The black theologian must reject any conception of God which stifles black self-determination by picturing God as a God of all peoples. Either God is identified with the oppressed to the point that their experience becomes God's experience, or God is a God of racism...The blackness of God means that God has made the oppressed condition God's own condition. This is the essence of the Biblical revelation. By electing Israelite slaves as the people of God and by becoming the Oppressed One in Jesus Christ, the human race is made to understand that God is known where human beings experience humiliation and suffering...Liberation is not an afterthought, but the very essence of divine activity. (A Black Theology of Liberation, pp. 63-64)
Although I disagree that God as revealed in Jesus Christ is for some people and against others, this has informed my concept of God tremendously. I have long been uncomfortable with the Sunday School personification of God as an old white man with a big beard. Often I have jokingly said that the woman who played the Oracle in the first Matrix film was the best personification of God I'd seen. Loving and kind, knowing the person and attending to him fully in due time, she had the wisened look of a person who had endured suffering and knew that it indeed had an end. She was willing to accept loss in order for the one she was attending to to know his true identity and purpose.
So, keep all of this in mind when I tell you about a personal encounter with the God of the universe. It was Sunday morning, February 17. I had been with my dad in hospice care through the night, expecting him to die. I really had not slept much, and I was just about to take a shower when she came by. I was contemplating going to church, but really did not want to leave Dad's side. From the bathroom I heard someone walk in, look around, and leave. I could tell it was a woman in dress shoes. I quickly ran out in the hall to see if it was my step mother and found a well but modestly dressed black woman in her late 50s or early 60s. She had a KJV Bible clutched tightly, and a look of compassion on her warmly smiling face. I said hello and asked if she had come to see my father. She said that she was a volunteer, and was just checking on whomever might be there. After a few more pleasantries she said, "Oh, you're a believer!" Her eyes became even more delightful and her armed loosened a bit on her KJV. I asked her to pray for me and we held hands. I don't remember the words, but it was like someone singing my heart's song. She held me as I cried. I thanked her, and she was on our way.
How often do we say that "Christ has no hands but ours"? How often do we act on it? Jesus Christ came to me that day, in that hour. And I'm here to tell you, God is a black woman. When the greatest desire of my heart was to go to God and worship, she came to me. She transformed my understanding of worship. She held me like a babe and called me beloved. And now my greatest desire is to do that for someone else.
In the Matrix the Oracle tells Neo to know himself. John Calvin reminds us that a knowledge of self is derived from a knowledge of God. Jesus Christ tells us that we must love our neighbor as ourselves. On this Good Friday I am consummately aware that I have not loved my neighbor as myself, nor have I loved as I have been loved. In a world at war with a silent unless cheering church... in a world where human trafficking supports a global economy I benefit from... in a country where racism and sexism are dominating our political processes instead of concern for justice and the inalienable rights of all humankind... in a world where teen culture has become a target market with such value that corruptibility is valued more highly than virtue... in this world we need a day like today. We need a Good Friday to challenge us by the reality of the cross. We need to be reminded that the path to resurrection involves a cross. We need to be willing to be present in each other's pain, to make the sacrifice of fearing rejection, giving up our own time, and seeking God's presence in the one who is suffering.
God came to me in the form of a black woman. Yet still I wonder about God's activity in my life and in this world. And then it hits me... on Good Friday. I am a part of God's activity. Of course I knew this before. But how often have I cared? Really, how often have I been too busy to care where the different products I buy come from and what soul was burdened to get it to me? It's too much to bear. Or is it? I thank God for the cross and the resurrection! I thank God for the realization of how horrible this world is and how complicit I have been! I thank God that Sunday is Easter, and that each day I can live as an Easter person!
Yes friend, I am a believer! I believe in forgiveness. I believe God is present and active in this jumbled up, shook up world. I've seen her. The question is, will I show her to someone else? I sure am gonna' try.