In a world of craziness, what gives you hope?
The other night Sue and I were watching Finding Your Roots on PBS with Dr. Henry Louis Gates.
The show had done the ancestry of two guests, one who discovered she had a relative who had come to the United States, Massachusetts in particular, on the Mayflower.
But she also had a grandfather who after the Civil War had petitioned to get his four nephews out of what a plantation owner described as an “unpaid apprenticeship” doing the work that the recent freed slaves had done.
She was really proud as a strong black woman of the grandfather who had “made a difference” fighting to get his nephews freed, but a bit concerned by the news of that Mayflower connection.
Her name was Angela Davis, and as part of the more radical part of the Civil Rights movement, actually part of the Black Panthers, she was not connecting well with a heritage that also included that part of Americana that includes the Mayflower.
But that is part of the American story. We all have come to this point by very crazy and amazing journeys, some of us willingly, some by choice, some by no choice of their own.
And that is part of the reason we celebrate a Black Heritage Sunday.
My family came by many roads to this point in my American Heritage, including Irish and Scots immigrants to Canada, who then for jobs move to Detroit and finally to Buffalo NY.
There was pain and suffering. My grandfather Oz Farley died in a tubercular sanitorium when my dad, Jack, was only 11, and his mother Jessie MacDonald, died just a few years later when he was 20, ending his military draft deferment.
Our stories all have hardships. But was has sustained us is hope.
Our black brothers and sisters have walked a very difficult road to get to this day where we can sit all sit together in the same sanctuary and worship the same God, all eat together at our Kafe, use the same restrooms downstairs, be together in a way that 150 years or more ago would not have been possible.
Chattel slavery, the complete owning of black individuals and families is a sin beyond imagining. Slavery always was and always will be, even if scripture at times makes it look as if it was normative.
Owning others, or using others without just compensation, always violates the clear word of God that makes clear we are all children of the most High God and brothers and sisters of Christ.
The early church understood as it gathered men and women, slave and free, Jew and Gentile to worship and work together in the Kingdom of God.
But we forget.
So, we want to both recognize the painful journey of in particular our black brothers and sisters, while celebrating what changes have occurred; while also holding onto hope that the road we are all on toward the Kingdom of God will help us go even further together.
On that same show, Dr. Gates introduced a man to his ancestry that included a white man who had both a white wife and white children and a black wife and ten black children before the Civil War, but who decided after the war during reconstruction to live with his black wife and children, even though that would have been the more difficult and costly choice.
He chose to live in hope that some day we would all Americans and follower live up to the hope of Jesus’ siblings living like one big family!
Because we know our God is a God of hope, a God who the Psalmist reminds us is a God, “who give(s) hope to people everywhere on earth, even those across the sea”.
We do not live in a perfect word.
We acknowledge the truth of our sinfulness every Sunday in our prayer of confession. But following that prayer we also acknowledge our forgiven state and are invited to choose to live as God’s children in this world, setting aside our sin, transgressions, and debts, including the sins of racism, and make this world God’s kingdom visible.
Hope, is what keeps us going!
Hope is what keeps us afloat!
Hope is what motivates us to “make a difference” because in stepping out of our comfort zone and helping others into God’s presence, we grow in faith!
The call is to become more like Christ, who saw every person as a child of God! And who wanted each of us to live life to the fullest as we embodied God’s presence here in this world.
We have not arrived. We have much to do.
But today once again we can make clear that we are in this to do the right thing, individually and together.
Because we are all in this together! And may God’s gift of hope fill our hearts in Jesus Christ our Lord!