Summary: The God of the oppressed is also the God of the overlooked and that God’s love is encompassing, God’s love is embracing, and God’s love is enduring.
God of the Overlooked Luke 2: 8-15
Luke 2:10 “I bring you good news of great joy”
Over thirty years ago, Dr. James Cone, Professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, wrote a breakthrough book in Black Theology called “God of the Oppressed.” This book catapulted Dr. Cone to the forefront of theologians in Black Theology and the liberation movement. Essentially he suggests that “oppression is the denial of freedom, and therefore the opposite of liberation.” He concludes that “God came, and continues to come, to those who are poor and helpless, for the purpose of setting them free.” My meditative reading during this Advent Season caused me to reread Dr. Cone’s work and to reflect on the relevance of his thinking in today’s era.
Advent is more than Jesus coming as a baby to Mary and Joseph in a Bethlehem; it is also the anticipation, the hope, the expectancy, of his coming again. Last month I suggested that the anticipation of Jesus returning provided the early church leaders with the impetus to proclaim the message of Jesus being risen, and that Jesus is ruling with urgency.
We have lost that since of urgency; that compelling reason to witness and to proclaim to sinful world that Jesus Christ the Savior is available to them.
I wondered why. I believe it’s because we have become desensitized to the suffering of segments of our society. I believe we no longer see oppression as the enemy of liberation. Liberation is defined as the release from any form of captivity into the freedom given to us by Jesus Christ.
We no longer see the vestiges of oppression. We no longer feel its awful sting.
We have become callus to the cries of those who are still hurting. We have become oblivious to their pain because we feel that their situation, their predicament, their problem is inherently their own fault.
Aids and homicide is the leading killers of Black Americans. It’s their fault. Through my Foundation work I found that if your take ten students entering elementary school, before they complete middle school three have dropped out, as the class continues on to high school and before that class finishes high school another three have dropped out. Therefore from my initial ten elementary student class, you will find that only four will have graduated from high school on time. Hence we have in Baltimore Schools approximately 40% of the student population graduating on time. While America is experiencing a housing boom and a rising increase in the employment rate, my travels throughout Upton have revealed that our people are having a difficult time finding affordable housing. They are also having trouble finding employment. If there is a housing boom and if there is an increase in the employment rate, it is not happening here!
I walked through the halls of Booker T. Washington Middle School. I talked with the school administrators. They are being overwhelmed by the needs of the students and their lack of resources to address those needs. They have to address the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Law, but those mandates where not funded, and as a result they are spending more time attempting to comply with federal law and less time teaching to meet the needs of the students.
I walked through the halls of Samuel Coleridge Taylor Elementary School. I walked into the library and was shocked by its condition and the meagerness of its catalogue. In any information technological age that situation was abominable!
As I read Dr. Cone’s book, God of the Oppressed. I realized that we need to go a step further to bring the “good news of great joy” to the people of our time and let them know that not only do we serve a God of the Oppressed, but we serve a God of the Overlooked.
If you feel that no one cares about your situation, I want you to know that God cares. If you think that society has left you out and you have no way to get back in. I want you to know that God sees your situation. God hears your cries. If you think that life is difficult and you are moving through lift anonymously, I want you to know that the God we serve has his “eye on the sparrow, and he also watches over you.”
It’s difficult to live life as one that is overlooked. Foster care children relegated to being constantly moved about, without the benefit of a stable home; without adequate medical attention, without the necessary mental health support, without educational tutoring assistance. Our children are being overlooked. There are over 7,000 children in the foster care system in this State. 60% of those children are in Baltimore. The highest percentage of those children in Baltimore lives in the 21217 zip code of this church. They live in this community. But they are overlooked!