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In order to expedite posting the worship services here on our website, we are reducing the transcript to just the scriptures used and the message. Union Grove UMC in partnership with Southland Books & Cafe, began holding Second Sunday Community Church in January 2023. Second Sunday Community Church takes place at 3 p.m. ET the second Sunday of every month, meets in-person at The Bird & The Book, and is also live-streamed on Facebook. Holy Communion is offered at every Second Sunday service. If you are worshipping on Second Sundays online whether during the live-cast or through on-demand viewing, you are encouraged to have bread and juice or wine available as you watch the service and to participate in communion just as if you are present with us.
God, open us to hear and receive your scriptures today as you would have us hear them, understand them as you would have us understand them, and to act upon them as you would have us act upon them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
*Scriptures this morning are included in the message.
Message: Darkest Before the Dawn, Doxology Verse 5
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
In 1903, Methodist Frank Mason North wrote a hymn – Where Cross the Crowded Ways – at the request of the Methodist Hymnal committee because they had few modern missionary hymns to include in the 1905 hymnal. North had been active in mission work for most of his career. North who had begun is career in the clergy in 1892, not only preached the social gospel, he lived it in his work for the urban poor. His hymn expressed what he experienced in the city and what he believed about the responsibility of every Christian. In his words, he said of the hymn, “It is an expression of the tremendous movement of the soul of the Gospel in our times which demands that the follower of Christ must make the interest of the people his own and must find the heart of the world’s need if he is in any way to represent his Master among men.”
North’s hymn says,
- Where cross the crowded ways of life,
where sound the cries of race and clan,
above the noise of selfish strife,
we hear your voice, O Son of man.
- In haunts of wretchedness and need,
on shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
from paths where hide the lures of greed,
we catch the vision of your tears.
- From tender childhood’s helplessness,
from woman’s grief, man’s burdened toil,
from famished souls, from sorrow’s stress,
your heart has never known recoil.
- The cup of water given for you still
holds the freshness of your grace;
yet long these multitudes to view
the sweet compassion of your face.
- O Master, from the mountainside
make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
among these restless throngs abide;
O tread the city’s streets again.
- Till all the world shall learn your love
and follow where your feet have trod,
till, glorious from your heaven above,
shall come the city of our God!
Struckmeyer’s Doxology for Humanity strikes me as an outcome of and response to North’s hymn. Today’s verse from Struckmeyer’s Doxology for Humanity says,
Praise faith that keeps us ever strong. Praise hope that triumphs over wrong. Praise dreams that make our spirits rise. Praise voices raised in joyful cries.
The final verse of Struckmeyer’s Doxology, I’m not sure it isn’t the most important verse. It’s a reminder to give thanks for the faith and hope that allows us those prophetic dreams of a better future. It’s a reminder to give thanks for those special souls that always look for the sunny side … the ones who tell you, “it’s always darkest before the dawn, so hang in there cuz the sun’s still gonna rise.”
Yesterday I participated in an MPOLIS training led by Bishop William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharris, co-chairs of the Poor Peoples’ Campaign, and members of their organizing team. MPOLIS stands for Moral Political Leadership Institute Summit.
The training was amazing, intense, and packed with so much information. And ever since, I’ve been thinking about how, although the future seems increasingly dark and hopeless, there is hope. And there is faith. And there are dreams and dreamers. And there is joy and the joyful cries will come.
I find faith most easily, most beautifully, and most unexpectedly in those that are often the most marginalized. In the minority communities whose voices have been suppressed in the halls of government, in the churches and cathedrals, in the media … faith that is everlasting, evergreen, ever growing because it is faith that overcomes fear. It is faith born of sheer defiance to the oppression they face, sheer defiance to being constantly told they are unworthy, unloved, unforgiven, unwanted by the God in whom they remain faithful. Revolutionary, radical faith that declares “I do not have to accept your doctrines and dogma and disciplines. I do not have to let those things stand between God who created me in their image, Christ who gave himself for me, too, and Spirit who is with me just as you believe with you.” Reviving, restoring, reconstructing faith that sees Jesus in the face of those being dehumanized, those being criminalized, those being forced out and forgotten, and that declares “ain’t nobody gonna’ turn us around, we won’t be silent anymore, we shall overcome.”
I gain hope watching diverse communities and coalitions being built to stand against injustice and give a platform that allows me to hear the voices of the voiceless. I gain hope in the courage and conviction of Generation Z as they speak truth to power through walkouts and testimonies before legislative committees and bodies. I gain hope with every song and poem and story I hear telling the truths they speak, with every visual art installation or presentation that illustrates the truths they hold to be self-evident … that all are beloved children of God, all are worthy, and all are created equal regardless of race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, or creed … and that calls out the systems that have worked to convince us we are not all equal.
That faith and that hope lets me dream, along with many others, of a future that is no longer dark, but enlightened, that is moral without being manipulated, that is restorative for humanity and nature alike, and that reflects the kingdom of heaven Christ told us was both at hand and within us.
That faith and hope gives myself and other dreamers the courage and strength to not only dream, but to work to bringing our dreams to fruition as we work to overturn racism, nationalism, and all the other -isms perpetrated against the marginalized by the desperate and fearful whose lack of faith and hope and dreams leads them to blame-shift and try to control in an effort to hold the false power and wealth of the empire.
And despite all of the devastation we have seen caused by religious and political polarization, despite the false cries of persecution by those who are, in truth, responsible for persecuting the minorities, I see joy … a rebellious, you aren’t going to take it from me, stubborn joy that refuses to be pushed down, trampled on, or diminished … an irrepressible joy found in knowing who one is and knowing one is worthy in the eyes of God despite the beliefs of others that do not agree. I see black, brown, red, and yellow joy. I see queer joy and trans joy. I see immigrant joy. I see joy in the faces of the poor and low income … a joy the wealthy, the empire, the politically powerful cannot extinguish and that is magnified and amplified as the truly joyful connect with one another. I see joy in the tellers of truth and in those who finally hear that truth.
And I hear their joyful cries and I join them with a joyful cry of my own.
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32.
Faith, hope, dreams of a better future, and joy come to those who know that truth.
Isaiah 58 says, If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins. If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down and out. Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.”
In 1903, Frank Mason North could see a tremendous movement of the soul of the Gospel in his time … a movement that demanded the follower of Christ make the interest of the people their own, must find the heart of the world’s need in order to be the face, the hands and the feet of Christ to humanity.
In this 21st century, Struckmeyer’s Doxology reminds us to give praise for those who continue to strive to find the heart of the world’s need, the interest of the people, and to continue the movement of the soul of the Gospel today.
And in this 21st century … in its current darkness and disarray … I Praise faith that keeps us ever strong. Praise hope that triumphs over wrong. Praise dreams that make our spirits rise. Praise voices raised in joyful cries.
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