Day 9 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

 Day 9: The Departed, Discarded Ones | Ekemini Uwan

 

“There is a woman in Somalia

Scraping for pearls on the roadside

There's a force stronger than nature

Keeps her will alive

This is how she's dying

She's dying to survive

Don't know what she's made of

I would like to be that brave.”

Sade

 

Advent means “arrival,” an “appearing” or “coming” into a place, and we have been reflecting on the glory of Christ’s first Advent, which began with His incarnation. We, children of God, join our eager anticipation along with all the saints worldwide who await theSecond Advent of King Jesus, when He will consummate His kingdom.

 

As we wait, the groans of our souls resonate with the groans of creation; together we yearn for redemption (Rom. 8:22, 23). Sorrowful yet always rejoicing. This is the disposition to which we have been called, sistas. The tension of the “already, not yet” is palpable for me during this Advent season.

 

As I reflect with joy about Christ’s Advent, I can’t help but to think about its inverse, the departed, discarded ones.Precious children of the Diaspora who won’t see this advent because their lives were cut off due to anti-Black oppression and state-sanctioned violence. Charleena Lyleswas a thirty-year old pregnant mother of four with her fifth child on the way. She called the police to report a burglary and was shot seven times in front of her children. A bullet ripped through the child in her womb. The police aborted Charleena’s unborn son and rendered her four surviving children motherless.

 

My soul cries out!

 

Twenty-six Nigerian girlsbetween the ages of 14-18 left their native land seeking asylum in Europethrough Libya. Young girls boarded those rubber dinghies with hopes and dreams of a better life stuffed in their invisible knapsacks—only to have their dreams dashed the moment they were wrangled into a sex trafficking ring. Although their fate was grim, the audacity of hope carried them as they traversed the trouble waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The journey proved too much for them as it had for so many before them, the waters engulfed them snuffing out their lives along with their dreams. Twenty-six lifeless, namelessBlack bodies of image-bearers, buried in a foreign land far away from home and no family members to claim them.

 

My soul cries out!

Who will weep for these Black Lives discarded like the refuse of the world?

I know the One who has wept over the deaths of these precious ones, Jesus Christ.

 

Read:John 11:32-36

There was a time when death did not loom over our heads, but the entrance of sin changed the course of human history (Gen. 3), and now we must face this last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). This is the world into which Jesus entered, to do away with sin and death, in order to bring it to its consummate end (Rev. 21:4).

 

He is moved in spirit and greatly troubled. This Scripture is not describing some fleeting emotion. Quite the contrary, Jesus is deeply sorrowful and angry at the evil of death.Jesus, full of sorrow and anger, was moved internally and physically. Compassion has legs, and it moves toward those who are suffering.  This is a beautiful picture of Christ’s divinity and humanity—His transcendence, and His immanence. He asked where they laid him, because He is God, and the only One who can raise Lazarus from the dead.

 

His humanity is overlaid upon the backdrop of His divinity, and its radiance is more glorious than a shooting star sweeping across the onyx sky. The One who had the power to keep Lazarus from the pangs of death is now crying in the wake of His friend’s departure and the suffering of those left behind. Now we await Christ’s Second Advent,when the dead will be raised, some to eternal life and others to judgment (John 5:25-29).

 

  He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8

 

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Come quickly!

 

Prayer: Father, things are not as they should be in this world. The rich oppress the poor. The powerful lord it over the powerless. Those who have sworn to protect and serve are quick to shed the blood of my people. God, as we look back at Christ’s Advent and look forward to His second arrival, give your justice to the widows and the orphans. Grant us a foretaste of justice as a sign of the peace and sinless life we will enjoy in the eschaton. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Songs:

The Place, Shekinah Glory

 

Telephone, Erykah Badu

 

Pearls, Sade

Day 8 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 8: Ain’t I A Woman? | Ekemini Uwan

 

“And since we all came from a woman

Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman

I wonder why we take from our women

Why we rape our women — do we hate our women?”

Tupac Shakur

 

Woman: the crown and glory of creation. Formed and fashion by the holy hands of the Triune God. Bearing the image of God,endowed with intrinsic dignity and worth. Created equal to man. Made a little lower than the angels. Owed the same esteem, value, and respect men are so freely given, and yet these are rarely given. Instead, the crown and glory of creation is trampled underfoot. Her body, which was formed by the hands of God, is now violated by a vagina grabbing predator-in-chief. Senators, Congressmen, media moguls, and entertainers sexually harass, grope, and rapewomen for sport. Rape culture has replaced kingdom culture. Desecrating the sacred bodies God called “good.”

 

But who is missing from the #metoo narrative?

Who are we not hearing from?

 

The matriarch of old, Dinah (Gen. 34), cries out #metooand so do her daughters. African women—my distantrelatives—stolen from their native land, owned, raped, and forced to breed children like chattel. Their descendants, Black women, who cry #metooare forgotten, forsaken, and despised. Effectivelysilenced due to racial and power dynamics at their jobs and when we muster up the courage to come forward, we are not believed.

