Surprised by Scripture
I didn’t expect to be surprised by Psalm 100 but the familiar words leaped off the page, grabbed by soul, and have not let me go.
Know that the Lord is God—
he made us; we belong to him.
The Hebrew verb “know” is more than mere intellectual agreement. It’s a deeper comprehending that is both personal and intimate, sometimes referring to the way partners know each other in sexual intercourse. It’s knowing that changes behavior.
“Know that the Lord is God” means knowing that I am not. How had I missed that? “God has made us.” The 17th Century King James Version added, “and not we ourselves.” There is no such thing as a “self-made man.” God made us and we belong to God, but only the Lord is God and we are not.
We obviously have a hard time living as if we actually know that. Biblically, sin is when we start acting as if we are God. It’s the temptation to act as if my life, my nation, my race, and my culture are the most important things in the universe. The first step to faithful living is to know — really know!– that the Lord is God and we are not!
Made of One Blood
Meditating on that, my mind leaped to Paul’s words in Athens (Acts 17:16-31).
God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth… He is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else. From one person God created every human nation to live on the whole earth.
The King James version said that God “made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.”
If we know that the Lord is God, and if we know that we belong to God, and if we know that God made all — the Hebrew word means “all” — people “of one blood,” then every form of racism and every movement, organization, ideology or nation that sets one group of people above another is an affront to God. Racism is not only a moral and cultural disaster, it’s also sin. It’s the fundamental denial of who God is and who we are.
America’s Original Sin
The myth of “white supremacy” is the sin that has infected the bloodstream of our culture from the beginnings of our nation.
- It’s the demonic myth that landed on our shores 400 years ago with the first shipload of slaves and forced compromises among our Founders over slavery.
- It’s the deadly myth that led to a ghastly Civil War and should have been laid to rest at Appomattox.
- It’s the persistent myth that metastasized into the “Lost Cause”, Jim Crow,
the documented lynching of over 4,000 African Americans, and made its deadly way most recently to a neighborhood road in Georgia, a busy street corner in Minneapolis and a drive-through lane in Atlanta.
- It’s the Nazi myth of Aryan Superiority that we thought had been defeated with the Third Reich.
- It’s the vicious myth that has recently remerged from the dark underbelly of our culture with burning torches and Confederate and swastika decorated flags.
- And, it’s the subtle myth of “white privilege” of which I, as a white male, have been a beneficiary.
However subtly it reappears, it is a sinful denial of who God is and of who we all are.
Where Will You Be on Juneteenth?
June 19, 1865, was the day Texas became the last state to receive the word that the war was over and the slaves were free. It’s long been celebrated in African American communities as Juneteenth. It comes on the heels of the anniversary of the “Tulsa Massacre” which destroyed Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street” on May 31-June 1, 1921. It’s a story that I was never told.
So, where will I be on Juneteenth?
As a privileged, white male who knows that the Lord is God and I am not, and knows that God has made “of one blood” all people, the only appropriate place for me on Juneteenth is on my knees, confessing my ignorant complicity in the sin of white superiority. My only appropriate response is to receive God’s grace and to repent, which means turning in a new direction. It means listening to and learning from my Black sisters and brothers, so that together we can rise up to follow the Son of God who shed his blood to prove that God has “made of one blood all people to dwell on earth.”
Then, we can shout together the final words of Psalm 100:
The Lord is good,
his loyal love lasts forever;
his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.
Grace and peace,
“How is it with your heart?” “A Disciple’s Heart” will help you apply John Wesley’s understanding of “Christian perfection” to your life and our world today.
8 thoughts on “Juneteenth, White Superiority, and God”
Nice article, and thanks!Russell
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Jim, this has to be the most powerful sermon, message, words, I have heard from you or anyone. I have tears in my eyes and a deep pain in my heart. I want to share this with as many as possible. We are way behind time acting on this, but we have been given another chance to rebuild the character of our nation, communities and church. I may be old, but I am not through!. Peace, brother.
Thanks, Larry! I’m grateful for your encouragement and witness. We’re too young to quit!
Beautiful insights and shared extremely well. >
Pastor Jim, as a woman of color, it saddens me that we are all being asked to question who we are and what we do. I have served in the UMC in both paid and unpaid positions, working with and alongside clergy like you and others and wonderful and remarkable laity. With you Pastor, my joy still is that you saw ME, just ME!
It never occured to me to wonder if you ever noticed the color of my skin. So thank you for doing it right each and every time. I will join you in prayer on June 19th for both sides will be able to make room at the table for each other, and just see us. The Lord our God is good.
Thank you, Lynn! These words mean more to my than I can say. So grateful for the time we served together.
Jim Good job as always. As the parent of “children of color” I have been educated about reality. Hope you and Martha and family are well. Still quarantined here and the only out of house has been dealing with mother’s estate. Thanks again for all you are and do. Shalom, Tom Mc
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Yes, thank you Jim. Rob