June 30, 2020
Opening Plenary from Rooted in Jesus featuring Rev. William J. Barber
Note: This was the Opening Plenary by Reverend William J. Barber II at the Rooted in Jesus 2020 Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on January 21-22. For the video, click here, and for more information about the conference, please click here.
Gracious God. Amen.
Lord, help us today. We know that whenever you call men and women to say anything in your name, you take the risk of putting treasure in an earthen vessel. Sometimes faithful, sometimes flawed, sometimes strong, sometimes weak, but you put it in an earthen vessel that when all is said and done, the excellency of the power might be of thee and not of us. Hide us behind the cross, cover us in your blood, fill us with your spirit. That the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart might be acceptable in thy sight. O Lord, our strength and blessed Redeemer. Amen.
It is good to be here in the midst of this burgeoning paradigm shift. I want to thank president George French for having us on this historic campus. To my bishop I say, all around the world Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for his long-term support of the movement, as he said, “going all the way back tomorrow, Monday.” I want to appreciate Melanie Mullen and Chuck Wynder from the church-wide staff and vice-president Byron Rushing and Bill Campbell, my dear sister, the Reverend Hershey Mallette Stevens, who sits on the board of Repairers of the Breach, who helped make these connections.
And I want to thank the hundreds if not thousands of Episcopal members, deacons and priests who are organizing at the grass roots across this country, the many Episcopals that join Yara Allen in helping to do theomusicology around the country. I want to thank from the deacons of Alabama, led by Deacon Carolyn Foster, to the chaplains on the harbor in the state of Washington and Reverend Sarah Monroe, Episcopalians have been on the forefront of the Poor People’s Campaign, the national call for moral revival, since its beginning. And you became one of the first denominations to officially endorse the need for a Poor People’s Campaign in America today.
And so Bishop Curry, I come to report today to you and this body that we’ve been busy in the vineyard together. We have done things that some said were impossible, and I know that on June 20th, 2020, the Episcopalians will be rooted in Jesus and riding to Washington D.C. to join us for the historic Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington D.C.
The healthy conscience, born of God
Down through the years, many have described and allegorized what it means to have a healthy conscience, both corporately and individually. Ghandi was speaking of conscience when he named the seven social sins. Wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principle. Sojourner Truth once saw Frederick Douglas about to give up the fight for freedom and she asked him one simple question, “Is God dead?” She wanted to know what was driving Douglas in his conscience. W.E.B Dubois spoke of the reality of having to live with dual consciousness. Dual consciousness as an African American in America. But Dr. King said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor polite politics nor popular, but because his conscience or her conscience tells them it’s right.” Tolstoy said, “Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” That is a statement about conscience.
A native American elder once described his own inner struggle, an inner struggle within his consciousness, in this manner. He said, “Inside of me, there are two dogs. One dog is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” And when he was asked which dog wins, he said, “The one that I feed the most.” But Jesus, the one I look to for a foundation, described consciousness born of God this way from the Cotton Patch version, Clarence Jordan Cotton Patch version, of the Bible, Luke 4:14 “And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the spirit, and news spread about him through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues. Everybody was praising him. He went to Nazareth where he had been brought up on the Sabbath day. He went into the synagogue as was his custom. He stood up to read in the scroll of the prophet Isaiah that was handed to him, and he unrolled it and said, ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me ‘cause he has anointed me to talk good,’” Clarence Jordan said, “‘to the poor, he sent me to say freedom is for the prisoner. He sent me to say, folk can see right again. He sent me to say, it’s time to stop hurting folk and let people be free, and it’s time to declare that God wants it right now for everybody.’”
The worshipers on that day were faced with a warning from Jesus, in essence, and it is the warning of the danger of trying to worship God without a conscience. That’s what I want to talk about. They were in worship, but Jesus came and said, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me.” And, he transformed, he gave a new paradigm in the midst of the worship experience they were already engaged in. Now they were expecting excitement and demonstration of miraculous power of some sort, because they had said to Jesus, “What we have heard you do in Capernaum, do it here now in your own city,” your own ghetto. Because Nazareth was the ghetto. They were not expecting the coming of a new age or the establishment of a new kingdom. They were not ready for a new agenda on behalf of the poor and the oppressed, and Jesus accepts this text from Isaiah, the little bit from chapters 58 and then 61, as one that the Spirit chose to bring new life at that time and place. This sermon, this first public sermon, this first word of Jesus, was prophetic in the deepest sense in as much as it is the essential nature of prophecy, to speak to the present with divine authority and to transform the historical revelation into contemporaneous dynamic reality.