 

Our souls exclaim, “Ain’t I A Woman?”

Mother Sojourner Truth taught us.

 

What’s more, young black girls have been crying #metoofor decades at the hands of R. Kelly, who claims to “step in the name of love,” though all the while he’s been steppin’ in the name of lust, power, and pedophilia. Stripping away the innocence of black girls while we turn a blind eye because “That’s my jam!”

 

What then shall we say to these things?

 

Read: Luke 1:26-38 & Luke 2:1-7

 

Mary wasn’t much older than the girls I made mention of above. She also lived in a post-Fall world where women were undervalued, treated like property, not seen as full image-bearers. Yet we see in Luke 1:26-38 that God sent angel Gabriel to Mary, an ordinary girl who found favor with the Lord (Luke 1:28). An ordinary girl upon whom the holy conception would take place (Luke 1:35), so that she might carry the Savior of the world. Even in the womb, Jesus validates, affirms, confirms, and restores the dignity of women. In His wisdom, the Thrice Holy God chose a woman to be the vessel that would carry, nurture, and care for the King of Kings.

 

Sistas, as with Mary, God’s favor rests upon you, and He is with you. I know this because He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for your sins and rise for your salvation. You are the crown of His creation, and God gave you a kinky crown of hair to confirm this reality. Your melanin and gap-tooth smile uniquely reflect the image of the creative power of the One True God. You deserve to be believed when you share your #metoo story. You have the God-given right to exist without being subject to harassment or being told to smile by some random man on the street. You do not exist for the pleasure of men and the male gaze. You exist for the glory of God and His glory alone. His gaze will never put you to shame. For, He delights in you. Keep your head up, sistas! The King is coming.

 

Recommended Reading:

Ain't I A Woman? Sojourner Truth

 

Songs:

Keep Ya Head Up - 2Pac

 

Conquerors - Kirk Franklin & The Family

Day 7 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 7: Worship in the Waiting | Michelle Higgins

 

‘‘Our humanity is our burden, our life; we need not battle for it; we need only to do what is infinitely more difficult — that is, accept it.’’

James Baldwin

 

I got all the love for Venus and Serena, y’all. It’s hard for me to verbalize the importance of their sisterhood of embodied unapologetic Blackness. My only journey into the realm of sportsgames (or however you say it) involvetennis tournaments, and Twitter clapback support when misogynoir comes for our sisters. I went all the way off a few years ago when a top tennis executive referred to the Williams as “brothers… scary to look at”. I am still livid, amidst all my un-surprise. Anti-blackness is worldwide and age old, and even though misogynoir is a newer term, all that mess is ancient. The bodies of our Black sisters have been mocked, lied on and mistreated. Win or lose, their every movement is a cry of confidence, a demand for dignity, a reflection of full humanity - powerful and precious. Those who fear the beauty of Black bodies will someday tremble at the appearance of the King of the cosmos.

 

Can you imagine?

Our “faith become sight” will be the bronze bodied, woolen haired Word of God.

Lord, haste the day!

 

For Black women whose works sets us in the center of our haters’ gaze, or under their power, our humanity is the gift that reminds us of God’s glory. Being our beautiful Black selves is a witness against those who disagree with God about our worth. In Him alone we live, move, work and worship. Our bodies are a resistance to those who would dictate the manner and purpose of our being. And our bodies are made to be God’s temple, His holy worship space. Sis, while we wait for comfort everlasting, we are invited to worship with our bodies in Spirit and Truth. When we lift our hands, run the aisles, exalt our Lord and embrace each other, we are making movements as little temples. Humanity is the ultimate worship space. God’s table is the place where King Jesus shares His blood and body for the enrichment of our own!

 

Let the scoffers throw shade, boo. Whether you rock the Venus stride - smooth, long and lean - or own the bold bootyliciousness of Serena, God graces you with His presence and promises to perfect your humanity when you call upon His name. The One who made you is the One within you, He is your beloved and He is coming for you. Worship him while you wait.

 

Readings: Exodus 40. 1-3, 34-38 / Ezekiel 40.1-4

Like the tabernacle that Moses was commanded to build, our bodies are unfinished dwelling places of the Lord. The tabernacle was impermanent, made to be movable whenever the people of Israel broke camp. God’s tabernacle is now with us and our bodies are His imperfect (yet perfected) temples. More than restoring us to our creational completion, He is building all of our bodies into a dwelling place together. Our cries for God’s justice to bring about real peace are an echo of our waiting for the day that God’s justice will also bring true human unity.

 

As we wait, worship is the incarnation not just the anticipation of the coming Kingdom. When we sing and pray together, we participate in the worship of the angels. The liturgies happening around the world now will endure forever. And those liturgies cannot be controlled by the opinions of people who are afraid of the Blackness that God made good. Your hip-hop dance team wants to jam out to “I Luh God”!? Do it. Jesus is the G. (and I mean the G. O. D.). Those who fear our freedom should fear the One who gave it to us, because nothing in the world can take it away. We know, they tried.

