This is the last Friday in February which means we are coming to the close of Black History Month. Therefore I want to share a Black History moment that connects with our Lenten series. This Sunday's question of Jesus asks why we call him Lord but don't do what he says. It pries into the gaps we have between our stated ideals and our day-to-day realities. This disconnect was recognized and stated so well many years ago by Frederick Douglass.
Douglass was born enslaved in Maryland but escaped to freedom around the age of 20. Though there was not a record of his birth to know exactly which year or day he was born, he chose February 14 for his birthday because his mother called him her "little Valentine." He thought of joining a white Methodist Church, but couldn't abide with the segregation, so he joined an the all-black African Methodist Episcopal denomination. He became a preacher teaching himself to read and write. Though he never received a college education he went on to hold public offices, become a nationally known social reformer, publish numerous books, and even served as an advisor to presidents of the US.
In 1852 when he was in his early-mid thirties, he spoke in Rochester, NY on "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro." In this speech he spoke words that are hauntingly telling of what would be slavery's impact on our nation, and words that are also reflective of Jesus' warning of living with inconsistencies:
"Fellow-citizens, I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad: it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union.
It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement; the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet you cling to it as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation's bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!"
I am proud to serve a church that believes Black History is all our history and we share it together. May we continue to listen, learn and live the words we say about our national belief in being people equally created and about our Christian belief that all people are one in Christ.