This was Jesus’ first sermon.
This sermon was articulating what love and consciousness born of the Spirit looks like in public. Good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed.
The conscience of the Spirit and the power of God
Now, if I can work a little bit in the Episcopal church today, Jurgen Moltmann, in his book The Church In the Power Of The Spirit, exegetes this text and then compares the stress points of reform church theology versus the ecclesiology of Orthodox churches by noting that the ecclesiology of Orthodox churches, in other words, what we’re supposed to believe, has stressed the history of the spirit and his continuing presence since Pentecost, the breadth of the spirit’s gifts, the abundance of Sophia’s energies. Orthodoxy has understood the revelation of the Spirit in a Trinitarian sense and resists the christomonism of the Western churches, particularly Protestant ones. Orthodoxy understands the history of Jesus itself pneumatologically. In other words, you can’t understand Jesus and not deal with the Holy Ghost.
The Orthodox teachers in the church, were careful to never dismiss the economy of the Spirit and the ethic of the Spirit. They believed that the Spirit supplied for the church, the power of God in order to act in us in the world. My grandmama said, “Ain’t no need to talking about you going to love like Christ loved unless you got help from another quarter.” Yves Congar in his book, I Believe In The Holy Spirit, says, “It was as one who was led by the Spirit that Jesus undertook his evangelical ministry. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus is described as anointing.” I’ve been anointed – an anointing that is a prophetic anointing for the mission to proclaim and embody love and good news of liberation from evil and the evil one. So, the anointing of the Spirit is both royal and prophetic. It both crowns you and calls you. Have mercy Jesus.
Philip Francis Esler in his book, Community and Gospel in Luke-Acts: The Social and Political Motivations of Lucian Theology knows that there is little doubt that the pericope, Luke 4:16 through 30, concerning the inaugural preaching of Jesus fulfils a programmatic function within Luke as a whole. And what is significant in this programmatic function is the conscience of the Spirit and the pride of place in the inaugural preaching of Jesus, given not to the church folk but to the poor.
The pride of place given to others who are at risk and vulnerable within the world. The anointing which the Spirit brings comes with his own intents and purposes that are rooted in developing ministry for love and liberation of humanity. Now we hear so much these days about spirituality and anointing that ain’t worth a nickel. Lord, help me here. You can buy the books a dime a dozen but careful.
Consecrated and called for God’s purposes of love and liberation in the world
Careful examination of the Isaiah 61 text in the Hebrew Bible notes that when the word anointing is used, then it is with specific characteristics that always have to do with issues of someone becoming an agent of a higher calling rooted in love and liberation. When the word is used in other parts of the Old Testament, anointing in Hebrew has to do with vessels that are anointed to stay inside the temple. But when you get to Isaiah 61, the word anointing in Hebrew switches, which means to be separated for service outside the temple. Lord have mercy, for love and for liberation.
When you get to the anointing that Jesus claimed from the Hebrew Bible and brought into the New Testament reality, it means to be restricted from certain things for purposes more noble than you. So then the anointing is more than a good feeling from a gospel song. The word anointing seems to suggest consecration not just for the bishop but for the church, consecration for God’s purposes of love and liberation in the world. And this anointing – “the spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he hath anointed me,” – is so forceful and so overwhelming that it restricts that which it anoints, that whom it anoints, from doing anything else but that for which it was called. This would mean then that the anointing in Luke is not about a momentary feeling at a conference. It’s about a way of life.
This means that the anointing is what my auntie used to sing, “a call to serve my Lord,” as the old hymn put it. Following this same point of departure is why Jim (James) Forbes, wrote a book on preaching and the Holy Spirit and said, “This is why preachers of the good news of Jesus cannot,” – it’s not even optional – “cannot be content with just making comments on a text and presenting interesting stories with a religious point of view.” Oh, no. When the anointing is at work, a broader concept of preaching is required, one that expects that the God of creation will be present to transform spoken words into deeds of love and liberation, and a massive reorientation of life for the sake of the kingdom of God.
