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Thoughts Along The Way: Juneteenth
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Thoughts Along The Way: Juneteenth

Jun 19, 2023

By Glenn Miller

GOD’S WORD: “But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus, we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.” – Galatians 4: 4-7 (The Message)

If you’re not from Texas or have never taken a Texas history course, you may not be aware of a holiday we celebrate called Juneteenth each June 19th. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Commemorative plaque at corner of Strand Street and 22nd Street in Galveston, Texas where General Order No. 3 was issued from Union Army headquarters at the since demolished Osterman building on Monday, June 19, 1865. The plaque was erected by the Galveston Historical Foundation and Texas Historical Commission in June of 2014.
By William C Teller

Later attempts to explain this two-and-a-half-year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All or none of them could be true. For whatever the reason, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members.

I can’t help but to correlate that story with our own liberation from sin and death. Jesus paid the price of our sins by taking our place on the cross, suffering our shame and our guilty verdict. Because of the Father’s love for us, we are no longer slaves to sin, but are sons and daughters of righteousness. We, who believe and profess that Jesus is our Savior, have been set free from condemnation and are liberated from sin and death.

Yet, the enemy does all he can to make sure we don’t get the message or deceives us into believing that salvation’s too good to be true or worse, that we’re beyond merit to receive such a gift of grace. And when that happens, we remain shackled to sin.

Shackled to feeling we’re not good enough for grace.
Shackled to feeling our sins are beyond God’s reach.
Shackled to feeling there is no end to our despair.

The good news is that we’ve been given a proclamation of freedom! No longer do we have to stay shackled but are free to become all we can for the reason we were created. And just like the generations of slaves who were freed that June 19th in 1865, we, too, should celebrate in remembrance our liberation and live out of the freedom Jesus afforded us.

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