Almighty God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – we praise your name, for you alone are God. There is none like you, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding with covenantal faithfulness. You care for the orphans and widows and look upon the immigrant with affection. Your love is not threatened by the ways we diminish, marginalize, and destroy each other. There is no one like you.
You have made your faithfulness known from generation to generation. Throughout the biblical story, we hear again and again how you have continued to rescue your people, releasing them from bondage in order that they might live fully and freely as your children. We remember Moses and the Exodus. We remember the cycles of deliverance and repentance under the Judges. We remember the prophets and the returns from exile. And we remember how all of these have made known your generous love for the least of these. We recall most of all how you entered this story in the flesh, releasing us from our sins through Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. You reconciled us with your self and in doing so you call us to be reconciled with one another. Through the Holy Spirit, you continue to tear down the dividing walls of hostility that separate us from each other and distort your gospel.
We add our voices to the generations that have gone before us in giving thanks for the freedom you brought in the United States when you brought slavery to a legal end. Over two hundred years of European-Americans shipping and trading African peoples as if they were disposable goods distorted our experience of your image both in those enslaved and in those who enslaved others. The abuses against aboriginal peoples, Asian immigrants, and countless others at the hands of European-Americans have deformed our cultures and diminished the flourishing life you intended for us to experience together. Yet, you have a history of overcoming our most dehumanizing abuses of each other, even when we legalize our abuses through our words of law and government sanctioned violence. Thank you for raising up faithful servants of your kingdom who boldly and prophetically embodied your gospel, spending themselves on behalf of those enslaved. Thank you for not abandoning us to our destructive ways. Thank you for releasing us from the legalized injustices we have inflicted upon each other. Thank you for your mercy and compassion, Lord.
In giving you thanks, we also remember with sad sobriety just how deep our lust for power, our hatred of those who are different than us, and our selfish desire for economic and material prosperity runs. Before you and with the testimony of those who have gone before us, we admit that our hearts are still bent toward our own comforts, especially when others bear the cost of our selfishness. While we have made slavery illegal, we continue to participate in systems, structures, and cultural patterns that provide advantages to those of us from European decent in ways that consistently diminish, distort, and destroy the lives of persons of color. Forgive us, Lord. Release us from the deceptive corruption that is in our hearts and in the patterns that we continue to pass along from generation to generation. In your compassion transform us that we might desire the flourishing of all people in the fullness of your grace.
In remembering the day in which the slaves in Texas finally heard of their emancipation, we cry out to you to bring all slavery to end. Bring an end to the enslavement of children as soldiers. Bring an end to the trafficking of women and children as objects for sexual abuse. Bring an end to enslavement and transportation of people across borders to work in factories, fields, and construction sites. While the visible slavery of centuries past has been dismantled, our enslavement and abuse of others continues. Open our eyes to these injustices and to the ways we contribute to them. Search us, O Lord, and call us into action to bring an end to the injustices that we continue to perpetrate against each other.
Jesus, as you intercede with the Father on our behalf, please remember those who are caught up in the entanglements of slavery – whether as victim or perpetrator. Teach us to pray with you. May you make us into one people who embody the Father’s love in the ways we work for the mutual flourishing of each other. Holy Spirit, teach us to groan with you in longing for the fullness of your coming kingdom. May you equip us in your humble power to tangibly anticipate the day when Jesus Christ will complete his work of making all things new. Grant us the strength to spend ourselves on behalf of those who are still entangled in slavery so that together we might experience the full reconciliation and new life that you desire for all peoples.
We offer this prayer because our salvation comes from you alone, because you are already at work among us, releasing us from our sins, and because you are faithful. That your glory and honor might be made known through the freedom of all people. Amen.
* Juneteenth is a celebration of when those enslaved in Texas first heard about the end of slavery on June 19, 1865, a full 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. More on the history of this celebration can be found here.
** For those wondering how to respond to present day slavery and human trafficking, I encourage you to start by checking out International Justice Mission.