On Sunday morning I went to the church service and read in the bulletin that the pastor was going to preach on “The Power of God’s Word”. Now what were we to hear, I wondered. A dissertation on the written or the living word? I hoped for the latter.
The pastor walked forward with Bible in hand. He stood in front of the pulpit, as is his custom, read Exodus 15:19-21 & John 11:43-44 with slight comment, laid the bible on the pulpit behind him, as is his custom, and began to talk to us. He imagined the life of a slave working all day in the field under sun and lash, and coming home to his wife to learn that his children were to be sold and forced to leave them.
Then the pastor did what is not his custom. He began to sing in his soft tenor voice a verse of the Negro Spiritual, “Oh Mary don’t you weep”. When he came to the refrain the congregation joined him softly. He sang a second, third, and fourth verse, each time adding the refrain and each time the congregation joined plaintively in the refrain: Oh Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn/ Oh Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn/Pharoah’s army got drownded/Oh Mary, don’t you weep.
The pastor went on to tell us that such biblical stories and songs helped give southern slaves enough strength and hope to resist oppression; produce Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement; and ultimately elect the first African president. (Inclusion of reference to Barak Obama is mine, I think.)
During the Christian Education Hour that followed the sermon, the pastor joined a small group of Creation Care Givers who met outdoors to share how and when they have experienced God through the beauty and the fierceness of nature.
Our pastor gave me a glimpse of the kind of pastor I would like to be if I were allowed to begin a preaching ministry again, with what I know now.