The prophet Jeremiah, a young man, came at a time when Judah was experiencing what could be called its worse destruction they had experienced.
“During these time of the Babylonian invasion, houses were destroyed, people were killed, the sacred temples desecrated, and people deported.
This put a strain on the everyday function of life.
Resources and wealth were redistributed to favor the few.
People’s interactions with one another shifted, as they fought to lay claim to just a piece of said resources.
But, worse of all, their trust in God, and who they were, was thwarted.”
Jeremiah was called from among all of the chaos to proclaim a message of liberation and social justice.
Jeremiah, through the work of Spirit, was endowed with the ability to denounce not only the Babylonians, but the people as well for the assimilation to the cultures around them and their breaking of covenant with God.
Jeremiah, a young man, was called to proclaim a message of destruction, explaining the reason for the nation’s fall
And yet a message of hope…
Declaring how they can survive the trouble around them.
The conditions, the state of the nation called for Jeremiah’s voice.
A voice that was already ordained to speak on behalf of those were oppressed.
God was very clear with Jeremiah when he was called and told him:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
“Jeremiah was not a self-appointed Messenger.”
He was CALLED into this work and told very explicitly:
“today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10)
“He had no choice in the matter.”
He was called to proclaim a message of liberation and social justice.
In his book Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody, James Cone takes us on the journey to finding his voice and becoming the father of black liberation theology.
A journey that began in a household of love that taught him how to carry “charitable Christian hatred”
To hate the sin, the action, and behavior, but love the sinner.
A journey that taught him how to hold the fire of anger and rage but place “love and justice at the center of it.”
A journey rooted in 400 years of trauma, terror, and hate.
Yet, a journey of healing, freedom, and love.
A journey that reminded him “NEVER to sell his integrity
And, not to allow anyone to buy it.”
A journey of falling in love with truth and the condition of truth, allowing suffering to speak.
A journey of falling in love with goodness, yet keeping track of evil.
A journey of a deep compassion and passion for black people.
A journey of visitation to the cross.
A journey that echoed the words of Mamie Till, mother of Emmitt Till, “I don’t have a minute to hate. I’m going to pursue justice for the rest of my life.”
A journey where he dared NOT stand up and move forward without connecting to the best of what had gone into him
Knowing that the highest standards had been set by those who were dead.
THIS was James Cone, the liberationist.
For him, there was a disturbance in his soul.
Something that was making him uncomfortable.
He was witnessing things that were outrageous.
But, it was that same outrage that attracted him.
He couldn’t stop thinking about it.
He went to bed thinking about it.
He got up in the morning thinking about it.
He thought about it all day.
It left him no choice.
He had to do something.
No longer could he talk about God and not be accountable to black people and their fight for justice.
There was a black fire burning inside of him, demanding expression.
His writings changed.
His exegesis transformed.
No longer could he fit in.
For his work had found him.
He needed to say something.
He needed to let the world know what was stirring inside of him.
His work gave him a voice.
And, he gave voice to the feelings of rage in the Negro community.
He was called, through his writings, to proclaim a message of liberation and social justice.
What is your life calling you to do?
What message is Spirit calling you to proclaim?
What keeps you awake at night?
What constantly stirs your soul?
What pricks your heart and troubles your mind?
Our namesake, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, was called to stand before a council of white men who revoked his right to serve his community and DECLARED HIS RIGHTS AS A MAN!
His position made space for his work and the use of his voice.
Our AME Brother, Dr. James Cone, in response to the Detroit riots that left many dead, boldly proclaimed in a classroom full of white peers that “Black Power IS the gospel of Jesus in America today!”
His pen became his voice and gave space to his work.
Matriarch, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, through the use of spirituals, led various groups on the journey of reclaiming their God-given rights and begged the question during her 1964 Democratic National Convention testimony “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”
Her experience became her voice and made space for her work.
What is your message?
And, how will you proclaim it?
In just a few moments, we will hear from several persons who will share a bit of their journey, their call to proclaim a message of liberation and social justice, and what that looks like in their current context.
But for now, silence yourself.
Close your eyes, reflect, and ask yourself,
“What is my life’s work?
What is it that I cannot go without saying or doing?
What is that thing that if I try to shut it out, it’s like the prophet Isaiah a FIRE shut up in your bones?
What are you called to do?
Who are you called to be?
Take the time and write your thoughts on the card you received…
SONG: Ella’s Song by Sweet Honey in the Rock