 

Exodus 40 is a picture of worshipping in desert places. God was not just teaching his people to worship so that they could worship in the land He prepared. He was forming them into worshippers who could sing to Him in the tent, see Him in the desert, follow Him out of slavery and praise Him on the march to freedom. They beheld God’s presence seated atop a tent. They did not move until God moved. The story goes: “Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out.But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up.For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.”

 

No wonder our foremothers viewed the African diasporictraverse as an iteration of Israel’s children. Blackness is a harmonized story of exodus and wilderness wandering, displacement and longing. As the Johnson brothers wrote: “Stony the road we trod.” Black gospel music carries a resistance to false notions that our lives can be defined by anyone except God. Black Gospel is worship in the waiting. SNCC Activist Euvester Simpson once said “songs got us through so many things, and without that music I think many of us would have just lost our minds or lost our way completely.” I know I am biased because I am a worship leader, but I FEEL sister Simpson so deep on that. Every note I sing among sin-sick, sad and weary saints is a prayer to our King to “show up and fix it.” I know He is coming and I know His presence is already here… that’s why I cry out to Him.

 

In this, Black music paints a picture of the Presence over the tabernacle, the Way-Maker leading us through wilderness. Worship then communicates something specifically to Black people: that we are shaped by our Creator and no one else. Our ethnicity has its origins not in the bellies of slave ships and kidnappers jails but in the mind of God. We are fashioned by God’s hand, from His imagination, born in the bosom of His providence. We are sustained through suffering by the promise of His coming perfection, which the Holy Spirit reminds us of through His current presence. The Lord Jesus knew that we would need this gift which is why He sent the companionship of His Spirit.

 

All of creation groans for the Day of the Lord, yet the meadows are clothed with flocks And the valleys are covered with grain; They shout for joy, yes, they sing. (Isaiah 65:13)

We also, along with creation, groan inwardly as we await our adoption and the redemption of our bodies.

The angels themselves, the multitudes of heavenly hosts, are praising God, yet they too do not know when the Lord will appear. My sisters, Our Lord Jesus is currently sitting on His throne, and is waiting for the Day of the Lord.  For the Son does not know the day or hour. Yes, even the King lives in anticipation for the trumpet to sound. Jesus Christ, the one we long for, is longing for us. He is in a perpetual state of Advent, waiting for the Day of the Lord.

 

Prayer:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” - Matthew 24:36

 

“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Matthew 26:29-30

 

Father, we know that you are patiently waiting, not willing that any would perish. But often it seems that all we see around us is death.  We know that you take no delight in our sufferings so we pray that you would come and wipe away every tear.

 

Jesus, we know that you are the One who sees all in this world.  On your throne you see all  pain and beauty, and still You, Yourself are left waiting. We long to be with You. We know that You long to embrace us in love undefiled from sin. We ask that you would teach us to live in this romantic anticipation.

 

Holy Comforter, like the children of Israel before us, we are tempted to look back to bondage when we believe the lies about our place in this world. We struggle to sing in these strange lands. Holy Spirit, be our cloud in the day and fire by night, lead us to Your land of freedom.

 

Recommended Reading: Citizen by Claudia Rankine

 

YouTube playlist: Worship in the Waiting

Day 6 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 6: Lies and the Traumatized Tokenized | Michelle Higgins

 

“It fits, but you can't make it work. Where there's pain, there's got to be hurt

But the green grass grows from the dirt. That's a fact of life, that's life

The good Lord stands behind every step.”

Chaka Khan

 

Reading: Daniel 3

 

I grew up in the Black Pentecostal tradition hearing sermons on “the three Hebrew boys” at least a few times a year. My sister and I can spell and pronounce some of the most obscure Old Testament names (#PKperks. Black bible nerds, unite!). Whenever my dad preached on this text, he always said “we know about that fourth man in the furnace”. Whether Nebuchadnezzar saw an angel or The Lord’s appearance himself, this vision of one “like a son of the gods” is a comfort to the faithful and a warning to the arrogant: God’s people bow down to only one King.

There’s a new image to worship every time we see the news, check our timelines, or look around our neighborhoods. The comfort of our coming King is that His word reminds us we need not put our trust in these idols, and His wisdom to us is that we take care not to construct idols ourselves. In some freedom struggles, Black women become the image people are expected to worship. In most power struggles we are the poster-people used to diversify a crowd of worshippers, legitimizing whichever racist, misogynist enterprise has been cooked up by the empire of our day.

One response of the fearful elite to Black women is to demonize us, another is to tokenize us. Those in power pretend in public that they adore us while behind closed doors their public remarks are a cover up for the plots to silence us so they can maintain the status quo. Our Lord Jesus knows this experience more than we could imagine. His story and His truth are our comforts. God’s words to the prophet Isaiah ring ever true: “do not fear what they fear, do not dread what they dread.”  

Multi-ethnic churches often act as numbing agents to the pain of those who are unrepresented. Our families are told they will have more power to preach reconciliation than in another church.

Much like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we may have higher positions than others marginalized. But the question remains, whose house is it?

Are we pledging allegiance to the Kingdom of heaven, or the flag of a government founded on massacre and oppression? These questions loom over these United divided States.

