Wednesday, July 5, 2017

African American Psalm

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Diversity in the church is a product of modern advances in society in general, reflecting on Christianity specifically. In America where there has always been two churches, a black church and a white church, desegregation for Christ seems to be the right next movement of the American body, s than a diverse church was inevitable.   

When I moved from North Philly to the Greater Northeast one of the changes I would have to make was where I would worship my God. So I left a 100% black church to join a multiracial church in my new neighbor.

 One of the advantages of being a member of a racially, and ethnically  diversified church, is that we (the congregation) have found a way to accentuate those things in Christ that we have common, while at the same time diverting our attentions away from those things that that make us different. This allows people of very different backgrounds work together with the precision of an expensive Rolex.  The problem with this well working diversity is that within a single generation the knowledge of your forefathers, from a spiritual perspective, who they were, what struggles they had, what defeat as well as victory they experienced and even who we are is lost to a diverse unification of worshipers. But God has required worshipers of all tribes and all nations to come to him (Revelation 5:9) and where there are diversity of nation there must be diversity of people.

The worship that comes from diversity should never be an assimilation of something, just vanilla
enough so that no one is offended. Instead worship should be colorful, corporate, yet personal, in some ways a reflection of the worshiper, so that every member can benefit from it. 

One trend that I am noticing from many Christian music radio stations is what I call “me centered worship”. It’s as if most modern day “praise and worship” music is grounded not in a deep seated gratitude for the salvific work of Jesus Christ, but in a worship centered in me, myself, and I, and how the cosmic Santa clause meets all my needs.  The proponents of this “Me centered” gospel seems determined to eradicate many of the old time hymns and African gospel that grew out of passion and the insatiable desire to know God, to need God and the hope that God would recompense their circumstance.

Songs like Swing Low Sweet Chariot (coded gospel) and Rough Side of the Mountain are uniquely part of the African American Christian message. They chronicle the slavery experience, and trouble there after that has become the pillar of the black gospel history. When slave were taken from Africa and given their master’s name so much more was taken. Yes the body was taken from their homeland, the identity was taken from the individual, and the history was take from the people. And because of this we have to create a new history to remember our struggles and defeats and victories. But slaves were not taught to read and write, so the only way history could pass from to another was song, just like the only way a message of importance could be sent was through song.

Biblical allusion
Code Meaning

Swing Low 
Sweet Chariot, 
Coming for to carry me home.
This was God’s Chariot of Fire coming to take Elijah Heaven.

2 Kings 2:11  As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven
It alluded to; the conductor of the underground railroad coming (Chariots) Swinging low (coming from the north to the south) To Carry or direct them to their new home ( in the North or Canada)

I looked over Jordan 
and what did I see?
Coming for to carry me home.
The River Jordan signifies the promised land of safety and rest.

Deuteronomy 12:10 “When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security,
It alluded to; the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers which getting to and crossing was the most difficult part of the railroad. But once they could get to the other side the troubles got easier.
Slaves were told if you cross the Ohio river and look on the hill you would see the house of John Rankin would a preacher and abolitionist living in Ripley Ohio.

A band of Angels
coming after me
Coming for to carry me home.
This is the hope that God will watch over those taking this journey and will task his angels to watch over them.
Exodus 23:20 “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.”
Psalm 91:11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.”
It alluded to; The workers of the Underground Railroad (God’s Angels, [messengers]) helping protecting them on the journey north.
 This also alluded to Ripley’s depot one of the earliest and busiest stations of the Underground Railroad. Ripley was the home of John Rankin and John P Parker (1827 - 1900), an abolitionist, former slave, and successful industrialist. John Parker was also a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad. To reach the town of Ripley, which sits atop a hill by the Ohio River, fugitive slaves had to wait for help coming from the hill. This scene corresponds to the lyrics that refer to a "band of angels coming across the Jordan River to carry me home."
If you get there

before I do;

Coming for to carry me home.

Tell all my friends
I’m coming too

Coming for to carry me home.

With history snatched out of our hands we were forced to create our history anew. But unlike every other race in the world, the earliest know history of the American Black man began in slavery, so we sang, and God in his perfect divinity heard the cries of His children and swung low His sweet Chariot. 

So that we as a people would never forget God gave us song, (like David) to praise his glory, to cry out to him in our suffering, He gave us these Psalms of the African American Experience. Never to be outdated, never to be replaced, to remain in time for as long as there are people of color, so that we never forget how to give him praise!

Just a thought