After my Army reservist dad visited a Maine church one summer Sunday during a two-week reserve hitch, he was followed to the parking lot by several church trustees who warned him never to return. Yes, to a church. Their worry? My dad was a Black man. Never mind that he was a decorated World War II hero who had been awarded three Bronze Stars, a Victory Medal, and an American Theatre Campaign Ribbon for his valor and service as an infantry unit commander during battles in the North Solomons, Netherlands East Indies, and Bismarck Archipelago. In America’s segregated Army, my dad had distinguished himself and still was serving in the US Army Reserves.
At the Maine church, however, the white men there declared their own decree: You’re not enough. Not white enough; thus, not right enough. So leave. And don’t come back.
The apostle Paul faced similar tensions during the time of his letter to the churches in southern Galatia. Topping the list of controversies was the relationship of new believers, especially Gentiles, to Jewish believers and the laws that some still passionately practiced.
Calling instead for post-law unity, Paul wrote, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (NIV). Then came the real challenge: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Driving the point home further, Paul added, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
During America’s Jim Crow era, some churches chose bigotry instead of inclusivity. Sadly, some still do. May all finally learn that, in Christ, we’re humbly all his, all in Christ, all together. Forever.
Jesus, we are one in you, and, by your Spirit, we agree to act like it. Amen.
The fact that we trust in God does not guarantee that life will be easy. Believers suffer discouragement as well. Elijah is a powerful prophet of God who faces profound discouragement. He looks around and sees faithlessness and desolation, as does the psalmist wrestling with his own sense of despair. In both cases the person’s spirit is revived—by divine visitation to Elijah and by the psalmist’s self-talk about the truth of God’s faithfulness. The New Testament readings take us in a different direction. Paul speaks of the freedom we have when we are in Christ, heirs to all of God’s promises. The Gospel writer tells of another kind of freedom, the freedom experienced by a man delivered from demon possession.
Read 1 Kings 19:1-15a. Recall a time you ran to a silent place. How did God send you back into the world?
Read Psalm 42. The author asks us to imagine the words of this psalm coming from the mouth of Elijah and the Gerasene man. Consider how these words might be yours as well.
Read Galatians 3:23-29. How does your faith in Christ help you to realize that there is freedom in unity rather than to flee in fear?
Read Luke 8:26-39. What true story do you have to tell to the world of what Jesus has done for you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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