A politically and socially awakening driven sermon was delivered Sunday, August 4th, during the evening service at the North Campus Sanctuary. Elder Uleses Henderson, Jr., a 10 year member of West Angeles COGIC, Young Adult Ministry Truthseekers instructor, accomplished intellectual property attorney and General Counsel of the Church Of God In Christ spoke from the subject: Christ’s Case for George Zimmerman.
Who better than the lead legal advisor for the Church of God in Christ to deliver a historical look on racial profiling and the service of the church?
Over the past few weeks America has been divided over the fact that a teenager can be shot and killed over absolutely nothing. Elder Henderson reminds us that this very act is not a foreign subject to most blacks. Black-on-black crime seems to be at an all time high, as one can get shot over the simplest things: the color of their clothes, or over drugs that they don’t even control. 93% of all homicides for young black men between the ages of 18 and 30 are perpetrated by other blacks. Elder Henderson admonishes us, “that before we point the finger at other people let us first examine ourselves.” The facts are glaring and it makes no sense to protest injustice if we do not first value the lives of our own youth.
Under the U.S. criminal justice system, a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Elder Henderson clarified that “to say that a person is not guilty under the law does not mean that the person is innocent. It only means that the prosecution has not presented enough evidence to prove it’s case and despite what the prosecution would have you to believe this bar of persuasion is not that high if YOU’RE not black.”
It appears as though the woman who balances the scales of justice has a bum shoulder because it seems that she can never uphold her weight when it comes to justice for black folks.
Most heard the interview on CNN of juror B29 in the Zimmerman case. Elder Henderson mentions that the juror wanted to convict Zimmerman of murder but she couldn’t under the law.
In 1963 Byron De La Beckwith gunned down Medgar Evers—a civil rights activist and member of the Church of God in Christ– in front of his wife and children in his driveway and it took them almost 30 to charge De La Beckwith. In 1989, Charles Stuart, a white man, shot and killed his pregnant wife in the head and shot himself in the stomach that lead to a massive man hunt resulting in the arrest of Willie Bennett, an innocent black man. It was not until Stuart’s brother “ratted him out” that the authorities would find out the truth—Stuart killed his wife and unborn child for insurance money.
And who can forget the tragedy of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black youth and member of the Church of God in Christ who was lynched in Money, Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Elder Henderson startles us as he reminds us that although there were laws to protect a white woman from black men, there were no law to protect our beautiful black women from being raped, pillaged, and abused by aggressive white men.
Elder Henderson then gives us a snippet of history from the inception of slavery in the early 17th century. Blacks were considered to be the property of their slave masters based on the belief that they were naturally an inferior people. They experienced brutal and inhumane treatment and were exploited for their labor. Following the Civil War, amendments to the Bill of Rights prohibited slavery and granted all people regardless of race equality and protection. Yet many states imposed Jim Crow laws, which the courts continued to enforce until the 1960’s. Let us not forget that a black man could not shake hands with a white man because it implied social equality.
Black and whites were not to sit, eat, or exist together without some sort of separation or partition between them. Blacks were not even allowed to show affection to one another in public because it offended whites. Jim Crow etiquette describes that blacks were introduced to whites, never whites to blacks, and courtesy titles were unheard of.
Jim Crow laws were established based on the misplaced belief that whites were superior in intelligence, morality and civilized behavior. And it seems that the Assemblies of God adopted this same mentality, as they have forgotten their roots: the Assemblies of God was birthed out of the predominately black Church of God in Christ. The Assemblies of God now prides itself as being the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, yet it came from the Church of God In Christ. And, several years ago, when former Presiding Bishop G.E. Patterson was invited to speak at to an Assemblies of God congregation, the pastor of the Assemblies of God church introduced Bishop G.E. Patterson and the Presiding Bishop of “our sister church;” but Bishop Patterson corrected the pastor by saying “the Church of God in Christ is your mama.”
Indeed, God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.
Here in our text, Jesus confronts the hypocrisies in the church.
The sermon’s base scripture is:
John 7:53-8:11 (NKJV):
53 And every man went unto his own house. 8 But Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. 3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken [or caught] in the act of adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone … and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself and saw none but the woman, he said unto her: Woman, where are those…thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
The Pharisees interrupted Jesus’ teaching to accuse this woman who had been caught red-handed in the act of adultery.
It is important to know that God’s house is the only court we should be concerned with because with just one sentence, Jesus dismantles the prosecution: He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone. Anamartetos, means to be guiltless; without the desire to sin. Jesus then flips the script, and turns the burden on the prosecution: as the Bible says that these men were convicted by their own conscience.
Just as Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God, the same would be as the jury and courts are the Judge and God’s judgment is the one we hope and long for. In the text, Jesus looked at the woman and said: “If there’s nobody to accuse you, if nobody wants to prosecute, then the trial is over.” The woman was acquitted. One could ask, “How does God harmonize His justice with His mercy?” The answer would be because if God is a God of righteousness and a God of justice and a God of judgment, then by His holy nature this woman must die. But if God is a God of love and of grace …and of mercy and forgiveness…then this woman must live.
So how does Jesus harmonize these two principles? Judgment is vertical, grace is horizontal and they both meet at the cross. The cross was where justice and mercy harmonized. And this woman’s sin didn’t go unpunished, because when Christ died on the cross he bore all of our sins. So Jesus Christ became the mediator between justice and mercy, and through this mediation, this woman went away justified: Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Feel free to comment on the mediation of Jesus Christ and your thoughts on the Zimmerman Case.
You may also read Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake’s statement to the Zimmerman verdict here.