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Children, go where I send thee

by davesandel on September 22nd, 2021

Wednesday, September 22, 2021                               (today’s lectionary)

Children, go where I send thee

At the time of the evening sacrifice, I rose in my wretchedness. With cloak and mantle torn I fell on my knees and stretched out my hands to the Lord, my God.

On Monday evening everything outside was dark. The clock approached the bewitching hour. I read several articles from Conde Nast about the joys of train travel and finally got to the last one, about how Pullman porters smoothed the way for white travelers and even, occasionally, black travelers as well. Photographs from a hundred years ago, and one from a lost 1935 educational film called A Journey by Train, caught my imagination by surprise.

When I was at Valpo in the late sixties, I took an African-American history class. John Howard Griffin’s book Black Like Me became required reading. On Monday night, as I closed my eyes, I fell deep into what I imagined to be the experience of slaves, in Israel or Persia, in India or China or Japan, in the West Indies or the American South.

But a short time ago mercy came to us from the Lord, our God, who gave us a stake in his holy place. Thus our God has brightened our eyes and given us relief in our servitude. For slaves we are, but in our servitude God has not abandoned us!

The slaveholders and plantation owners found bible to justify their actions. The slaves found bible too. White owners focused more on the past and present, but the black men and women who did their bidding looked to the future.

Our Lord has given us new life to raise again the house of our God and restore its ruins.

Build it up, and if it burns or falls, build it up again. The house of our God is forever under our God’s protection. The souls of our ancestors and descendants rain down their blessing and peace. The cemetery is filled with bodies of servants of the Lord. Good and faithful servants. Well done, we say to them, and pray that we can follow them in their footsteps up toward heaven.

Many of the people in those meetinghouses with the cross on top remembered how their overseers beat them. Oh, how they remembered. They remembered the hours afterward, forced to continue work in sun so hot the wounds on their backs blistered. They felt the scars and remembered their rage when they were treated unfairly and without respect. In the midst of their memories, they called out for God’s everlasting love. And God was there.

He scourges and then has mercy. He casts down to the depths and then brings up. No one can escape his hand.

This hand of God did not resemble the cracked palms and crooked fingers of the slave driver; God’s hand is firm, protective, loving. His strong, straight fingers point toward his place of rest.

Though he has scattered you, he has shown his greatness to you even there. In the land of my exile I will praise him. We will celebrate days of gladness, and give him praise.

Could it be that the joy of my salvation echoes in the suffering of my life longer than in the simple sweet moments of happiness? Of course it does. I might not speak easily of it, but with my eyes closed, heat pouring through the open windows of our meeting house, knowing tomorrow will be another day of backbreaking work in the fields, I will sing.

And Jesus said to them, “Take nothing for the journey,” and they set out to go from village to village proclaiming good news, and curing diseases everywhere.

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever. We have nothing to take on the journey, but we have you, Lord. And you are always there. You will always go where we go.

(Ezra 9, Tobit 13, Mark 1, Luke 9)

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