Happy Juneteenth! Today we celebrate with our African American sisters and brothers. I’m Texas born and bred and so have always been aware of Juneteenth. Its ingrained in our culture and psyche that today is a true independence celebration for all. I say for all, because not only is it a celebratory time in the lives of African Americans, but also for all people. Fannie Lou Hamer told us, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” We all are entwined in the grip of our tragic history, and it has affected each of us. 

I was having a conversation with a friend from Africa recently. He was telling me how the families are large in Africa. Lots of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. These large families don’t necessarily distinguish along those lines. Its more about the family blood that runs through their veins. They consider each other as brothers and sisters by blood. The distinction is not drawn with just the nuclear family, but it is extended way beyond those boundaries.

I believe the idea of family extends even further than what my African friend alluded to. He spoke of the family blood as what distinguishes who is brother and sister. You’ll remember in chapter 10 of the Gospel of Luke we hear Jesus tell us the story of the Samaritan and the one who he showed mercy to. This story was in relation to someone trying to draw distinctions about who is to be considered a neighbor. Jesus was expanding the idea beyond boundaries, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities, religious affiliations. Everyone is a neighbor by Jesus’ definition. We are to care for and care about all people.

In Mark 3:31-35, Jesus takes it from neighbor to make it even more familial. “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’ And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”

Not just neighbors, but mother and father, sister and brother, that’s who we are with all those who are children of God. And by definition, all people are God’s people. In reality, we all share the same blood. The blood that runs in my veins comes from the same source as the blood that runs in your veins, it is a life force from God.

Truly, we all are sisters and brothers. What happens to one, happens to all. What affects you, affects me. We are all interconnected.

From the National Museum of African American History and Culture, we read…

“On “Freedom’s Eve,” or the eve of January 1, 1863, the first Watch Night services took place. On that night, enslaved and free African Americans gathered in churches and private homes all across the country awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. At the stroke of midnight, prayers were answered as all enslaved people in Confederate States were declared legally free. Union soldiers, many of whom were black, marched onto plantations and across cities in the south reading small copies of the Emancipation Proclamation spreading the news of freedom in Confederate States. Only through the Thirteenth Amendment did emancipation end slavery throughout the United States.

But not everyone in Confederate territory would immediately be free. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. As a result, in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas, enslaved people would not be free until much later. Freedom finally came on June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as “Juneteenth,” by the newly freed people in Texas.”

Let’s you and me celebrate this independence day with our family; our brothers and sisters. We are still fighting for freedom and equality, even today. There are those who still seek to divide us along the lines of economic, racial, religious, gender, and sexuality in order to have power and privilege over us. Jesus came and showed us a different way to be. Jesus gave us the keys to the kingdom, by showing us this new way. He called us brother and sister, to show us we are part of the family of God. And in the family of God, we draw no distinctions. We all are precious and valued in the sight of God. We can and must do better with each other. We can and must treat our sisters and brothers as our blood relatives, because in fact, they are.

Again, happy Juneteenth to my entire family!

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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