“Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring Ring with the harmonies of Liberty Let our rejoicing rise High as the listening skies Let it resound loud as the rolling sea…”
Those are beautiful words of inspiration and hope penned by James Weldon Johnson during a dark period of American history. This beautiful poem has become an anthem of hope to millions.
Difficult times are not a recent phenomenon. People in America, whether transplants or indigenous, have always faced times of difficulty. It is sad to say, but most of our difficulties have been self-inflicted. Greed, hatred, indifference, ignorance, and intolerance have all been used as kindling to fuel the fires of injustice and division throughout this country at various times. Animosity and ill-will directed towards persons of color continues to create more problems than we can shake a stick at.
This current pandemic, the political divide, the plague of poverty, and the polarization of racism all clamor for the church’s undivided attention. People are searching for resolutions, and many are looking to people of faith for answers. I believe that the church of Jesus Christ has the greatest opportunity and platform for sharing the “good news” of the gospel of Jesus Christ on a global scale then we have ever had. My hope is that we do not miss these golden moments because we are obsessed with our own personal or denominational agendas.
The beauty of our connectional system is that we can quickly and easily, literally, reach around the globe in a moment’s notice. We have a healthy network for communication, education, distribution, and dissemination. Our major challenge is agreeing on the message that we send. If we continue to fight, insisting that our particular personalized message is “the message,” we will leave folks without the hope, help, and healing they hunger for.
If we want to be effective, we need to follow the biblical pattern established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The Holy Spirit brought cleansing fire that united and launched the church in mission and ministry. Everyone told his or her own story, but the focal point of the story, summed up by Peter, was Jesus Christ. It was God’s job to open the ears of the hearers and to contextualize the message. God is clearly invested in two streams coming together: obedience and spiritual hunger. When Christians are obedient in sharing their transformation stories, God makes sure that the hungry can hear and that they can dine on the spiritual banquet set in front of them.
“Lift every voice and sing” is my prayer for the United Methodist Church. As we sing, to the glory of God, I believe God will blend our voices into a beautiful symphony of sound that will connect us to Jesus and to each other in love. May it be so!