On July 4, 1776, when the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence, the legal institution and sin of the enslavement of native Africans was in full effect as what could be deemed the sure foundation of the economic development and prosperity of America. It was not until June 19, 1865, eighty-nine years later and two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863), that slavery officially ended in the United States. It is literally on the backs of fellow members of the human family that we have evolved into a great nation. Because of this history, we must change.
Admittedly, we have come a long way from being a country whose founders won liberty for themselves and only certain people. Conversely, the brokenness, divisions, and violence about our city, country, and the world make it clear that we must live even more deeply into our human family call. For a whole host of reasons, most people do not see others as their equal, and perhaps not made in the image of God, the Creator of all things holy, good, and perfect. Yet, the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. Because of this reality, we must change.
Today, I celebrate that we live in a nation where we have the essential human right of religious freedom. Let us not take for granted our baptismal vows to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. Because of these vows, we must change.
Our freedom call to discipleship, which comes with a cost, challenges us to consider the words of our brother, Howard Thurman (1899–1981). “You must lay your lives on the altar of social change so that wherever you are there the Kingdom of God is at hand!” (from A Strange Freedom.)
God’s peace and blessings as we try,
– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector