SERMON TITLE: “The Seven Last Words of Christ: Father forgive them . . .”
SERMON TEXT: Luke 23:26-34
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: March 1, 2017 (Ash Wednesday) at First UMC
Some of you may have wondered why we sang that last hymn during an Ash Wednesday service.
It’s certainly an unusual choice for Ash Wednesday. Well, here are the reasons why. The hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is known as the Black National Anthem. So Joan Effiong had asked me to include that hymn in a worship service sometime in February, which is Black History Month. I had agreed to do so. And then I forgot. My frail human brain messed up. When I finally remembered, it was too late for February. So I had to apologize to Joan and ask if it would be OK to sing her requested song in March. Fortunately, Joan was willing to forgive me and agreed that March would be OK. While we can all relate to forgetfulness as a common human frailty, and chuckle about it, I want Joan to know that I take this seriously. I have to admit, sadly, that this little scenario with a hymn is all too symbolic of how our dominant white culture has treated African Americans in our country. Far too often, we have abused, segregated, disregarded, or simply forgotten our sisters and brothers of color. And, for that, I am sorry. I repent. And I seek forgiveness.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day in the season of Lent. Lent is the period of 40 days plus six Sundays that leads up to Easter. As we approach the crucifixion, it’s traditional for Christians to contemplate the suffering of Jesus and to repent of our human sinfulness that causes such violence to occur. So tonight I’m starting a Lenten sermon series on “The Seven Last Words of Christ,” and it’s fitting that the first of those statements of Jesus from the cross was “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Or maybe you prefer the old King James’ translation: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”