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Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32 NIV

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all enslaved in the Confederate states. The bloody Civil War that had begun on April 12, 1861, would continue until April 9, 1865, with Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses S. Grant. It wasn't until June 19, 1865, nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation, when Union troops rode into Confederate-held Galveston, Texas, that African-Americans learned the truth of their freedom.

Today we celebrate and commemorate that day when truth brought about physical freedom. Another truth sets us free: the glorious gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ that brings spiritual freedom. When we accept him into our lives, we are emancipated from the weighty bonds of sin that have enslaved us. By the Father's amazing grace, Son's selfless gift, and the freedom of the Holy Spirit, we have a reason to be jubilant every day. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4 NIV

I am reminded of that great hymn written by James Weldon Johnson, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (The United Methodist Hymnal #519). Written 35 years after that first celebration day, this song would be sung at the marches and rallies of the Freedom Movement of the 1950-60s. And Its words continue to inspire us onward toward physical and spiritual freedom for all people. Here's the first verse:

Lift every voice and sing,

till earth and heaven ring,

ring with the harmonies of liberty.

Let our rejoicing rise

high as the listening skies,

let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.

Facing the rising sun

of our new day begun,

let us march on till victory is won.

Father of Freedom, we rejoice and give thanks for the truth that sets us free. Help us to share your glorious message of deliverance with others so their spiritual chains are loosed. May we not abuse our freedom but seek to live into the example of Christ, showing compassion, justice, and mercy. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.


Pastor Tim

Footnote: President Abraham Lincoln would be assassinated before this day of liberation. He was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, at the Ford Theater, dying the next day.

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