Reflecting on Juneteenth and Preparing for July 4th: Celebrating Freedom and Unity

Rev. Derrick Elliott, Pastor, Sun Lakes United Church of Christ

In the tapestry of my life, I embrace multiple captivating roles. I am not only a pastor, but also a devoted doctoral student in pursuit of knowledge. Moreover, I proudly serve as an Air Force Reserve Chaplain, donning the uniform to safeguard the cherished freedom our nation values. The resonating echoes of Juneteenth celebrations continue to stir profound reflections within me as I eagerly anticipate the forthcoming Fourth of July commemoration. These momentous occasions, deeply rooted in the relentless pursuit of freedom, remind us of our nation’s progress and the ongoing journey toward unity and equality.

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, marked the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. It is a pivotal moment in our history, symbolizing the triumph of justice, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of freedom. This day serves as a call to reflect on the struggles faced by our ancestors and to acknowledge the contributions and resilience of Black communities in building a more inclusive society. As we transition into July, we prepare to commemorate the Fourth of July, a day that represents the birth of our nation and the ideals of liberty, justice, and equality. This celebration allows us to reflect on the progress toward creating a society that upholds these principles while acknowledging the work still ahead.

In times like these, when the world feels uncertain and divided, finding solace and guidance in our faith becomes even more critical. The words of Galatians 5:13 NRSVUE offer us a powerful reminder of our purpose as believers. The verse states, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become enslaved to one another.” This verse goes beyond simply recognizing our freedom in Christ. It challenges us to consider how we exercise that freedom daily thoughtfully. It urges us not to use our freedom as a license for self-centeredness or selfish pursuits. Instead, it calls us to use our freedom as an opportunity to serve one another with love and humility.

Embracing this biblical truth can transform how we approach our relationships and interactions with others. It compels us to look beyond our needs and desires, prioritizing the well-being and dignity of those around us. It invites us to become enslaved to one another, not in the sense of being enslaved by one another’s demands, but in the radical act of selfless love and service.

In a world that often promotes self-indulgence and individualism, this verse challenges us to counter those tendencies with a mindset of love and unity. It reminds us that true freedom is not found in pursuing our interests at the expense of others, but in the genuine care and concern we show for our fellow human beings.

As we reflect on the significance of Juneteenth and prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, let us heed the call of Galatians 5:13. Let us responsibly embrace our freedom and use it as a catalyst for fostering love, unity, and service to others. In doing so, we can contribute to healing our broken world and building a more just, compassionate society, and becoming authentic instruments of freedom, unity, and compassion in our communities. At Sun Lakes United Church of Christ, we invite you to join us in worship and journey with us as we seek to deepen our understanding of God’s love and how it calls us to work toward God’s Kingdom.