ. Our church acted on a resolution to set aside an annual day of mourning commemorating the Emanuel Nine. Our bishop’s pastoral letter about this can be found at https://vimeo.com/564315109 It’s a day to remember and lament what happened; to express profound pain and sorrow; to commit to Jesus’s way of resistance to violence and hatred.
Joy counters pain however – and tomorrow June 19th is now an official national holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the joyful news of emancipation that came belatedly to African Americans on June 19, 1865. Though the church generally does not promote civil holidays, Jesus was clear that freedom was the center of his saving work. Remember how he said,
“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.”
So as we celebrate this day, we also honor the Spirit’s work in Christ!
The Rev. Beth Purdum Eden is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. She has served in more than 6 parishes in the Western United States for 30 years.