Social stratification in Caesar’s world
Now, major attempts throughout the American history have been to get away from this. The widespread belief among scholars is that Luke/Acts was written in a city of the Roman Empire in the first century. In Roman society there was a clear system of social stratification. (I heard I could teach a while in the Episcopal church.) In Roman society, there was Caesar. Caesar, my God, Caesar was there. Caesar who was a narcissist, who loved to build buildings and put his name on them. Caesar in the first century lied just for the sake of lying. Caesar. Caeser was abusive toward women and didn’t care who knew about it. Caesar in the first century – I’m talking about Caesar. Caesar thought he could do anything he wanted to do. Caesar had the Senate and the Senate leader in his hand. Caesar only worried about the one percent. Caesar looked everybody in terms of money and how much it would come to him. Caesar would bribe anybody, assassinate anybody, start any war he wanted to do, just to protect his Caesarship. Caesar was like that.
And so one scholar notes that common to virtually all the cities of the empire, because Caesar was in control, there was social stratification. There was even a pattern of election where the magistrates or council and a popular assembly were elected, and the members of the council were called decurions. Now, there were normally 100 members of the council – they had to be liked, though, by Caesar. The decurions and the magistrates made up the aristocracy because Caesar didn’t believe anybody else really had anything to say. Additionally, there were senators and equestrians who comprised the upper and lower strata of Roman nobility. Only a tiny portion of the population could serve in the Senate. There were 50 million or so in the Roman population, and less than one percent even qualified financially for the senatorship. To be a senator, you had to possess 250,000 denarii more than the average person earned in a day.
Therefore, to be a senator, it wasn’t so much about your smarts and care for the country, but the money you could pay to get into the office. W.G. Runciman, in his work The Collected, notes that social stratification in Roman society could be examined from three perspectives: one’s access to wealth and means of production, prestige and noble birth, and power. Upper classes in Rome referred to themselves as the honored one, and they referred to everybody else as the humidors, those of low birth, and there was concern only for those.
And, having a conscientious concern for the least of these was not a virtue in Caesar’s world. It was not something to aspire to. R.J. McMullen in his study of the Roman culture entitled Roman Social Relations, notes that the aristocracy in Caesar’s world – you all keep laughing like you all heard about Caesar – Caesar’s world – you all had some encounter with Caesar, or at least his spirit – the aristocracy continually reminded us of their superior position by their conspicuous consumption, by their doing whatever they wanted to do, by their dress, their education, their titles and suggesting always that the law in any trial had to discriminate in their favor.
Those of the upper echelon were exiled for capital crime while other folk were crucified and fed to wild beasts. Cicero, the great poet, described the majority of Roman society as the
sordis ubit et vox, the filth and dregs of the city, among this group where people like merchants and traders and Artesia and unskilled workers and debt bondsmen, and it was into this world, Bishop, that Jesus came with this word from Luke 4:18; and the original Greek language reveals how prophetic and problematically this would have been at that moment. For of the three words in Greek that could have been put here. Luke puts, patocos. This word means poverty at the point of destitution.
Jesus and the patocos
Poverty caused by exploitation, one forced to crawl and beg for the very necessities of life. This word would have been applied to the vast majority of people in Rome because they were under the politics and boot and oppression of Caesar. The poor, the patocos, are all those who have to endure acts of political violence and acts of injustice without being able to defend themselves. In light of the meaning of the word Luke chose, Jesus’ inaugural message – he announces the direct work of the Holy Spirit – is an affront to the false consciousness of Caesar and Roman society.
Now, how extraordinary, how extraordinary would it have been for a boy born in Eatonton, North Caro… I mean, Nazareth? How extraordinary would it have been for a boy born in the ghetto of Nazareth to begin his public ministry by specifying that beggars and a number of other groups that were at the bottom of a social register, were the primary recipients of God’s love and Gods liberation.
This would have entailed a radical upheaval in the prevailing reality. This, my friends would get you killed, and sometimes killed by the very people you’re trying to help, because they had begun to believe Caesar was more powerful than God. And so, in this society with a narcissistic, egoist, egotist clinging to power and political offices, who wanted people to worship him and worship greed rather than serve grace, Jesus declared you can’t really worship God without a conscience that had a concern for the poor, the broken-hearted, the sick, the bruised, the captive and all those who’ve been made to feel unaccepted.
The call to stand with the unloved
Jesus said that at the center of God’s love agenda for this world are those who have been made to feel unloved, and anyone with God’s spirit has to have that same consciousness. Now this text says some things we have to hear today. First, we can’t worship God without a Holy Ghost-shaped conscience. My professor of pneumatology, study of the Holy Spirit, Bill Turner, said something I’ve never forgotten. “Whatever you call yourself, ethic experience, born again, changed, blessed, delivered, feel, sprinkled, baptized, sign of the cross, whatever you call it, if it does not produce a quarrel with the world’s injustices and the hate of this world. If it does not produce in you deep consciousness, then your claim to being spiritual is seriously suspect.”
Howard Thurman said, “In every age the question is, where do we stand in relationship to the dispossessed?” Worshiping God is more than a praise song. It’s more than a hallelujah. I believe in having a great time. We should have joy, but it’s more than just praying for God to give us things. It’s more than just coming to church and engaging in the sacraments without understanding how the sacraments ought to guide us in our daily lives. To worship God, to re-root it in Jesus, to be born again, is to be born again with a deep love consciousness and concern for the plight of others and any concept of Christianity that doesn’t teach this is actually a dangerous form of theological malpractice.
Worship without a conscience is dangerous for a person and for a nation
Now I saw how dangerous trying to worship God without a conscious was this last June on Capitol Hill. I had to testify in a hearing on poverty before the budget committee, and for the first time in history presented a budget built by economists and poor folk. I was with my sister, Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis; and a mother, whose child died because of the lack of healthcare in Alabama; and an undocumented immigrant; and a white veteran farmer from Kansas, where farmers are dying and committing suicide because of their poverty; and a poor white woman from a Pennsylvania community, where the jobs have left and the only hospital has closed.
Now mind you, Congress says that it opens every day with worship and prayer. But in the committee, one of the congressmen said to us, in frustration at us, even daring to be there as clergy, having on collars and having on the stole, talking about Jesus, Bishop Curry.
He got frustrated and he said, see, “I’m a Christian and I disagree with you all because I’ve never read where Jesus challenged Caesar,” to which I said, “So you’re claiming an alliance with Caesar?” This Congressman actually claimed to be Christian but showed no sense of consciousness and concern for the poor or consciousness about how his policies were hurting the very people that Jesus said he came to love and bring good news to. He instead said, “I’m a Christian,” but he saw himself as Caesar when he sat in his political position and therefore above the critique of the church.
Trying to worship God without a conscience is a dangerous thing for a person and for a nation. It will distort your entire view of life and your purpose in life. My God. But then secondly, society will lose itself trying to worship God without a conscience. We must beware of popular piety that fuses religion into an often unholy, narrowism that wants to restrict the call of faith and the call of love to merely personal, private salvation and personal, private prosperity, that dismisses any call to prophetic and social justice.
This is what has kept so much sickness alive in the American reality. This attempt, this worship without a conscience.
Worship without conscience condones genocide, slavery and injustice
How in the world did people who claim to be religious commit genocide toward native people? They did it by choosing the heresy of trying to worship God without a conscience.
How did some people, 400 years ago, create a system of chattel slavery, not just slavery? They went another step further – chattel slavery, declaring that people who look like them except for color were animals.
How did the treaties get written in the libraries of Harvard and Yale and other major institutions – Duke – undergirding and supporting bought-in Christianity theologically? How did they do that? They did it by embracing a form of heresy, trying to worship God without a conscience.
How did people who claim to worship God still embrace Jim Crow and legal segregation that made schools like Clark and Spelman and Morehouse necessary in the first place? They did it by choosing the heresy of trying to worship God without a conscience.
How did America, with the blessing of religion, create a false war against Mexico in the 1800’s in order to steal Texas, California and New Mexico, and then tell the Mexican people, when they come back to the land that was theirs in the first place, that they are illegal. How do you do that?
The only way you can do it is using a form of religiosity that seeks to worship God without a consciousness. And I think about it even today. I was once – not in a church or in a seminary class – but I was in an economic class at MIT listening to Otto Scharmer, and the Holy Ghost showed up. Dr. Scharmer stood up before the class and said, “The problem of the American economic system is one of consciousness.” I said, “Speak, Holy Ghost.” Yeah. He then said, “The times we are in call for a new consciousness. Our society must move from the ego-system to an ecosystem economics. This requires that we shift from ego-system silos to ecosystems-awareness that considers others and includes the whole and a recognition of our interconnectedness.
