Lent 2024, Day 8: Black History & Lent.

From Sarah Forti at Deeper Still:

Absalom Jones was born into slavery, but he taught himself to read using the New Testament.  He saved up enough money to purchase the freedom of his wife and children, and then purchased his own freedom.  Jones became a lay minister for the African-American parishioners at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.  He ran this ministry alongside his friend Richard Allen, who was also a freed slave.

Their ministry grew, with more and more African-Americans joining the church.  Instead of being celebrated, this growth was seen as a threat.  The white church leadership voted to segregate the building, and they even tried to remove the Black worshipers while they were down on their knees in prayer.  In response to this, Jones and Allen walked out with their congregation to protest inequality in the church.

Together they started the Free African Society, and they went on to found two historic churches.  One was the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in the Diocese of Pennsylvania.  This is where Absalom Jones was ordained as the first African-American Episcopal priest.  The other church was Mother Bethel AME church where Richard Allen was ordained as the first African-American Methodist minister.

This is a story of people who were born into slavery, and who experienced hardship and opposition, but who continued to follow God despite the suffering they experienced in the wilderness.

How many of us have made the assumption that a life blessed by God is one without suffering in the wilderness?

God in the Wilderness

In Mark chapter 1 when Jesus is baptized, he is also celebrated as being the beloved son in whom God is well-pleased.  His reward is that he’s driven into the wilderness for forty days of temptation.

If even Jesus suffered in the wilderness, then why would privilege or prosperity be signs of God’s favor? 

We are given many examples in scripture of people who struggle, people who suffer, and yet God is with them.  Jesus announced his own ministry with this prophecy from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

These were people in need of help, healing, and freedom.  Jesus stands up over and over again to show that God is with them.  Every time he stops to heal someone, casts out a demon, eats with sinners, or welcomes a little child, he reminds us, “blessed are the poor”.  Jesus shows that God is with us in the wilderness.

What wilderness are you in right now? 

Read the rest here.

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