A Word to Ash Wednesday
We had the carpet in some of the synod offices replaced this month, replacing carpet that had been down for at least 28 years. My office was one of those offices. In order to carpet the full office, the twelve bookcases in the office had to be moved. In order to be moved, the twelve bookcases needed to be emptied. So, I stacked all those books on the huge conference table in the “board room”. Then, when the carpeting was finished, I began the task of moving the books back in – and doing some resorting, rearranging, and culling the collection while reshelving. It is taking much longer to move the books back in than it took to move them out, in part because I get distracted by the books themselves.
One such wonderful distraction this week is my copy of Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit: 101 Best-Love Psalms, Gospel Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the African-American Church. I quote a portion of author Gwendolin Sims Warren’s note on “Give Me Jesus.”
Born out of pain, loneliness, and suffering, a song like “Give Me Jesus” could be a response to a commonplace tragedy like the brutal loss of children and other family and friends to the auction block. Persons in slavery, deprived and besieged in this life, might have nothing earthly to hold on to. But they were Christians, they believed they had an inheritance in God. This song was sung not in sorrowful resignation but in confidence and in surrender to Jesus, who was their “All in All.”
In talking with Mom Pointer [iconic founder of the Great Day Chorale in New York City], I asked her why this song was so meaningful to her and why, even in the midst of our conversation, it seemed to rise up from the depths of her soul. Her explanation was straightforward. “Anyone who knows Jesus knows that He’s everything. If you’ve got Him, you’ve got everything. If you don’t have Him, you don’t have anything…I think of the many times when ‘dark midnight was my cry, just before the break of day.’ Oh, give me Jesus!”
The ashes will be pasted on our foreheads. We will hear again the needed reminder: “you are dust and to dust you shall return.” How do we meet this Lenten message? Not in sorrowful resignation but in confidence and in surrender to Jesus. Give me Jesus!