INVOCATION and READINGS
I want Jesus to walk with me;
I want Jesus to walk with me;
all along my pilgrim journey,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me. African-American Spiritual
Hebrews 4: 14-16 Jesus the Great High Priest
14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
John 14: 25-27 The Promise of the Holy Spirit
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Glory and thanksgiving to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for these words of grace and assurance!
There is no singular hymn writer I can give you for this genre of song. Rather, this music was created and sung by a people of oppression, of pain, and of sorrow. Their songs lamented the horrific circumstances of their lives as they walked hand in hand with the suffering Jesus they came to know in their strange captive world. But these were also songs of the Spirit that lifted them out of a hopeless existence into a world of optimism – of faith – and of freedom.
We are greatly enriched by the African-American Spiritual. While we cannot fully know the pain and suffering of the many human beings forced to endure slavery in America, we can find common understanding in themes of suffering and loss that find hope, through faith, in the saving power of God. What do we all have in common, then? We share our common spirituality that bridges the divide between all worlds and all people – past, present, and future.
Rev. Dr. Luke Powery, Dean of Duke University Chapel and associate professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School, has worked for a deeper understanding of the African-American Spiritual – how these songs that served the immediate, dire needs of the slaves that sang them lived on to teach us all about faith through adversity and an eternal life in Christ. He has written on this very subject, and his work is well worth learning more about.
Recognizing how these “Spirit Songs” offer the power of the Holy Spirit indeed enriches my own faith during this Lenten season – a humbling and poignant gift from the enslaved – and from God.
In my trials, Lord, walk with me;
in my trials, Lord, walk with me;
when my heart is almost breaking,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.
When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me;
when I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me;
when my head is bowed in sorrow,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me. Amen.
“I Want Jesus to Walk With Me” African-American Spiritual
(UMH #521, adapted by William Farley Smith, 1986)
“Were You There?: Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals” by Luke A. Powery.
“In Their Own Words: Slave Life and The Power of Spirituals.” by Eileen Guenther
“The Books of the American Negro Spirituals” by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson
The Spirituals Database (https://spirituals-database.com)
Offered by Joche Wilmot, Director of Music Ministries