It’s our faith that the risen Christ sets us free, proclaimed the prophets’ vision of justice for all God’s people, and promises peace, now and eternally. In the mind of God, freedom, justice, and peace dwell together as in a triptych or an icon, like a holy family.
But in human communities, sin, privilege, and prejudice try to make them strangers. When Gen. Gordon Granger made his historic announcement in Galveston on June 19, 1865, freedom for the enslaved was kept at bay, since slavery persisted in the border states of Deleware and Kentucky. The enslaved had to wait until the ratification of the 13th Amendment. People of African descent weren’t even free to celebrate Juneteenth in public spaces – so they bought their own parks and brought the celebration into church, where it of course belongs.
For those most wounded by the sin of slavery, our nation keeps justice at bay in too many ways to count — and yet we must count them. Christ’s peace is held at bay by a rising tide of political violence and gun violence, especially against people of color.
Studying the Bible, hearing its stories, we sometimes imagine ourselves in Galilee and Jerusalem moments with Christ. In Galveston that day, I imagine, I pray, that by God’s grace, the hearts of the oppressed swelled with hope that better days of freedom, justice, and peace were coming.
For inviting the same hope into this great cathedral this afternoon, I give thanks for our organizers and all our participants, for the music, prayers, and preaching. In the spirit of Juneteenth, for all God’s people, may freedom, justice, and peace rise, ring, and reign.
— My remarks at today’s Juneteenth service at St. John’s Cathedral.