Are we building the Lord’s house or towers to the machinations of men? Both are worship spaces, though only one is sacred.

So many of us know the desolation of being tokenized, and then utterly forgotten. In the Evangelical church in the United States, urban missions has become one of the central myths of “valuing diversity”. But the truth is that many of the most conservative white evangelicals prefer Black folks to be seen and unheard, at least until the assimilation process (usually labeled discipleship) is complete. Meanwhile, white evangelicals who call themselves “allies” to radical Black liberation run away from home instead of facing their own racist inheritance when they “get woke”. Either way, we been lied to, fam. To those who attempt to disciple us into whiteness, we respond by awaiting the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. My sisters, do not fear the cultural expression they fear. Do not dread their diminishing prosperity and populace.

Black women experience deception even in liberal movements that claim to amplify our voice. Angela Davis writes about the early struggle for gender equality, when “Woman” was the supposed litmus test for people organizing for change: “not every woman seemed to qualify. Black women were virtually invisible within the protracted campaign for woman suffrage.” Frederick Douglass spoke often about the “suffrage movement suffering because it wouldn’t demand votes for Black women as well as white”. Famed male ally to suffragists Harry Beecher Ward said “women are more important than Black men”. And y’all know he was not referring to women of color. My God, how can we sing in these strange and stolen lands!?

My sisters, we are witnesses to lifelong seasons of waiting for justice. Black women are expected to coddle the people who exploit us and only challenge the people who want us dead. But we know the truth: manipulation is just as deadly as outright hatred. All the lies that tokenize still traumatize.

All creation is traumatized by sin. In our waiting for ultimate renewal, we must continue to confess sin that comes out of the lies we tell ourselves. Particular trauma often leads to particular sin. It is easy to see the way a traumatized person can traumatize others. The impact of displacement and removal has long plagued the Black diaspora. In government, and sacred and social spaces, we are colonized and mistreated by the same people who give assurances that if we leave our people and serve theirs, we will be given status and security. The best-case outcome is an ambiguous sense of belonging, since any idea of “normal” is dictated by people in power who are asking marginalized communities to bend to their images of right-ness into whiteness. But cultural diversity is God-ordained. He promises to restore the inheritance of His people who are languishing. And oh y’all, how often I feel our Blackness languishes for every stride towards liberation.

In our grief (our silent tears) of bearing communal loss and crying over social ills that we feel nobody understands, we can grow complacent in order to cope. In our fatigue (our weary years) of singing Zion’s songs while our captors mock or appropriate our culture, we internalize oppression in order to blend in. Whiteness, like all demonic deception, is not just an action carried out by an individual. It is a predatory institution, seeking to steal, kill and destroy. Because the primary defenders of whiteness are often baptized into a nationalism thinly veiled as evangelicalism, theirs are the kingdoms which sin seeks to build.

Sin against Black bodies that comes like a wolf disguised in suburban safety can tempt us to sin with or against our bodies and the bodies of our kindred.

We are tempted to bow down to the golden images of those who manipulate privileges for their own power. We begin to manipulate any newfound power to have those under us worship us as well. We might hide our motives or blanket them in a veil we call authority or expertise. We will always become like the things we worship. Daniel writes about three men who stood in bold ambivalence to the foolishness of a conqueror king, because he was not their true king. They knew who they worshipped, and the more they lived like Him the closer they came to His presence. The testimony of their accusers is a life goal for REAL, sisters. The king’s loyals said “These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Oh that this would be what the empire knows of us today! But we must not fear the fire, for King Jesus is there. His truth is our sweet escape from every traumatizing lie.

When Christ returns He will gather those who are riddled with the frantic distress of trauma. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord Jesus.  He will expose all falsehood and force every person bent on evil to bend their knee to the Truthful One. The King is coming to destroy the idols erected to the importance of America and her so-called churches. Then He will usher each tokenized child to an honored seat at the very table of blessing, in the kingdom that their faithfulness helped to build. Those whose voices have been hushed or made ashamed will sing and shout the victory.

Prayer of Confession [some portions from PrayingwithJamesBaldwin.com ]

Holy God, we are afflicted by various diseases, poisoned by our own trauma and miseducation, and fearful of the mortifying fires of sanctification.

But You tend to the needs of the isolated child inside of us who has been hurt… is still hurting. We need You and we believe that You will show up in the fire to redeem our plagued pasts.  

Merciful Father, we leave our people to seek higher ground from the floods of cultural peculiarity. We sometimes flee to forget the sufferings of the lowly. Forgive us.

We know that You will topple the mountains of men, and set the downtrodden in places of glory. But we are often perpetrators of violence towards the humble of our own people. Let us never use our power to control rather than to free our sisters and brothers.

O King Jesus, You are King of our life.  From You comes all power and authority.  Your sacrifice frees us to confess our sins, and empowers us with the meekness that makes us bold enough to face any fire.

[Confess your failures before God and your desperate need of Him in your own way]

Holy God, where the oppressors cover themselves in veils, uncover them. Hold their faces in the light, and let them know that you see their evil deeds.

