Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,
Prayer List – This week we remember former Bishop Wahlberg as he grieves the death of his brother, TLU at President Svennungsen’s resignation (see http://tlu.edu) and Lutherhill as they dedicate their new facilities Saturday.
Lectionary – A summary of the upcoming lessons.
Hurricane Season begins Tuesday.
CNN Blog article on polarization. We need the church to build bridges through reconciliation.
This month collect members’ stories of their families immigrating to the U.S. Share them with your congregation and send your stories to me too: bishop
June 6 prayer vigil
Join me for a continuing ed event on preaching this summer. We’ve invited the author of The Four Pages of the Sermon to be with us for a few enjoyable days at TLU this summer. Preaching as God Talk. Register here.
Assembly season goes on. Attendance is down, probably due to economy and sexuality decisions. Reports from bishops say their assemblies are upbeat and enthusiastic. A few votes to rescind the August decisions. None have passed. Please keep everyone in prayer.
Called to Freedom
This Sunday we begin a five-week march through Galatians, which focuses on freedom. Galatians is about freedom from the law, works and the trappings of human religious traditions. But our American passion for religious and political freedom and equality provide a handy segue into Paul’s conversation about equality (Galatians 3) and freedom (Galatians 5).
I’ve been reading Witnessing America: The Library of Congress Book of Firsthand Accounts of Life in America (1600-1900). Source readings are riveting. It’s like sitting down with someone from centuries ago and listening. The words jump off the page as these folks write their thoughts, shaped by their times and their society. What jump out at me are the accounts of slaves, and non-slaves who observed slave life. It’s truly gut-wrenching stuff. It’s hard to imagine that people could talk so boldly of all men being created equal, while clearly excluding women as subservient and Africans as property.
Here’s an excerpt from a slave, Rose, who recounts her life befrie and after emancipation.
“I’s born in Bell County, right here in Texas, and am owned by Massa William Black. He owns mammy and pappy, too. Massa Black has a big plantation, but he has more niggers than he need for work on that place, ’cause he am a nigger trader. Massa Black am awful cruel, and he whip the colored folks and works ’em hard and feed ’em poorly.
Massa Black sold his slaves when the Civil War broke out.
“Mammy and Pappy powerful glad to git sold, and they and I is put on the block with ’bout ten other niggers… One man shows interest in Pappy… Pappy talk to him and say, ‘Them my woman and childs. Please buy all of us and have mercy on we-uns.’ Massa Hawkins say, ‘That gal am a likely-looking nigger; she am portly and strong. But three am more than I wants, I guesses…’
“Hawkins wins the bid for pappy, and when mammy am put on the block, he wins the bid for her. Then there am three or four other niggers sold before my time comes. Then Massa Black calls me to the block, and the auction man say, ‘What am I offer for this porty, strong young wench? She’s never been ‘bused and will make the good breeder.’
“I wants to hear Massa Hawkins bid, but him say nothing. Two other men am bidding ‘gainst each other, and I sure has the worriment. There am tears coming down my cheeks’ cause I’s being sold to some man that would make separation from my mamy. One man bids $500, and the auction man ask, ‘Do I hear more? She am gwine at $500.’ Then someone say ‘$525,’ and the auction man say, ‘She am sold for $525 to Massa Hawkins.’ Am I glad and ‘cited! Why, I’s quivering all over.”
Later on, at age 16 she gets mated to a large, abusive slave.
“He am big and ’cause he so, he think everybody do what him say… then I gets in the bunk. After I’s in, that nigger come and crawl in the bunk wit me ‘fore I knows it. I says, ‘What you means, you fool nigger?’ He say for me to hush the mouth… ‘You’s teched in the head.’ ‘Git out,’ I’s told him,
and I puts the feet ‘gainst him and give him a shove, and out he go on the floor… That nigger jump up and be mad. He look like the wild bear. He starts for the bunk, and I jumps quick for the poker. It am ’bout three feet long, and when he comes at me I lets him have it over the head. Do that nigger stop in he tracks? I’s say he did. He looks at me steady for a minute, and you could tell he thinking hard. Then he go and set on the bench and say, ‘Just wait. You think it am smart, but you am foolish in the head. They’s gwine larn you something.’
“The next day… Missy say that am the massa’s wishes. She say, ‘You am the portly gal, and Rufus am the portly man. The massa wants you-uns for to bring forth portly children…’ The massa call me and tell me, ‘Woman, I’s pay big money for you, and I’s done that for the cause I wants you to raise
me childrens… Now, if you doesn’t want whipping at the stake, you do what I wants.’
“I thinks ’bout massa buying me offen the block and saving me from being separated from my folks and ’bout being whipped at the stake. There it am. What am I’s to do? So I ‘cides to do as the massa wish, and so I yields.
“When we-uns am given freedom, Massa Hawkins tells us we can stay and work for wages or share-crop the land… I never marries, ’cause one ‘sperience am ‘nough for this nigger. After what I does for the massa, I’s never wants no truck with any man. The Lord forgive this colored woman, but he have to ‘scuse me and look for some others for to ‘plenish the earth.” (pp. 129 ff.)
Many believe that the first Christians saw nothing less than the transformation of human community with kingdom of God breaking in. Freedom. Not pie in the sky when you die, but “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus proclaims a vision for the world God loves. Immersion not escapism.
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother-especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
This Jesus stuff was more than a theory for Paul. He caught this visionand its game-changing implications 1,820 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.
Michael Rinehart, bishop
Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod
12941 I-45 North Freeway, Suite #210
Houston, Texas 77060-1243