My guess is that many who read this have never heard of Juneteenth, or even if you have heard of it, may not know the meaning. In my opinion, this day should be a holiday, remembered and honored by all of us. It is a day that is solemnly remembered by the majority of our African-American friends and neighbors. So what is it?
Slavery was abolished at the end of the Civil War. President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared that slaves in the South were freed, but the full realization of that freedom did not come until Lee surrendered to Grant and the Union Armies enforced the emancipation of slaves. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas. This was two and a half years after Lincoln’s proclamation and three months after the war had ended. Yet, the skirmishes between Union and Confederate troops did not all end, and in some places southerners continued to fight for the right to keep slaves. Areas in Texas were among the last reached in this effort, and the arrival and defeat of the resistance officially set the last slaves free. General Granger submitted General Order #3 stating:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
Juneteenth is the remembrance of June 19, 1865 and the final freedom of all slaves in the United States. For black and brown skinned people in our country this remembrance is as important as July 4 is to many of us. It represents freedom, the end of oppression, and hope.
So I was thinking and praying this week as this date approached. What if we chose to set aside some time on this day to fast and pray. We all know that the situation in our country around the issue of race is broken and so full of deep issues. Furthermore, we quickly draw lines and choose sides rather than seeking Christ and trusting in God’s good sovereignty. So what if we set aside time to cry out to God in desperation and repentance. What if we mourned with those who mourn, and prayed for the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others who are part of this narrative. What if we paused and prayed for our police, thanking God for those who serve faithfully, asking God’s grace and protection for them while also praying that God would work to bring justice to our cities. What if we lifted up pastors and Gospel-centered leaders in our black community and for those who are working in our cities to do justice and share Jesus in these communities? What if we prayed that God would again raise up the church bringing repentance and revival and as a result brought awakening to our nation? What if we actually enacted what we believe, and rather than responding in anger and outrage, we actually paused in this crisis and cried out to our Sovereign and loving Father asking Him to bring change to our own hearts and those of people in our world.
So here is the plan for those who want to join me. I have a couple ideas. First, I plan to fast and pray this Friday specifically for the racial divide and for justice and racial reconciliation in the church and our culture. My plan is to do a morning fast, skipping breakfast to pray. I will also be publishing a second blog post that can be used in a private or family prayer time. Second, I am going to go up to our church office parking lot at 8 AM this Friday, June 19 to pray specifically for these things. If I pray alone, then I will pray. But I am also offering an invitation for anyone who would like to join me in this time of prayer. Furthermore, I want to throw this out as an encouragement to other pastors, especially white pastors to consider holding such a prayer vigil this Friday with your church and or community.
Look for the coming Blog Post with a prayer guide and introduction to a ministry I recently discovered that actually put the idea for this in my head. The ministry is United? We Pray – go check out their website. More on them in the next post.