Holy Son, when I try cover my sin, help me to remember that there is no hiding from you. Liberate me and bring my sin into the light, that I may repent.

Holy Spirit, cover me with your grace like a womb, and use my life to cover others in that same grace. Help me to remember that the truth I tell in my life echoes in the lives of those little ones who live and grow into your good future. Amen.

 

Songs:

Ain't Gon Let Nobody Turn Me Around

Seriously, Sara Bareilles, Leslie Odom, Jr.

Take Me to The Alley, Gregory Porter

Nobody Greater, Vashawn Mitchell

 

 

Day 5 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 5: #metoo, Mother Tamar, me too. | Michelle Higgins

The #metoo movement displays something akin to the core values of Black liberation: the most impacted people strategizing for their own freedom and self-determination. The victims of sexual abuse who speak up, along with the friends and family who support them and believe them, have become a community - a global neighborhood - that embraces fearlessness for the sake of protecting and dignifying the most marginalized in their worlds. They work in boldness as well as intercession on behalf of friends too endangered and traumatized to speak. They are demanding answers to the question “How long?!”

My sisters, how well we know this refrain. Black women been fighting for freedom since we first felt society’s chains: cover your curves, “talk proper”, make a man happy and “fix” your hair less nappy. Even churches have taught us that a woman’s freedom in Christ can only be known through the pleasing of men. We’re so poisoned by this mis-education that often we are not sure what liberation will mean if we ever really get it.

What then, to the woman, is freedom? Who is the Black woman unbound?  

I’m still asking God that question. Still becoming the boldly weak and real, unbossed and unbought daughter of the coming King that the Holy Spirit wants me to be. In the waiting, it is the story of Jesus that gives me hope and dignity. And today His foremothers are speaking to me. Will you join me in God’s word today?

Read Genesis 38

That the Apostle Matthew establishes the Lord’s connection to Tamar is a testimony to what God calls significant, and an invitation to us to view her as such.

One may assume Judah internalized the wickedness of his sons which may have led to him feeling ashamed that he was incapable of raising a holy son.  Despite his moral perversion, he was endowed with the power to make or destroy this woman’s life.  Judah is the anti-Father.

Black Womanist bell hooks says there is no desire for male love stronger than that of a son or daughter’s craving for being known and nurtured by a dad.

Both Er and Onan died by God’s hand. In Onan’s wickedness, he sexually traumatizes Tamar. Judah’s response to the death of his sons is punishing Tamar with isolation. He does not say “I will raise Shelah to be holy, so that you will have a husband who does not die”. He sees Tamar as a curse and wants her removed from him, but he still wants power over her. He makes her live as a widow so no one else can touch her.  Ain’t that the same old game. Judah has the power to make Tamar invisible, and he treats her as disposable. By removing her from his tents, and making her wear extended widowhood while he has a living son (her rightful husband), he misuses his power and traps her into a social restraint. Judah makes Tamar a woman in waiting.

Instead of admitting, God punished his sons for their wickedness. Judah punishes a woman, an innocent scapegoat, for the sins of his wicked sons, perpetuated by their father. He denies Tamar of a type of advent.

That two people so tangled in brokenness and abuse - one villainous and one scorned - appear in the lineage of the earth’s Messiah should reveal how deep and wide is God’s redemption, far as the curse is found. The King is coming, even through the tragedies he plans to redeem.  

Advent is only hopeful waiting because the object of our longings is sure to return.  To be denied hope in the midst of waiting is torture, not advent. We see this in the eyes of our sisters and brothers who share their stories of invisibility and assault. Promised a raise in exchange for going down on our knees. Told to dress nicely, to smile big or keep quiet for the sake of keeping a job, and keeping our abusers appeased. We are made to survive abuse, accept abuse, prove that it happened, explain and exploit its impact, protest for ourselves and protect ourselves against it, and shield men from the emotional impact of being held accountable. Hold up.

Mother Tamar is saying enough. Rise up. I wonder if the lineage of Jesus would have continued had it not been for the tragic boldness of Tamar.  

Beloved, by the actions of a weary woman, weakened by scorned yet determined to have justice, our hope is secure. The King is coming, and He is already defending us.

God’s reaction to evil is justice. When Er messed up, Er got checked. When Onan despised Tamar’s body, God’s love for that woman’s body came through judgment of a man who dared to reject God’s beauty. When Tamar was scapegoated, made invisible, rejected and forgotten, she saw Wisdom weave pain into a freedom quilt, and carried out a “more righteous” action for her own vindication. She was given the boldness to break laws when those who were given the sacred responsibility to uphold God’s laws broke her. Vindication in the face of invisibility is the a gospel story.

God’s blessing to oppressed people is the proximity of their story to that of the Humble King. Our God drew near to the people who were considered disposable. Jesus became the scapegoat for all misogyny and sexual abuse.  He made his divinity invisible so that the invisible might know their worth. Jesus came to a world full of toxic masculinity so that he could display true love and righteousness toward women. His fully divine fully human body indwelt a woman’s womb. He took on the human body of a man and embraced women with dignity. He embodied the very maleness he created in order to redeem it. He spoke comfort, power and peace in a world that valued women only to the extent of their ability to coddle, copulate and conceive.

