As the Cathedral and the nation prepare to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday, we were treated to a fiery sermon from Bishop Vashti McKenzie.

Bishop McKenzie is the first woman to be elected bishop in the AME Church, and the first woman to lead the AME’s Council of Bishops. Currently she serves as President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches — the first Black woman to lead the storied ecumenical group.

She preached on the biblical story of Joseph, whose trust in God led him from bondage to the upper echelons of power in ancient Egypt. The only way he was able to navigate it all, she said, was by unwavering trust in God.

It’s a fitting promise for America as it grapples with an uncertain future and disagreements about its past, she said.

From the sermon:

Have you noticed when God says this is the way walk in it, it is not always a direct route? It looks illogical, feels illogical, is illogical from a human point of view. God gave (Joseph) a glimpse of a bright future. And the next thing you know, he’s in a pit. He’s in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s prison. And all too often the direction that God takes us has a lot of twists and has a lot of turns. It’s risky. It may be dangerous, it’s challenging. It has backdrops, parking lots, exit ramps, holding cells, detours, and all you can do is trust God.

Joseph made it clear that no matter how good it gets in Goshen, their future was in front of them and not behind them. And that’s a word for somebody here today. Your future is in front of you, not behind you. They came to Egypt as a dysfunctional family at the behest of a displaced son, and years later, they would leave as a nation of millions. Their circumstances didn’t create their future. It was the possibilities of God. So when the way is unclear, uncertainty calls your name, all of our names, we feel like we’re in a holding pattern in places not of our own choosing, and all we can do is trust God.

Can I call back to the witness stand James Weldon Johnson?

“God of our weary ears, God of our silent tears thou has brought us thus far on the way.” All you can do is trust God.

“Thou who has by thy might lead us into thou light, keep us forever in the path we pray.” All you can do is trust God.

“Lest our feet stray from the places our God where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world we forget they.” All you can do is trust God.

But what life calls us to now is not merely trust, but an unwavering trust. And unwavering trust is a rare, is a rare thing, a rare commodity today because it demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic. Good God Almighty, where do you go buy unwavering trust? Is it in the stores yet? Is it being sold online? Have the promos started? Can I get it through Amazon Prime?

Trust, yes, “with all my heart, soul, mind and strength,” but unwavering trust. Trust, yes. “Lean not unto my own understanding,” but unwavering trust. What is unwavering trust? It is unshakable trust. It’s a bulletproof trust. It’s an unbreakable trust. It’s an unstoppable trust. It’s a reliable trust that the wind cannot blow away. The rain cannot wash out fire cannot burn it. Mudslides can’t overcome it, and death doesn’t even come near it.

Unwavering trust, when the shadow of Jesus’ cross falls across our lives in the form of failure or rejection, are any of those things unfamiliar to you? That when we find ourselves betrayed or unemployed or lonely or depressed or despondent, the loss of a loved one, when we are deaf to everything but the shrieks of our own pain, when the world around us suddenly seems hostile and a menacing place, at those times we are between the harsh realities of devastation and disappointment and desperation. And in such moments that the seeds of distrust are sewn, it requires a heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what’s happening around us or what is happening to us.

Oh, we forget that Jesus never asked his disciples to trust in God. He demanded trust — as John tells it, “trust in God and trust also in me.” Trust, then, is not some feature that walks around the edges of the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is the heart of his teaching. Trust, trust, trust. And our fear of the unknown, of what’s next along the shadowed valleys, the path stretching ahead of us continues to sow those seeds of the trust. That’s a matter of emotions. And so if, if, if trust does not dispel confusion and darkness, uncertainty, if trust does not remove the chaos or provide a crutch, then what does unwavering trust do? 

What does unwavering trust do? It holds you together until God’s answer shows up. That’s what it does. It keeps you until God next arrives. It tethers you so you’re not blown away by what’s happening to you and what’s happening around you. It keeps you moving forward. Even when your knees buckle and waving, trust is a steadfast resolve that has nothing to do with how you feel. It’s not an emotion.

It’s what our grandmothers would say: I have a made-up mind. 


Kevin Eckstrom

Chief Public Affairs Officer

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