The choir will begin the service with the South African freedom song, “Siyahamba (We Are Marching in the Light of God).” It is a joyful, confident, powerful song. You can feel the courage and faith of the anti-apartheid South Africans, black and white, singing it in church and singing it as they marched in the streets. It is harder to sense the terror and despair that they had to overcome to sing it in the face of the brutal, totalitarian government that was destroying their lives, their nation and whole former world.
Today fear and despair are becoming challenges for many among us in response to different problems that threaten the well being of our lives and the sustainability of human civilization and the world as we have known and loved it, including 1. the erosion of democracy and rise of authoritarian oligarchy and tyranny; 2. poverty and extreme economic inequality; 3. white supremacism and hatred toward people of other races, religions and nationalities; 4. climate change and dramatic environmental degradation and upheaval—to name only some of what we see in the news every day.
These all go directly against the teachings and model of Christ, the messages of the ancient Hebrew prophets and the realm of God as this congregation understands it. We have plenty of good reasons to feel afraid and hopeless, and yet the wisdom of all spiritual traditions tells us that fear and despair are the enemies most necessary to overcome, not just for our happiness and peace as individuals, but to bring about miraculous solutions to impossible-seeming problems and establish the realm of God’s love and sustainable well-being on earth.
The words and music this week all point us to the sacred way summed up by that South African introit, the path of courage and faith, of joy and confidence and power in the service of God’s love and mercy. We will look at how we can apply their teachings to guide and empower our lives today. We will read from Psalm 146 (Happy are those whose hope is in God) and James 2:1-9, 13-17 (Mercy triumphs over judgment; faith without works is dead) and Mark 7:24-37 (“For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter”).
The congregation will sing three favorite tunes, two with words from the late 20th Century and one with words from late this week: “Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service” and “For the Healing of the Nations” and “We Need a Christ-like Miracle.” The choir will sing, in addition to “Siyahamba,” a “Requiem” by E. Gilkyson and “Lead Me, Lord” by Samuel Wesley.
Pianist Annemieke McLane will play pieces by F. Chopin, F. Couperin and S. Bortkiewicz.
Here is an energizing Ugandan children’s choir performing “Siyahamba.”