To Tamar, Jesus whispers “I see you, I treasure you”, He is the answer to the longing and lament of every #metoo.

 

Prayer [Rabbi Jill Zimmerman, Isaiah 40]

Blessed are those who reveal painful truths,

and blessed are those who bear witness.

Blessed are those whose unspoken story

simmers underneath,

affecting some parts of life, or coloring everything.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her

that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

 

Songs:

And He Shall Purify, Tramaine Hawkins

The Day Women Took Over, Common

 

 

Day 4 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Black Girl Magic And The Coming Shalom | Michelle Higgins

 

Reading: Proverbs 1: 20 - 33

 

“Life without knowledge is death in disguise.” Talib Kweli

Living on the margins produces a particular wisdom. There is a reason that when God broke into the world His stage was a stable. Jesus lived His life as a poor person before stating, “blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”  We have experienced the fires of violence, but our oppressors did not know that the evil flames of hatred were used as the cleansing fire of God. What pains were endured to make Black girls “magic,”God redeems by His Spirit as the suffering that taught us wisdom. This brings us an unfathomable peace even as we await His ultimate justice.

 

Our stories give voice to a symphony truth, which is a song the world does not want to hear.  When Jesus said “woe to the rich”, it confounded the leaders of His day. We are labeled as divisive when we protest laws that label poor people as criminals. But it is a Godly imperative to express a wisdom which is only forged through pain. In obedience, we share this knowledge as a public witness to the world. Black History’s fat stack of receipts decrees rebellion against the fallacy of a Christian America. This wisdom is a sword which cuts through the myth of peace when there is no peace, and there never was. We have experienced the many hardships to obtain the Kingdom of God.

 

Much of the experience of marginalized women is a picture of what humans can endure in faithfulness to God.  Black girls should not have to be “magic” but Dr. King’s words are still true that “unearned suffering is redemptive.”  What exactly is the fruit of such endured suffering? The question is our lament and refrain in this season of advent. Sisters, we know this well. But the King is coming, and His wisdom is our reward in the waiting.

 

It is a gift to us that wisdom in God’s word is personified as a woman.

For us, she brings dignity to our identity. For our fathers and brothers, she is an invitation to understand that God’s image is fully revealed through interdependence with their mothers and sisters.

 

Black women are real, weak, and weary. By God’s grace we share our stories not out of our arrogance but out of his wisdom. In her “Slave Song”, Sade sings “Wisdom is the flame, wisdom is the brave warrior that carries us.”  Wisdom wept over us across the Middle Passage. She hid herself from arrogant oppressors who presumed they were creating a new republic on what they called new land. She refused to answer those who ate “the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices”. She damned the destructive purposes of the simple minded. She will not let them be at peace.

 

Is there fulfillment of our longing in the waiting for wisdom to be heard? Our King says yes. The plea of wisdom personified in the voice of a woman is fulfilled in the body of the God-man, Jesus. Those who hear the cries of wisdom and turn at her reproof will be free to rest.  When He returns, he will take those on the margins and escort them to the center of His kingdom of perfect peace, a city of shalom, where the King rules and reigns forever.

 

Prayer:

Oh God, all the Black women in us are tried and tired. But we know that you are with us.

We often feel unseen, unappreciated, and unloved.  Yet you have seen our work.  

We feel the pains of misogyny and inequity -  we work tirelessly for what seems like little reward, But You are the glory and reward that is to come.

Holy Spirit, we thank you for the precious gift of wisdom, our reward in the waiting.

Help us to hear and heed her cries.

 

Songs:

 

Slave Song, Sade

VRY BLK, Jamila Woods

When The Battle is Over, Benita Washington

 

 

Day 3 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Bold Weakness

Michelle Higgins

We are called to make peace and pursue peace. God’s word shows us that peace is ultimately brought about when justice flourishes. The oracle of the prophet Habakkuk is a picture of what happens when we separate these realities: “the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted”. How deeply we feel this today. In the United States, generations of native nations watch the descendants of colonizers and kidnappers move over spaces stolen from their rightful owners. Our mothers and sisters bear the strains of racist, reductive social requirements. Dr. Wil Gafney writes “The cry of Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord” has been a staple in black preaching and a heart-cry of many womanists. It has also been a common hermeneutical response to the extra-judicial killings of black women, men, and children by police”. While a “strong Black woman” takes every pain and abuse muzzled and lying down, only an “angry Black woman” demands justice for her invisibility and the state of global anti-womanism.  “How long?” is our daily refrain. Blessed beloved, the King is coming. He has sent his answer.

 

Scriptures: Habakkuk 1-3, Psalm 74

 

When I was a child, I remember my mother preaching on Psalm 74. Quoting verses 9-12, she said “None of us knows how long. That’s why we take our burdens to God, the King of old”.

Habakkuk teaches us the same. He shows a boldness in bringing his questions to God. He seeks an answer to his complaint not only because he does not have answers, but because he knows - like the old folks say: he knows that he knows - the God who has all the answers. By testifying to God about God (“Are you not from everlasting?”), he glorifies the Limitless One in confessing his own limitations. This is not a man resigned to his own weakness, this is one of God’s servants displaying prophetic weakness. His is a testimony that the unction to cry aloud is God given.

My sisters, our God the King is not so fragile that he hears only quiet, shy prayers.

Your discomfort in injustice is by God’s design, you were made to bring your complaints to the King of old. Even when everyone around you would have you be quiet, cry out for justice from the one who has promised it to you!

When my neighbors take the streets to protest laws that make impoverished people invisible, I raise my voice to God as much as I am demanding sensible action from the mayor’s office. Because I know where real justice will come from. When the Evangelical church lifts up the Trump regime in ways akin to the “peaceable” citizens who celebrated Nazi Germany, we must cry out to the true King even if it sets us at odds with people who claim to call on the same. Unless we bring our complaints to God as people who have no answer, we might presume we can strategize for deliverance (or safety, or “keeping the peace”) in our own talents, by our own strength.

It is when we express our childlike dependence on God that we see that He is the One who lifts our heads.  Bodies and lips that quiver reverently in the presence of Creator God display little patience for the destructive schemes of man. If we know that we are God orchestrated, we cannot be man-manipulated.

When it seems that only greed and arrogance will inherit the earth, we must cling to the promise that God will dismantle the entire structure of so-called superpowers. He will make the mighty tremble and He will avenge all wrongs.  In that day, it is the meek that shall inherit the Kingdom. Those who refuse the moniker of meekness might not know the joy of holy weakness, that gift to the impoverished of spirit that sings over them in suffering. It often comes with little money, a lack of material security and no acclaim.

It makes people of color ambivalent to the white gaze. It gives us chill in otherwise awkward conversations and confrontations.

It is a intangible, rich inheritance that makes us shout for joy like little children in the presence of our haters. This was Habakkuk’s reaction to God’s answering his complaints: the obedience to run with the vision, and the power to praise in the midst of oppression. We know that the King is coming, and though he may not come when we want him to, he will be right on time.

Beloved sisters, weakness will be rewarded with power. In Jesus, your humanity is not met with scorn or derision but with love and compassion. Your confession is not only met with God’s pardon but with his very presence. Let’s go boldly, weakly, before Him in prayer.

 

Prayer:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You have sworn yourself to us in love.  It is this commitment that gives us the freedom to admit our frailty.  What the world has called weak or feminine you have called good.  Help the Church to embrace our full calling as the Bride. Though we feel the weight of having to be more than humans, you are the ones who help our striving to cease. Show us the beauty of the complexities you have made in us: Black, bold, limited and free.

Help us to no longer be afraid to come to You as little children in need and want of your tender mercies. In your power, Holy Spirit, our Great Helper, work in us as we strive to participate in your motherly care for the world. Amen.

 

Songs:

Show Yourself Strong, Fred Hammond https://youtu.be/3813XIhRJPY                                     Beams of Heaven (perf. by Oleta Adams), https://youtu.be/QeNRy0kYTtM

 

 

Day 2 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

How Long? Not Long

Michelle Higgins

The King is coming and His kingdom is near.

This has impact on how we see and interact with our world.

When children are brought or born into our families, we know them as fully human already, not yet all they will be. Love for our squad is deep and sacrificial right now, but sometimes friendship grows into lifelong covenants we could never foresee.

One mystery of Christian hope is that sometimes what we long for has already happened. The advent of the Messiah happened thousands of years ago, but we celebrate and experience the earth’s preparations for Him still. Jesus’ work on the cross is complete, yet full restoration has not come. The mysterious nature of this divine anticipation is reflected in the mysterious ways in which we see God.

The uncontrollable nature of the living God leads to experiences we cannot always explain or understand. The incarnation and the sending of the Holy Spirit comforts those of us questioning whether or not our mysterious experiences of God are real.  Right now, wherever you are, He is near to you.

Let’s take some time today to meditate on The Word together. Read Acts 17: 24-34 and Psalm 13

Though God’s presence is here, it can seem that He is far away.  Beloved sisters, let this season remind you that your longing for The Presence already near to you is itself an experience of Him. You are not “missing out” on His presence, there is no such thing as being “far from God” in your spiritual life. Your ache for Him, even your feeling of distance, is proof of His beckoning to you. You can feel that the King is coming because the Kingdom is near. This is because God is already omnipresent while the fullness of His presence is not yet here.

Our faith is not yet sight, but it is already the substance and evidence of the long hoped for, the wondrous unseen. When we see the King, we will know a satisfaction deeper than can be described. But while we wait- while we do not see Him - we are comforted and nurtured by His precious Spirit.

Fully God, the director and protector of the body of Christ, The Holy Spirit is the Helper who assures us of God’s presence, even in times of mystery, longing, and pain. We feel that in our history, we fear it for our futures. Sis, I often wake and cannot shake that Diasporic dissonance that makes me weep for deeper connection to our motherland wondering, “Can I really know who I am?” I can’t meet my babies eyes when they ask me why the current President doesn’t get in trouble when he bullies people. I feel far… I need evidence. So the Lord gives us a refrain: “I am coming”.

The King is coming. This is my surest, only hope.

The Spirit is inviting all of us to know God’s nearness, even in the spiritual dissonance Paul preached about. We might come to the table like our sister Damaris today, spending time in a season of “seeking God, perhaps feeling our way towards him”. The Spirit’s witness to us is that there is no “feeling our way” towards the God who is everywhere.  We are awaiting our Lord’s appearance, knowing that God is already here, and yet to return. God anticipates and answers this longing by saying He is already here, or that He is coming soon.

 

Songs:

Wake, Work or Chill: Til I Met Thee, Cody Chestnutt

Worship: Soon and Very Soon, Andrae Crouch

 

Call and Response Prayer:

This prayer is written for friends to share together. One person speaks the petition, another responds in Jesus’ words. When praying alone, read the response of “Person 2” as Jesus’ reply to your prayer.

Person 1: God we know that you have left us your Spirit, but often our oppressors are the ones who flourish on earth.  We need your power to continue to do your will.  We need your Spirit to remind us that blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Person 2:“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”

Person 1: God we are often the forgotten ones.  Our rulers on earth do not have us in mind.  It is so hard to love when we are unnoticed.  To whom do we look for the strength to love our enemies?

Person 2: “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Person 1: Oh Lord, You are the One that we desire. We believe that you are here but how long until we see your full presence? How long until we are met with your sweet embrace? Will it truly be not long?

Person 2: He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Both: Amen. Come, King Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

(From Revelation 22:7, 12-13, 20)

 

 

Day 1 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Michelle Higgins

Advent for Truth’s Table is a time for hearing the witness and invitation of the Holy Spirit, to trust and obey, to watch and pray. This season at the table we are meditating on God’s Truth, sharing true stories of hope and praying together for Black women around the world. By God’s renewing mercies, we are reminded this season that the life and work of Jesus speaks to both our history and our future. The Lord is near to us in our weary years and our silent tears. His promise of justice and restoration is sure. While we know the bleakness of waiting, the Holy Spirit breathes into us the beauty of hope.

 

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. Isaiah 40

 

This is God’s message to His children and the world: that every valley will be exalted, every hill made low, and His glory will be revealed before all living things. The King is coming, let earth prepare him room. This good news brings a radical, transformative change to the way we live every day, and to the way we view and respond to everything happening in the world.

 

Dr. King preached about Jesus’ words to Nicodemus: “Jesus looked at him and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born again." He said, in other words, "Your whole structure must be changed."

 

Mary’s entire life was turned upside down when an angel visited her. God’s disrupting truth placed her in a new and uncomfortable social position. But she knew it was true, she trusted God’s word, and in her pondering she was comforted in ways she might have otherwise never known.

 

Paul went from a delusional racist murderer to servant and “chief wrecka” of his kindred when he encountered the glory of Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus Christ knocks us off our high horses, blinding us to our own foolishness until we see only Him. Jesus’ entrance as a humble King did not diminish the foretelling of the great glory that is to come.

 

He will give His Justice to the weak. He will fill the hungry with good things; He will bring oppressors down from their thrones. The marginalized will know provision. The last shall be first. God’s is a kingdom of everlasting peace and equity, and though He tarries, we wait with great hope. In our waiting He shows us His meekness, and in His promise He assures us of His boldness. The Lord is ever in control, and the King is coming.

 

Recommended Reading:  Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

This is where we are. Where do we go from here? First, we must massively assert our dignity and worth. We must stand up amidst a system that still oppresses us and develop an unassailable and majestic sense of values. We must no longer be ashamed of being black. The job of arousing manhood within a people that have been taught for so many centuries that they are nobody is not easy….

 

If you will let me be a preacher just a little bit - One night, a juror came to Jesus and he wanted to know what he could do to be saved. Jesus didn't get bogged down in the kind of isolated approach of what he shouldn't do. Jesus didn't say, "Now Nicodemus, you must stop lying." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must stop cheating if you are doing that." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must not commit adultery." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, now you must stop drinking liquor if you are doing that excessively." He said something altogether different, because Jesus realized something basic - that if a man will lie, he will steal. And if a man will steal, he will kill. So instead of just getting bogged down in one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born again."

 

He said, in other words, "Your whole structure must be changed." A nation that will keep people in slavery will "thingify" them - make them things. Therefore they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!"

 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Songs for Worship and Meditation:

May the Mind of Christ My Savior

Kate Wilkinson

 

Everyday With Jesus, Sweeter Than the Day Before

Kirk Franklin

 

Scripture & Prayer: 1 Samuel 2. 1-10

Verse 10: It is not by strength that one prevails;

those who oppose the Lord will be broken.

The Most High will thunder from heaven;

the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

‘He will give strength to his king

and exalt the horn of his anointed.’