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 25, 1965
Viola Liuzzo Murdered After Driving Voting Rights Activists to Selma
On March 25, 1965, Viola Liuzzo, a middle-class white housewife from Detroit, Michigan, was shot and killed in Lowndesboro, Alabama. After watching television footage of state troopers attacking freedom marchers on “Bloody Sunday,” Liuzzo drove to Selma, Alabama, to join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s efforts to organize another march. Hours after the successful Selma-to-Montgomery march ended, Mrs. Liuzzo and Leroy Moton, a nineteen-year-old local black activist, were driving back to Montgomery to pick up the last group of demonstrators waiting to return to Selma.
Four Klansmen chased down Mrs. Liuzzo’s car and opened fire, killing Mrs. Liuzzo. Mr. Moton survived by pretending to be dead. One of the drivers, and possibly Mrs. Liuzzo’s shooter, was Gary Thomas Rowe, Jr., an FBI informant who had participated in the 1961 beatings of Freedom Riders in Birmingham, Alabama. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, concerned that Mr. Rowe’s history of violence against civil rights activists and close ties to the FBI would harm the agency’s public image, launched character attacks against Mrs. Liuzzo in the media, painting her as an unstable woman who abandoned her husband and children and traveled to Selma for interracial sex and drugs.
Mr. Rowe later testified against the three other Klansmen who were with him on the night of Mrs. Liuzzo’s murder. They were acquitted by an all-white Lowndes County jury but later convicted of federal civil rights violations.
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: ISAIAH 38:10-14
“I said, “In the prime of my life
must I go through the gates of death
and be robbed of the rest of my years?”
11 I said, “I will not again see the Lord himself
in the land of the living;
no longer will I look on my fellow man,
or be with those who now dwell in this world.
12 Like a shepherd’s tent my house
has been pulled down and taken from me.
Like a weaver I have rolled up my life,
and he has cut me off from the loom;
day and night you made an end of me.
13 I waited patiently till dawn,
but like a lion he broke all my bones;
day and night you made an end of me.
14 I cried like a swift or thrush,
I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!”
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 #day25
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn us Around (Rev Martin Luther King Jr., 1965)
“Almighty God, Thou has called us to walk for freedom, even as Thou did the Children of Israel. We pray, dear God, as we go through a wilderness of State Troopers that Thou will hold our hand. We pray, dear God, as we must go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, that Thou will go with us and strengthen us for the task. Keep us strong. Keep us calm. Help us to love our enemy. And above all, keep the fires of freedom burning in our hearts, so that no matter what happens, ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around.
Because Thou, dear God, has sent us into this place. Thou has sent us to fight, not just for ourselves, but to fight for this nation so that democracy might exist here for the whole world. Keep this vision in our hearts, and may we one day wake up and find the state of Alabama where all men might vote, where all children might get a decent education, where every man and woman might have a job according to their abilities, and where every man and woman might live together as brothers, and violence and bloodshed and hatred and prejudice shall be no more.”