That’s conscience born of the spirit. And how, in America, are we suffering from a lack of consciousness that has created a situation where Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur who acts the watchdog of extreme poverty around the world, last year had to issue a withering critique of the state of America today. While a president said the war on poverty was over, the UN said that policies today are steering the country toward a dramatic change of direction that is rewarding the rich and punishing the poor by blocking access even to the most meager necessities.
He said, “This is a systematic attack on America’s welfare programs that is undermining the social safety net for those who can’t cope on their own.” He went on to say that millions of Americans are already struggling to make ends meet. They face ruination. Ruin. Being ruined. He said if food stamps and access to Medicaid are removed and housing subsidies are cut, then the effects on people living on the margin will be drastic. He said that child poverty in America is worse than any other industrialized nation. And Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel peace prize economist, sounded like a prophet when he commented and said, “Can you believe a country where the life expectancy is already in decline, particularly among those whose income is limited, that that country would be giving tax breaks to billionaires and corporations while leaving millions of Americans without health insurance?” How can this be in America, with all these churches on every corner? Somebody is choosing the heresy of trying to worship God without a conscience!”
One hundred forty three million people living in poverty and low wealth, 43% of this nation living in poverty, 250,000 people dying every year, 700 people a month dying in the richest nation in the world. Seven people died from vaping, and we call it a national emergency; 700 people die from poverty and low wealth, and we don’t have one presidential debate or congressional hearing on the matter. How can this be in a nation where some call it Christian? It is when we keep choosing to worship God without a conscience. And that, my friends, is heresy.
When we open our political meetings with prayer and the Bible P.R.A.Y. And then, after the Bible is closed and the prayers, people spend their time preying, P.R.E.Y.I.N.G, on those without healthcare and then try to go to church on Sunday and say they love the Lord. That is impossible unless you have chosen the heresy of trying to worship God without a conscience.
It’s the only way to explain how a country of immigrants is weaponizing deportation and ripping families apart. It’s the only way to explain how you can get up and say you lost fifteen hundred children and then brag about doing God’s will.
It’s the only way – when I was in Mississippi, I heard about a child who was snatched from a woman’s breast because she was Latino, while they made her stay in jail 19 days only to find out she was documented, and there were church folk celebrating that. The only way people of faith can be silent on these issues is trying to worship God, without a conscience.
How can 23 people get shot in El Paso and then some churches pray to protect guns more than people?
God raises up movements to prick the conscience of society
This is what’s happening when far too many people think they can worship God without a conscience, because worship becomes merely an excessive exercise and a formality, void of the power of the Spirit and the love of God.
Because if we worship God with a conscience rooted in love and rooted in Jesus, it would cause this whole nation to fall on its knees and repent. And that’s why, in every season, God has to anoint somebody. God has to anoint you in a way that you can’t do anything but serve God. God’s got to grab you in the after 60 years of your life and say “Bishop Curry, I know you ain’t a young man. You probably should have been Bishop when you were younger, but now you’re old. I need you to set a new paradigm, for the nation is in trouble and I’ll give you the strength.”
God has to raise up some movements to prick the conscience of society. God has to say to – where she at – to Hershey (Mallet Stephens, she was pregnant at the time). “You got have that baby, because we got work to do out here on the front line. The world needs you.”
But finally, one more reason why trying to worship God without a conscience is dangerous, and it’s because, when it’s all over, how your conscience guided you will matter. I still believe – I’m still from the country – I’ve been all these schools, got all these degrees, but I still believe there’s going to be a day call when it’s all over. And the old folks say we goin’ to have to give an account. And I don’t want to be morbid this morning, I knew I’m on a college campus full of young folk, so the last thing people would expect for the preacher to do at a conference like this is to talk about when it’s all over.
But I want to say, one day life, all our lives, will be all over. And youth is no guarantee of longevity, and how good you feel right now is no guarantee of longevity. When we started the We Must Do M.O.R.E. tour in El Paso and went back to the scene of the crime, I got messages that said, “If you come back here, we going to make sure you don’t leave and you choke on your own vomit.” I’m telling you – all of us every now and then need to take an assessment. But Jesus said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” He was coming out of the wilderness. He had taken an assessment of life, and he had come to the conclusion that life isn’t worth living without an anointed consciousness born that is rooted in love and rooted in liberation.
