900 Days

by DanWolgemuth on June 21, 2024

It was January 1, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. A day to mark freedom and liberty, for all.

For all.

But the proclamation took 900 days to resound into the deaf ears of slave owners in Texas. 900 days of continued separation from family. 900 days of isolation and cruelty.

On the cusp of the signing of the Proclamation, black churches across the country participated in ‘watch night’ services. They awaited freedom with anticipation. But freedom was illusive for many. A proclamation without an implementation, a promise with a delayed fulfillment.

On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger marched his troops into Galveston, Texas with General Order #3 in hand to officially loosen the grip of slavery in the last remaining slave holdout. His troops were made up of black and white soldiers. And together they made good on the signature that had long since dried from the pen of President Lincoln.

Initially June 19th was commemorated as the Day of Jubilee. A clear nod to Leviticus 25 and the day of liberation and forgiveness. A day of unified celebration. A day to mark both lament and jubilation. A day of confession and conviction. A start, not a completion.

For 900 days slaves in Texas lived in the “now, but not yet”.

Over time the celebration changed names. From Jubilee to Juneteenth. A day to live into the instruction of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; and mourn with those who mourn.”

Watch night. Jubilee. Juneteenth.

The anticipation and realization of the gift of freedom.

An invitation for all of us to rally together in unity. In celebration. With hope.

It was June 19, 1866 when the first freedom celebrations were held, primarily in Texas. And yes, most predominantly and appropriately in churches, because the dignity of all mankind is gifted by God, not a function of a presidential signature.

Frankly, there was a bit of confusion for me around this milestone. Perhaps, more appropriately ignorance or suspicion. Perhaps that’s true for you.

But now, more than ever, we as the church must come together under the instruction of Jesus in Luke 4…

​        “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
​​              because he has anointed me
        ​​to proclaim good news to the poor.
​              He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
        ​​and recovering of sight to the blind,
              ​​to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
        ​to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (ESV)

The proclamation of liberty. Long before Lincoln. Liberty from the lungs of our Savior.

The mix of lament and jubilation.

A commitment to the imago dei.

Image bearers. From Washington D.C. to Galveston.

June 19th. Jubilee. Juneteenth.

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