OPENING PRAYER: Loss is Indeed our Gain (Walter Brueggemann)
The Pushing and Shoving in the world is endless.
We are pushed and shoved.
And we do our share of pushing and shoving
in our great anxiety.
And in the middle of that
you have set down your beloved suffering son
who was like a sheep led to slaughter
who opened not his mouth.
We seem not able,
so we ask you to create space in our life
where we may ponder his suffering
and your summons for us to suffer with him,
suspecting that suffering is the only way to newness.
So we pray for your church in these Lenten days,
when we are driven to denial —
not to notice the suffering,
not to engage it,
not to acknowledge it.
So be that way of truth among us
that we should not deceive ourselves
That we shall see that loss is indeed our gain.
We give you thanks for that mystery from which we live.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: APRIL 6, 1933
Ruby Bates testifies in the Scottsboro Nine case
On March 25, 1931, nine African-American teenage males were arrested and charged with the rape of two white women. Before any indictment, news of the arrest spread quickly though local newspapers such as The Jackson County Sentinel, which detailed the events within 24 hours and decried the “revolting crime.” As news spread, white outrage erupted over the allegations, and a lynch mob gathered at the Scottsboro jail, prompting the sheriff to call Alabama Governor Benjamin Meeks Miller. Governor Miller was then forced to call in the National Guard, to protect the jail and its prisoners from the lynch mob.
Within twelve days, all 9 of the young men were tried and convicted in a Scottsboro, Alabama Court House. The conviction was delivered by an all-white jury, despite medical evidence that they had not committed the crime. Eight of the nine men, all but 12-year-old Roy Wright, were sentenced to death, a common sentence in Alabama at the time for black men who were convicted of raping white women.
Due to the courageous writings of some newspaper editors and other famous writers, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a second trial on the grounds that the men had not received adequate legal counsel in a capital case. During the retrial, one of the plaintiffs, Ruby Bates, admitted on April 6, 1933, that the story was fabricated and that no crime had been committed. However, the men were again found guilty. Many of them received either the death sentence or prison sentences over 75 years long. Although justice was never rendered, all of the Scottsboro defendants eventually were paroled or pardoned and found their way out of Alabama.
Following the trials, Ruby Bates issued a public apology to the Scottsboro Nine, stating the following:
“I want to tell you that the Scottsboro boys were framed by the bosses of the south and two girls. I was one of the girls and I want you to know that I am sorry I said what I did at the first trial, but I was forced to say it. Those boys did not attack me and I want to tell you all right here now that I am sorry that I caused them all this trouble for two years, and now I am willing to join hands with black and white to get them free.”
The Scottsboro Nine case is often cited as an example of miscarriage of justice in the U.S. legal system, due to its all-white juries, rushed trials, false testimonies and disruptive lynch mobs.
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: DEUTERONOMY 25:13-16
“13 Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light.14 Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. 15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 16 For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.”
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 #day37
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: Prayer for Criminal Justice Reform (Cathy Heying and Marilaurice Hemlock, 2016)