Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MARCH 7, 1965
Bloody Sunday: Civil Rights Protesters Brutally Attacked in Selma
On March 7, 1965, state and local police used billy clubs, whips, and tear gas to attack hundreds of civil rights protesters beginning a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Marchers were protesting the denial of voting rights to African Americans as well as the murder of 26-year-old activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, who had been shot in the stomach and killed during a peaceful protest just days before.
The march, led by John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Reverend Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, turned violent when the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were confronted by a phalanx (group) of state and county officers. When demonstrators, well within their civil rights, did not promptly follow the instructions of officers to disband and turn back, troopers brutally attacked the peaceful protesters. Dozens of civil rights activists were hospitalized with severe injuries. Horrifying images of the violence were broadcast nationally on television, rousing a new level of support for the civil rights movement. Civil rights activists organized another march two days later, and the events helped spur passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act three months later.
While the Selma march, along with many other marches in the Civil Rights movement, were driven by the faith and leadership of the Black Church, many southern white Evangelicals resisted black equality in a variety of ways. Some preached an overt biblical sanction for segregation and adopted formal resolutions instructing church leaders to reject black worshippers. Some remained silent about the subject of black equality while condemning faith-based civil rights activism as “a prostitution of the church for political purposes.” Still others rejected denominational efforts towards integration, withheld funds from Christian agencies that advocated for equality, and withdrew their children from public schools that were becoming integrated. By holding to a theology that focused overwhelmingly on the regeneration of the individual soul, many white evangelicals viewed social problems as merely the sum of individual problems, and opposed the movement for black equality most vigorously.
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: JEREMIAH 7:3-7
“3 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!”5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.”
RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day7
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: SELF-DEDICATION (Toyohiko Kagawa, 1941)
“O God, our Father, we pray that Thou show us clearly the heart of the Kingdom of God. We do not protest even if our life is destined to lead to the cross, or if the way leads to our losing our lives. We will march in the face of distress and contrary winds.
Teach us how to dispense with unnecessary things. Let us go forward without fear of death in order to fulfill our mission simply, surely, and steadily. Reveal to us our station clearly and strengthen us that we may be able to teach and guide by our example all sick persons, lepers, and even those who are ruled by evil.
We pray that Thou find us worthy to work through us.”