Jesus would have attended the Juneteenth – Washington Daily News

Due to previous plans, I was unable to make it to any of the June festivities last weekend. Apparently, the festivities were great moments on that holy day when slaves in Texas finally learned about their two-year freedom. Can you imagine the emotions when you learned that your freedom has been exercised in years past? Relief, of course. Joy, I imagine. However, I can’t help but believe that the relief and joy would have been colored by the deep disappointment that freedom came two years late.

I’ve also seen tirades and tweets all over the internet that regret the fact that June 1, 2010 is a federal holiday. One U.S. senator wrote, “There’s only one Independence Day, and it’s not in June.” Perhaps this senator is one of many ineffective politicians that no one listens to. Rather, his tweet hit right in the ears of those who had already been prepared to confront the Juneteenth and the celebrations of black American culture that accompanied them.

I wonder who this tweet was for. Black Americans who suddenly find Junta’s dismissal right and good? Of course not. It was for white Americans who just can’t let go of the power and control that white American culture has enjoyed for so long. Well, once we are honest with each other, then let’s admit that White is still in power. But death bells are ringing on an ideology that is gaining strength only by stepping harder on the necks of those in power.

For white Americans, the Juneteenth is a reminder that the stories of European Americans and African Americans are parallel stories. America is not and never has been. There is no white equivalent to the Juneteenth because white people were never considered property like those who suffered in slavery. This is also not an ancient story. We are dealing with things that are less than 200 years old. In the great history of human existence 200 years seems to be yesterday. Thus, the Juneteenth is a continuous process of emancipation that has not yet been fully realized.

In the Gospel of Luke, the first sermon of Jesus was proclaimed the Year of the Lord’s Grace. He came home to Nazareth, and delivered a sermon from which he nearly killed. He spoke of the release of prisoners, the healing of the blind and the release of the oppressed. He evoked the words of the prophet Isaiah and in a startling manner declared that the words spoken by Isaiah were fulfilled in his own life. Thus, in the first sermon, Jesus understood his ministry as a ministry that is fought against the authorities and principalities of the world that will keep the oppressed in chains and the pockets of the rich clogged with coins.

In my early days as a practicing Christian, I was part of a tradition that focused exclusively on the death and resurrection of Jesus. Of course, we have never focused on those aspects of Jesus ’ministry that have caused so much social upheaval. Know how to eat with people who have been kicked out by society and hang out with the disfigured and sick. Jesus refused to allow oppressive public order to rule over him and his ministry. His life was a complete confrontation with these forces, and he was eventually killed for how religion and empire could not restrain him.

I think of Jesus when I think of the Juneteenth. I think Jesus would be at every celebration this weekend. Wherever there is freedom and liberation, there is Jesus. Whenever people oppose discrimination and injustice, there is Jesus. When people oppose the political movement of dehumanization, there is Jesus. With a hammer in one hand and a flag of resistance in the other, Jesus is still walking this world, looking for chains that can be broken, and blind eyes to open.

Chris Adams is pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.

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