Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). This scripture is a familiar one in my community. I grew up hearing those who were sharecroppers, working on Jim Crow farms, whisper this scripture in their prayers on Sunday mornings at Mt. Olive AME Church in Woodrow, SC. People would dance and shout just in the hearing of this scripture. People hung on these words day and night, in the midst of an oppressive era. When racist called my community derogatory names, when local government tried to take away their voting rights, when banks refuse to give them loans, when they fought a war and then were deny any kind of welcome home parade from the country they fought for, this scripture provided strength to my ancestors to stand and demand their rights.
And here we are again, in a continuation of an oppressive era, this scripture resonating in my mind over and over. Today, my black community are the ones dying more from the Covid-19 virus; having inadequate or no healthcare, working essential jobs such as CNA’s, grocery clerks, public transit workers, assembly workers in meat factories; only allowed to take unpaid sick leave. And here we are again, having to deal with burying our dead not only from the virus but now from white supremacy families who just believe that all black young boys and men should be hunted down and killed. We pause and call the name of Ahmaud Arbery. We work hard to provide for our families. In fact we work ten times as hard to get the same things, housing, transportation, education, etc. And here we are again, being the ones who will suffer more from an economic recession. And here we are again, breathing into our nostrils, this beloved scripture.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. When would the joy come? When would the weeping stop? Why does the weeping have to endure for the whole night? Isn’t a whole night of crying enough? Is it that crying throughout the night will produce joy in the morning? So in the morning, I have something to look forward to? These kind of questions pop in one’s mind, I would guess, when the burden of pain seems just too much to bare. Or, if I can be honest, when one wonders if God really cares. But then I am reminded that my ancestors were not a selfish people that thought only of their immediate satisfactions. My people have great vision; to see beyond hateful bigotry. My people have great vision; to see beyond even the deaths created by our oppressors. My people have great vision; we arrived in chains but broke loose to create magic and provide to a world musicians, scientist, engineers, entrepreneurs, educators, farmers, congresspersons, senators, a black president and so much more. So when I stop and remember the amazing contributions that my people have given to this world, out of their love for humanity, I understand the tears and the endurance, the struggle to make this world a welcoming place. The world needs us. The world would be lost without the richness and grace of God’s melanin people.
Weeping may endure for a night. Water is required for growth. Tears made our roots stronger. Tears provided nourishment for my people. We endure in the hope and as we sprouted forth, seeds fell to the ground, but the seeds can never be dormant. We produce from our tears new generations and in them Joy arise. Understand, we cannot be stopped. Joy always comes in the morning.
We woke up again to a cloudy, cold and rainy day in Philadelphia. It is Sunday. This day we would usually find ourselves in our perspective church buildings gathering for worship. My husband and I attend different churches. We are both ordained clergy, he in the Lutheran tradition and me in the Methodist tradition. We practice our faith a little differently, but we come back to the centering of our faith, which is Love. This quiet Sunday has provided me the opportunity to meditate on why this particular day of the week is so needed during this pandemic crisis the world is experiencing.
It is becoming difficult to get up on Sunday mornings and not be able to head out to the church building where I get to see people like Sister Woods, who has a way of correcting and loving you at the same time. For those of us who grew up in the black church, you already can imagine a Sister Woods, so you know she don’t play! Sister Robyn, who is that true black “sistah” that carries the justice torch and will stand toe to toe questioning the scripture, forcing pastor to deal with the injustice so many don’t like to take in the pulpit; the young children and teens inspiring adults to do better because, well you know, we really don’t have this spiritual thing all together and the children are there to remind us that we are not all that smart. I miss sitting and singing songs of Zion with my folks! Now, don’t get me wrong! I do like the fact that I can stay in my pajamas all day, look at a virtual worship service, sing off key in the privacy of my bedroom and make ugly faces if I kinda don’t agree with the pastor’s sermon. And now, I find myself surfing on Facebook Live for community, for belonging, for hope and in my search, I have found so many wonderful worship services that have sparked me to think differently about Sunday mornings. And this is what Sundays bring.
