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
Boston Minister Dies After Beating in Selma, Alabama
On March 7, 1965, a peaceful crowd of 600 people led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began a protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to show their support for black voting rights. Police armed with batons, pepper spray, and guns attacked the marchers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge in a violent assault that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”
After the attack, Dr. King remained determined to complete the march. He urged clergy throughout the country to come to Selma and join the march to Montgomery. Hundreds of clergy from across the country heeded the call and traveled to Selma, including Reverend James Reeb, 38, a white Unitarian minister from Boston.
On March 9, 1965, Dr. King led 2500 marchers onto the Edmund Pettus Bridge for a short prayer session. That evening, three white ministers, Orloff Miller, Clark Olsen, and James Reeb, were attacked and beaten by a group of white men. Struck in the head with a club, Reverend Reeb suffered a severe skull fracture and brain damage.
Fearing that he would not be treated at the “whites-only” Selma Hospital, doctors at Selma’s black Burwell Infirmary ordered Reverend Reeb rushed to the Birmingham hospital. After a series of unfortunate events, including car trouble and confrontations with local police, Reverend Reeb reached the hospital in Birmingham in critical condition. He died on March 11, 1965, leaving his wife and four children. Three white men were later indicted for Reverend Reeb’s murder but were acquitted by an all-white jury.
More widely reported than the death of local black activist Jimmie Lee Jackson a few weeks earlier, Reverend Reeb’s death brought national attention to the voting rights struggle and moved President Lyndon B. Johnson to call a special session of Congress, where he urged legislators to pass the Voting Rights Act. The president signed the act into law in August 1965.
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: PSALM 9:13-18
“Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may declare your praises
in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.
15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
all the nations that forget God.
18 But God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.”
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 #day11
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: Collect for an End to Violence at the Hands of the State (Lauren Robinson & Kenji Kuramitsu, January 2016)
O God, Protector and Servant of All, Grant that we through the strength of your divine hand might protect and serve one another – make all hatreds cease, unmask all systems of corruption and power, drive out all fears and prejudices in our day. We know that you are as near as our breath and as close to us as the recesses of our hearts and minds. May your presence be a balm to those who are suffering and a dark flame to those who are causing injury. Rupture, O Holy Spirit, O Giver of Truth, the status quo of perennial violence that infects our land, and teach us through your divine Word to reject the lies of any false peace in favor of the presence of your dangerous justice. Amen.