Preparing for Worship: Songs from Prison

Preparing for Worship: Songs from Prison

John Haralson   •   May 6, 2016

“O how wonderful it is

Jesus promised he'll take care of me
O how wonderful it is
Jesus promised he'll take care of me

I can call him in the morning
I can call him in the middle of the night
And when I call him, he'll make everything alright
It does not matter how big the problem may be
Jesus promised he'll take care of me."

Chicago Mass Choir, from the song Jesus Promised

I heard that song for the first time about a year ago. It was right after the massacre of 9 people attending a Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

In an attempt to show our support and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ, my wife and I went to worship the following Sunday at First AME Church on Capitol Hill. We sang that song during worship that morning.

It is difficult to describe the depth and power of that experience. Here was a church that was reeling from yet another form of racist violence carried out against African Americans. To make it even more egregious, the murders happened at church―a place that historically has been a place of safety and refuge for Black Christians.

So, that morning, we walked into worship with a community that had been deeply suffering and grieving for centuries. The massacre at Mother Emmanuel in Charleston was the latest manifestation in a long and painful history of racially-fueled violence.

Yet, as we sang that song together, there was a palpable sense of deep joy in the congregation. The injustices they had suffered were real and remain real. Furthermore, they were not being sugar-coated by anyone. At the same time, however, there was a deep-rooted joy that came from the Lord.

Singing that song was both an act of praise to God and an act of defiance against the powers of evil in the world. It was an honor to join with that congregation on that day and celebrate with them that in spite of all of the evil that remains in the world (and even in our own hearts), Jesus reigns over all.

This week: Songs from Prison, Psalm 97; John 17:20-26; Acts 16:16-34; Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21

Liturgy is here.

I hope to worship with you on Sunday.

John