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Friday, October 17, 2014

Every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.
Yes, every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.

Upon the mountain, when my Lord spoke,
out of God’s mouth came fire and smoke.
Looked all around me, it looked so fine,
till I asked my Lord if all was mine.

Every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.
Yes, every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.

Jordan River, chilly and cold,
it chills the body but not the soul.
There is but one train upon this track.
It runs to heaven and then right back.

Every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.
Yes, every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.

“Every Time I Feel the Spirit” (tune: Pentecost)
African American spiritual
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

Reflection
I have to confess that it feels odd when we sing old African American spirituals in our big mostly white city church. It’s not that it sounds odd—the Morning Choir could sing a pizza delivery menu and make it sound amazing—but it feels odd. There is always this little voice that whispers “inauthentic” in my ear, whispers that these are songs born of suffering we cannot imagine, that they come from depths of experience that are utterly foreign to us, that we are appropriating something we haven’t earned.

On a compared-to-what basis, we don’t suffer much these days, compared to the circumstances that gave birth to songs like this. Suffering is something we actually try to avoid, something we step away from rather than step through. When we sing these songs born in an inescapable suffering, aren’t we taking them out of context?

Maybe. Maybe we are. But maybe there is a message to us, in our comfortable times, from these people who endured so much. The songs aren’t ornate. When you’re under duress, real duress, you don’t have the luxury of ornamentation. You boil things down to what is simple and necessary. These songs are simple, and what they say is simple. Trust. Believe. Pray.

The challenges we have in our twenty-first century world are very different from the ones that gave birth to this song. Dehumanizing brutality is not generally a part of modern American life in the way it was in the antebellum South. It does not mean, however, that the pain we see in the world is trivial, or that our own struggles are meaningless. It can be really difficult to go on at times, even in this age of relative ease for many of us. Life can be awful, even in the best of circumstances. And when we find ourselves in these circumstances, there’s comfort in the wisdom of these songs. Trust, believe, and pray.

Prayer
Lord, help us to feel the Spirit moving in our heart, and remember the wisdom of simplicity—to trust, to believe, and to pray. Amen.


Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts


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