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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, November 15, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Nehemiah 12:27–31a, 42b–47   

Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with rejoicing, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. The companies of the singers gathered together from the circuit around Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth; for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. And the priests and the Levites purified themselves; and they purified the people and the gates and the wall. Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall, and appointed two great companies that gave thanks and went in procession. One went to the right on the wall to the Dung Gate; and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

On that day men were appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the law for the priests and for the Levites from the fields belonging to the towns; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered. They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. For in the days of David and Asaph long ago there was a leader of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. In the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah all Israel gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers. They set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the descendants of Aaron. (NRSV)

“Whenever God is about to make a really powerful change, God always sends the musicians ahead first.”

Hearing comments like this one after our 2015 concert at Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis is what the Fourth Church and Trinity United Church of Christ Music Mission for Racial Reconciliation was all about. Ten people from each church came together to sing and to talk honestly about race issues in America. Through our concerts of music and poetry we brought hope and healing, and we brought challenge and truth, to people in Cincinnati, Atlanta, Memphis, and St. Louis.

Singing in concerts and worship services was rejuvenating, because in the music we were one: one in message and one in breath. In the music we became the community God intended us to be, listening to each other, appreciating each other’s gifts, supporting each other in moments of challenge, and lifting others up with our music.

An important part of our time together was the fellowship and getting to know each other as children of God, all equal and all created in God’s image. To be honest, there were many challenging moments in our discussions. It was certainly revealing to be so open about race and the centuries of wrong and hurt it has caused, but we were able to discuss it and be totally open about it. Yet our group of twenty only scratched the surface, and there is a need to do so much more at every level throughout our society and culture.

Loving God, help us to see your face in each other; help us to all understand what it means that we are your children, all created in your image and all created good. Help us to imagine a world where truth and reconciliation can happen and where justice and peace can finally prevail. Amen.

Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music

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