Monday is Juneteenth.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It stated, "that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free."
Enslaved people were people of color - specifically, Black African Americans.
The world didn't know about the internet, TikTok, Twitter, or fast-moving mass media. Telegraphs were used by the elite, but they were still relatively new. Morse Code was adopted in 1865. Alexander Graham Bell didn't patent the telephone until 1876. And even if they could communicate with enslaved people, they did not have access to education, which meant they couldn't read or write.
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and publicly announced General Order No. 3 to all enslavers and enslaved people.
Freedom was no longer an objective written document. Freedom had become real because someone went to enslaved people, declared their freedom from slavery, and encouraged people who had never experienced freedom to take a risk and, for the first time, live as a free person.
I think of the Apostle Paul, who asked: how will they know about Jesus if they have never heard about him from somebody else? "How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!" (Romans 10:14-15). While General Granger had beautiful feet and brought the message of freedom to Galveston's enslaved people, each of us has been given beautiful feet to bring the message of Jesus' freedom to the world stuck in the slavery of sin.
Jesus has died. Jesus is risen. Jesus will come again. We are free because of what Jesus has done. That freedom is written on every page of scripture. We are free from sin, death, and the devil's power.
Where are the people you know living in the slavery of sin? Where is the work of the law of God crushing people's hearts and spirits with guilt and shame? And like General Granger, how will you go to them and say, "You are loved. You have value. You really are free from your sin."
You may not know what freedom from sin is or what it means… but like the enslaved people who heard the sweet news on June 19, 1865, take a risk and maybe, for the first time, go live like you are eternally loved and completely accepted. Why? Because that's exactly what Jesus gives you through his death on the cross.
Slavery. Freedom. That is the plot line of life. Confession and Absolution. Sin and Grace. Baptism and Communion. Human Pain and Healing.
That sounds a whole lot like Jesus to me. And that’s something worth celebrating.
You can learn more about how to love God, love people, and live like Jesus on Juneteenth at these links.
Our Daily Bread - Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom (video)
Rasool Berry - For Christians, Juneteenth Is a Time of Jubilee
Erin Perkins - Juneteenth and the Gospel
Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Juneteenth
Lutherans for Racial Justice
Karen Savella Stallard - What Is Juneteenth? How Christians Can Engage with Black History
Melody Copenny - How Juneteenth Helps You See God
More resources can be found at oslc.com/justice.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor.