Too Painful for Words #AMEMassacre

My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.
(Lamentations 2:11)

Should Priest and Prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord? Young and old lie together in the dust of the streets; my young men and maidens have fallen by the sword.
(Lamentations 2:20-21)

On Wednesday evening June 17, 2015 at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina a modern crucifixion took place.  Taking the lives of:

Rev. Clementa Pickney (Pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. Church and a South Carolina State Senator) age 41
Cynthia Hurd, age 54
Tywanza Sanders, age 26
Myra Thompson, age 59
Ethel Lance, age 70
Susie Jackson, age 87
Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, age 49
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, age 45
Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., age 74  

Because they were bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, and spirit of our spirit we too are a suffering people.  We cry out with the Psalmist “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.  My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.  They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing”. (Psalm 22: 14-18)

Not only do we hurt with the Emanuel A.M.E. Church Family, but God also suffers with us because the name Emanuel means “God is with us”!  Our God meets us in suffering and in death.  The cross is the meeting place between God and us.  The cross is the place where God experiences human suffering and the human family understands the pain of God.  The wounded heart of God is revealed on the cross.  Abraham Heschel has reminded us that in the prophets God experiences pain and sorrow with a feeling of intimate and loving concern because life is a partnership between God and humanity.  The crucified heart of God in the New Testament is revealed through the death of Jesus Christ.  This death on the cross is not only the expression of God’s love for us, but also the defiance of God against evil.

Members of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church engage in a moment of silent prayer Sunday for Charleston
Members of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church engage in a moment of silent prayer Sunday for Charleston

It is so easy for us as a suffering people to grow weary and inarticulate in endless despair and aborted hope that will satisfy the forces of evil; however, the Apostle Paul reminds us “to be in Christ means not only to know the fellowship of His suffering, but the power of His resurrection”; therefore, as a crucified and a resurrected people let us make a double commitment to preach a liberating gospel from the evils of racism, materialism and militarism.  If we can make this commitment then we will respond to the Charleston massacre with living hope.

In 1850 Frederick Douglass, a member of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston stood in Faneil Hall in Boston speaking as if waiting justice would never wipe sleep from his eyes.  In response to his morbid message Sojourner Truth who knew the evils of slavery from personal experience, having been sold four times, and having risked her life many more times as a conductor of the underground railroad arose to her feet, and said with a commanding voice: Frederick is God dead?  As true believers with Sojourner Truth let us act on the words of James Russell Lowell: “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch [over] his own.”

Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr.
Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr.

Rev.Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr., Chair

Sankofa Institute for African American
Pastoral Leadership
Oblate School of Theology
285 Oblate Drive
San Antonio, TX 78216

SANKOFA INSTITUTE FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN PASTORAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL OF ELDERS

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., Chair
Dr. Diana Hayes, STD
Rev. Dr. Dwight Hopkins, PhD
Rev. Joni Russ
Rev. Dr. Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, PhD
Rev. James Noel, PhD
S. Addie L. Walker, SSND, PhD, Director
Dr. Scott Woodward, Academic Dean, OST
Dr. Rose Marden, Associate Dean Continuing Education, OST

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