When your life ends, who you helped along the way will be your testimony
What else really matters in this life? And I‘m telling you, I‘ve had to learn that lesson hard over this last year. I prayed for a baby brother when I was nine years old, and God fixed it to be so, and last year I had to bury my prayer. My baby brother died. He was diagnosed December third with pancreatic cancer. I spent January second with him all night, and January third it was all over. And I‘m telling you, one of these days it’s going to be all over, and on that day titles and accolades won’t matter most. What’s going to matter most is your testimony.
How did you live a conscientious life?
How did you live a life rooted in the love and liberation of God?
Let me make this live. When it‘s all over, when your life is finished, it‘s better to have a worship testimony of a sacred Holy Spirit conscience filled with love, standing for right, than to have the titles of social grandeur, religious recognition, void of conscience and caring. The song writer didn‘t say, “If I have a title then my living will not be in vain.” No, the songwriter said, “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living will not be in vain.”
If I can say the spirit of the Lord was upon me, was upon the Episcopal Church to care about the poor, the sick, the broken, the bruised and the unaccepted, this is all that really matters. And I want to tell you that one of these days you‘re going to die. When you die, if you have a funeral, even if it‘s a black Episcopalian church, I can already tell you what it’s going to look like. Now, the only one difference, you all going to have communion, but you won’t be partaking.
I can tell you that on that day that you die, some people that wouldn’t get off work while you were living, they going to take off that day. They going to tell the lie that they your cousin, and they are thirteenth, two times removed. But on that day, they going to use you to get off work. Some of your family members are going to want to ride in a limousine because they ain’t never ridden in the limousine no other time in their life. They going to make sure they get the ride in the limousine.
And people who are going to want the choir to sing good. And if you in certain churches, they’re going to sing that song. “I won’t complain.” They’ve been in the parking lot complaining. Goin’ complain after church, but they’re going to say, (singing) “I’ve had some good times. I’ve had some weary ...” You know what I’m talking about, and the preacher going to preach good that day because he ain’t going to see some of you all ‘til next funeral. And the service won’t be too long for folk ‘cause ain’t got time to be waiting around for you to be buried.
And when it’s all over, they going to take you to a hole. You call it a cemetery, but they going to take you to a hole. That’s all it is. And then they going to throw you in the hole, say some quick words over you, and then they’re going to start having family reunion. You’re layin’ there dead. “Child how you been? Sorry, we had to meet like this. Wish I could’ve seen you before but come on you all.” And then they’re going back to the church or somebody’s house, and they’re going to have a banquet in your name. Never had a banquet for you while you were living, but they’re going to have a banquet in your name. Now, if you’re from where I’m from, they going to have fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans, sweet tea that’ll raise your diabetes and potato pie.
And all I stopped by to tell you: it’s dangerous to try to worship God without a conscience because one day you’re going to die, and on that day your title won’t matter. All that will matter is did you have a testimony.
And I stopped by to tell you, Pharaoh had the title, but Moses had the testimony, and Pharaoh came down.
Goliath had the title, but David had the testimony.
Yeah, a mean king had the title, but Esther had the testimony, a jailer had the title, but Paul and Silas had the testimony.
Slavery had the title, but Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman had the testimony.
Jim Crow had the title, but Thurgood Marshall had the testimony.
Segregation had the title, but Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and James Reeb and a white woman named Viola Wooster and a gay man named Bayard Rustin, they had the testimony.
Apartheid had the title, but Allan Boesak and Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela and the mothers of the triple of Africa, they had the testimony.
And if I can preach like I was home, one FRIDAY – my God – Herod had the title, Pilate had the title, Caesar had the title, the Sanhedrin had the title, the Kings and the governors and the rulers, they had the title and the soldiers had the title. They said, if Jesus wouldn’t bow, they crucify Him.
And they did. FRIDAY
It looked like the title’s won. It looked like folk without a conscience won. On Saturday morning, it looked like the title’s won. All day Saturday. All evening Saturday. All night Saturday look like those without a conscience won.
But EARLY – my God! I gotta holler! EARLY Sunday morning, Jesus got up with my testimony and all power in his hand. So as long as I live, if I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody that is traveling wrong, then my living won’t be in vain. And when it’s all over we can hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Somebody better have a conscience.