Without doubt, June 2015 will be remembered by various individuals for various reasons.
Some may remember June for a daring prison break in upstate New York, Supreme Court rulings, shark attacks, a sporting event or any of a variety of memorable reasons.
For one extremely gifted and talented retired math teacher, June will mark a realization that one can still be highly effective, inspiring, and productive teaching future college students as she did while completing chemo and beginning radiation for breast cancer with faith and courage. For a loving grandmother, June further validated what she already knew about the power of fervent, effectual prayers of righteousness as her precious granddaughter overcame extraordinary health challenges and then happily and thankfully returned home after weeks of hospitalization. For a devoted mother, June 2015 will be remembered for seeing her son walk across stage at his high school graduation after his having been in a serious automobile accident a few weeks earlier.
As for me and many others, June 2015 will be remembered also for ten individual who sat at Bible study in historic Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday June17. The physical lives of nine of the ten would end there that night. However, the legacy they left behind remains very much alive.
So deeply did their deaths affect me that I found it extremely difficult not to burst into tears when I went on air for my weekly radio program the next day. No, I did not know any of the nine, yet I felt them as brothers and sisters in faith. What I would have never imagined was a week later, though still grieved, I would be renewed and restored by lessons I and much of the nation…if not the world…would gain from the martyrs of that horrendous event. Of the many lessons, I’ll mention only three that I believe touched many.
Lesson 1: Though meant to create hate and division, the act perpetrated by that young killer ironically or let's say providently had the completely opposite effect. Instead of hate came a needed reconciliation. And instead of division was born a time of unity.
Lesson 2: A symbol the young killer had proudly waved for hate and was actually recognized by many, especially African-Americans, as a symbol of hate was finally nullified. What had been impossible to accomplish in 150 years was accomplished and renounced, even by many who had championed it, in less than seventy-two hours. It died a sudden death in more areas than one would have imagined possible in such a short time frame
Lesson 3: Incredibly, the power of hate is annihilated by the power of love and forgiveness. In their coutroom statements, what the family members of the martyrs showed the world the power of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and-- as the President sang-- “Amazing Grace.”
In Genesis, the story of Joseph relates how Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery after his jealous brothers had attempted to kill him. After having suffering several misfortunes, Joseph is providently elevated to great prominence in Egypt. Eventually his brothers, unbeknownst to them, go to Joseph for sustenance to survive. After revealing himself to his brothers, Joseph forgave them and told them, “…ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good…”
Out of such horrible a young killer thought evil against, God has still allowed good to transcend it as the world looked on it. These nine by their humanity and Christian love welcomed a stranger into their group…and though he was incapable of accepting it, their act was not in vain.
….And so I not only remember June 2015, I remember
Pastor and State Senator Clementa Pinckney*
Minister Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Congregant Cynthia Hurd
Congregant Susie Jackson
Congregant Ethel Lance
Minister DePayne Middleton-Doctor
Congregant Tywanza Sanders
Minister Daniel Simmons, Sr
Congregant Myra Thompson
*More about Pastor Pinckney in an upcoming blog
Biblical Affirmation: The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives...to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.