Psalm 125; Malachi 3:16-4:6; Mark 9:9-13
In our Christian structured Bible, we know Malachi to be the last book of the Old Testament. The hermeneutics of this text is known to be one of fire and brimstone as Malachi foretells to the people what our Heavenly Creator states, “surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day is coming will set them on fire” (4:1). God instructs Malachi that God “will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the [God] comes.” At the same time the Mark passage tells us that Jesus instructed, “Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him” (9:13). The message was clear, the time was approaching, but were the people ready?
As we are preparing and waiting for the season of Advent, we are also facing a dual pandemic of COVID-19 and systemic racism. Although the race pandemic is not new to our society, COVID-19 forced our country to notice the racial tension that has been structurally oppressing people of color, particularly Black women, since the constitutional foundation of our country. The United States of America received a similarly fire and brimstone message like the one that Malachi told the people of Israel; it was blunt, direct and in their faces, but were they prepared to listen?
While many have the luxury to work from home; they have received the message of the racial, social and economic injustices that many Black woman face in America. They have received the message as they turn on their evening news every night to hear skyrocketing statistics of COVID-19 disproportionally affecting people of color, especially Black women. They have received the message while enjoying their morning cup of coffee, being forced to wrestle with the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery while reading their morning newspaper. Meanwhile, not printed in the national paper at the time of her death was the story of Breonna Taylor: an unarmed, law abiding, Black woman murdered while sleeping in her bed. They are brutally faced with the message being ever so clear every time they handed a Black woman cashier their money at the grocery store, conveniently waited in their cars as Black women brought them their takeout dinner; and as a Black woman placed the must have bread maker that you ordered from Amazon on your front porch. Exhausted, tired, and putting their families at risk for the sake of your comfort; they do it all with illuminating crinkled eyes and with a smile covered by a mask to keep you safe. Despite all of the misfortunes that Black women are faced with, we too are waiting and preparing for advent and believing in the message of hope.
As we reflect on the current state of the world and with further reading and close evaluation of the Malachi and Psalm text, there is a clear message of hope. God uses Malachi to state that he will send the prophet Elijah before the day of judgement to turn the hearts of the people (Malachi 4:4-6). Psalms 125 comforts us by stating, “those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround the Jerusalem, so God surrounds the people both now and forevermore” (Psalms 125:1-2). This is God’s promise to us to stay faithful during our season of preparing and waiting. As we lament the current condition that Black women are faced to endure during the dual pandemics, we are hopeful because we know that “the scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted of the righteous” (Psalms 125:3).
Most importantly, many across the United States received the message and instead of ignoring it they reacted. This was evident when many had the luxury to stay in their homes, they responded to the message by pouring into the streets in droves demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. While some read their morning papers with their families at breakfast, they engaged in the hard conversations around race, gender and class disparities due to COVID-19. Lastly, there were some who responded to the message by turning their homes into justice advocacy offices by writing letters to their elected officials, donating money to cash bail funds and educating others through social media.
We have big challenges to face not only as Black women, but as a society. Our faith needs to be justified by our actions this Advent season. We cannot only wait, but we need to be actively preparing ourselves because we know how the story begins and the good news that is yet to come.
Destini Hodges is the Interim Coordinator for the Young Adult Volunteer Program for the Presbyterian Church (USA) where the organization provides services opportunities to young adults ages 19 to 30 for a “year of service for a lifetime of change”. She is currently a first year Ministry of Divinity student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Being a lifelong Presbyterian from Capital Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg, PA; Hodges has served as a Ruling Elder, a member on Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concern’s, a member on Mission Responsibility Through Investment and as the Diversity Coordinator for the Presbyterian Women of Carlisle. Graduating with her bachelor’s degree in political science from Pennsylvania State University has shaped her to be a public servant at an early age. Her passion for youth and young adults led her to run for office in 2011 for the Harrisburg School Board at the age of 20 where she was selected and served for four years and later ran for Harrisburg City Council in 2016 where she was elected and served until accepting the position with the Presbyterian Mission Agency in World Mission. She has sat on a diverse fashion of local boards such as the Junior Board for YWCA of Harrisburg and Young Professional Louisville Urban League.