We need to keep returning to sources of eternal wisdom because as we change and the world changes their message to us changes. Sometimes, like now, our need for their wisdom becomes urgent. We are in a whole new situation as a church and as individuals compared even to three years ago when we last heard this week’s lectionary passages.
We also need to hear certain teachings repeatedly because they are like Zen koans, they do not make immediate, clear sense, they require that we sit with them and quiet our logical brain and open up our intuitive, spiritual heart and mind. The more we hear them, the more likely we are to understand and find them useful.
This Sunday we will hear a series of very brief stories about what it means and requires to follow Jesus as disciples. (Luke 9:51-62) The lessons are spiritual and personal but they have new poignancy because they come at a moment in history when we face a moral challenge—what is now commonly called “an existential threat,” a threat to the very existence of all living species on earth. We will consider how churches and individuals responded to these wisdom teachings at moments of crisis in the past, and how we might be called to change our lives as they did.
We will also read an excerpted and adapted section of Psalm 16 about the benefits of choosing to stand on God’s side, and the children will hear about the calling of Elisha to serve the Prophet Elijah, and will reflect on how other heroes have been chosen and called and how they have in turn chosen to respond to their calling.
We will sing two hymns that have been important to people as they struggled for a better world, one coming out of the anti-slavery church before the Civil War (“Men, Whose Boast It Is”) and one that has become the unofficial Black National Anthem since the Civil Rights Movement, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” We will also sing the hymn, “O Young and Fearless Prophet,” calling us to follow in Christ’s way in our time.
The choir will sing Spirit of the Living God and Siyahamba as well as a popular and beloved Anthem.
Here is a recording of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as you have probably never heard it before and as I guarantee you we will never sing it, but it is a marvel. Ray Charles is performing it on the Dick Cavett show long ago: