Thursday, October 07, 2021

Book of Remembrance


The readings set for Holy Communion today are Malachi 3:13-4:2 and Luke 11:5-13.

In 1912, Willa and Charles Bruce bought land on the beach in Los Angeles County, for $1,225. They named it Bruce’s Beach and set about developing a resort for the Black community living under Segregation. They built a bathhouse, and a dining house.

In the 1920’s, against a backdrop of increasing harassment of the Black population, the city moved eminent domain procedures (what we, in the UK, call a compulsory purchase order), allegedly in order to create a public (i.e. for White people) park. The bathhouse and dining house were torn down. The land, left derelict. No park was created until the 1960’s, when the state feared being sued over the matter.

One week ago today, on 30 September 2021, the Governor of California signed a Bill returning the land—now worth $75 million—to Willa and Charles’ descendants.

(Thank you to Mike Royal for bringing my attention to this story.)

Malachi records and confronts the views of his people that it is in vain to serve God, because evildoers prosper, while the righteous receive no reward. If there is no justice, one might as well embrace injustice, and prosper. Part of the community, however, renew their reverence of the Lord, who promises to act, declaring:

‘See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.’

Luke records a parable told by Jesus, concerning persistence. In it, a man knocks on his neighbour’s door in the middle of the night, asking for the loan of three loaves of bread. He has nothing to set before a guest who was delayed in coming, while the neighbour has more than his family has needed to live. Jesus says, even though the neighbour refuse to acknowledge the bonds of friendship and insists that it is now too late to meet the request (surely there must be a statute of limitations on seeking justice!?), even so, eventually, and due to persistence, he will give the claimant what they ask for.

Therefore, Jesus says, ask, until it is given you; search, until you find what you are looking for; knock on the closed door, until it is opened to you. And though Justice be a guest delayed in coming to you, the day will come when you shall be able to dine together in the dining house.

Jesus concludes, ‘If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children—’

and don’t the evil know it, even taking what rightfully belongs to others, to give instead as gifts to their own descendants—

‘how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

The Holy Spirit is not some private gift, but the life-giving power by which previously segregated communities are transformed into one body and empowered to be such. The dining house shall be rebuilt, not as provision for an excluded community—an accommodation within an unjust system—but for all, sitting down together, held in the bonds of mutual affection.

See, the day is coming. The sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.


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