Sundays offer us the opportunity to start over again. It is a beginning of the week where we can decide to do things differently than the previous week where we may have experienced stress, the frustration of seeing the hurt in people eyes as they formulate lines to either go in grocery stores or stand in food lines for long period of time; anxiety that is heighten when another first of the month is about to roll around reminding us that mortgage and rent are due soon. Sundays offer the chance to seek compassion and acceptance. Sunday offers hope, dreams and rest as we prepare ourselves for the coming week. We get another chance, to try again, to study again, to live again, to take another step and just maybe we will experience new possibilities, amazing adventures because embracing Sundays gives us clearer vision and strong will to continue on.
So I offer this to you. During this time where we are staying home, which is the most loving thing we can do for everyone right now, find a worship service online that speaks to your authentic self. If you come across a worship service that preaches hatred, racism, homophobia, sexism, white supremacy, log away! Find a worship service that speaks of love and only love. I am a Christian. But you don’t have to be. A community that embodies love is all that matters. Allow Sunday to become your new beginning that happens over and over again, gaining strength over and over again, growing in grace over and over again until Sunday is everyday.
A favorite song from my Christian tradition, written by Daryl Coley, speaks this way:
When Sunday comes My trouble gone. As soon as it gets here I’ll have a new song. When Sunday comes I won’t have to cry no more.
Every trial, every tribulation will be left behind – When Sunday comes.
There is something about wearing a hat that makes me happy. When I want to feel funky and sexy, I have this wide brim black hat that I put on and just like that, I become that woman who can walk in a room and every one stops to notice that I have arrived! At least this is what happens in my mine and that’s all that really matters. All of a sudden I am fierce and confident. I went to a play wearing this amazing hat and some woman just started talking to me and said she knew me from somewhere, then her friends came over and I became the center of attention! I was so classy, smiling from ear to ear, talking with a flair of a valley girl leftover in an old black woman’s body. Yeah, this hat brings out some weird stuff!
Look, have some fun! Step out in something that makes you feel like you are invincible. For me, its that wide brim hat! If one night you’re out on the town and you see this woman flailing her arms and acting like she’s the bomb, well that will be me! Come over and hang with me! I promise you my hat will not disappoint!
God. I believe you hear us when we cry out. I believe you see our tears. Some folks have said that we should take this quarantine time to be quiet and still, to hear your voice, to make our relationship better with you, so that we can be saved, so that you can take us to heaven when we die.
We are many people and there are many names that we call you. So, I’m not sure exactly if all we are to do is to just be with you during this time or instead, listen and build on ourselves individually, that maybe, just maybe when this is all over, there will be so much love that overflows in this world because we have realized that what we do individually impacts what “good” can happen to the whole world.
God. This is not about you, right? This is not about us curling up in our corner, reading our bibles or other religious books just to say that we spent time with you. Right? In this moment, we are learning to be better stewards of the earth. Right? In this moment, we are learning to be who and what you created us to be, and that is to be “Very good”. Right? This is not about separating ourselves, only to return to those very thoughts that separated us before, self-centeredness, hatred, greed, lust, racism, sexism, all the things that are not loving. Right?
When our focus is on what God can do for me, we miss God totally. It is quite alright to meditate with God, quite alright to worship and praise. It is quite alright to seek God’s face. But it is not alright to hide behind God. This is not about God. This is how we operate in a world that God created for us to take care of, to manage, to help build people. God trust us in allowing us to name plants and animals, bodies of water, land. That’s a lot of of trust. Imagine, God trusting us to figure this thing out!
Where are you? What will you become when this pandemic is over? Will you become, “Very good?” This is my prayer for all us.
There is so much to say during this pandemic! And yet I have absolutely nothing to say. I feel exactly the way a blank sheet of paper feels. Nothing coming from the page. Just a stare. Maybe a sigh. A tear. So I will embrace nothing, hoping that something will come tomorrow.
(The Prophet’s Complaint) ” O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous-therefore judgment comes forth perverted. ”
God we open ourselves to you. We stand before you hurting and confused. Our world is in desperate need of your arms to hold us. We are scared, tired and weary. Hear us, O God. We have faith God. Our faith did not leave us. We stand before you angry. We stand before you human.
Heal the sick. Protect the helpers. Protect the elderly. Protect the young.
We stand naked before you God, with all of the ugliness, rudeness and unloving things that we have done. Forgive us O God! We need you. Don’t turn away from us. Amen.