Leanne Jackson shared with me a devotion she published in Walking in Grace (formerly Guidepost) and gave me permission to include as our devotion today...
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. –Psalm 96:1 (NIV)
The first time I heard “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” I was captivated. I loved how the marching beat drove the lyrics—by turns haunting (“the days when hope unborn had died”), tragic (“treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered”) and faithful (“God of our silent tears”).
Pastor Jevon, a pastor in my current church, called it the Black National Anthem. He had sung it nearly every Sunday growing up. I’d missed out on that, growing up in a white church.
My parents worked for civil rights in the 1960s. They fully expected that we’d have racial equality by now. Fifty years later, when my church celebrated the anniversary of the March in Selma, I sang “We Shall Overcome,” held hands across the aisle and cried. I began my own march toward equal rights for my sisters and brothers of color.
The Black National Anthem would be my marching song! I found it in our Methodist hymnal and began memorizing the words.
On February 1, my daughter sent me a list called “29 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month.” Number 26 leaped off the page: “Learn the full version of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’!”
As long as I can remember, I’ve sung and prayed hymns throughout my day. How had I learned all those hymns? I remembered the story Pastor Jevon had told us: As a child, surrounded by his church family, he had sung that hymn every Sunday. Just like my own childhood.
I found a beautiful recording on YouTube: the Abyssinian Baptist Church singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” most of them without a hymnal. I joined them online every day. By the end of February, I was singing my new favorite hymn by heart.
Dear Lord, I pray with Your hymn, “Let us march on ‘til victory is won.”
Have a great weekend,