It continually amazes me…how God weaves lives together…and, how, over time, stories emerge forming this huge tapestry of faith that transcends both time and place.
When I was about 8 years old, I remember going to a worship service where the crucifixion of Christ was related in such a powerful way that it impacted me indelibly. This was a time long before Power Point presentations or videos. Without visual enhancement, my childhood pastor, Rev. Rowe, painted a word picture that both moved him to tears (a rarity in my little church) and implanted itself in my heart.
This picture found reinforcement in a language I’ve been drawn to all my life: music. My dad had a stereophonic high-fidelity sound system (as they used to call them). One of his prized records was Harry Belafonte’s Live at Carnegie Hall album. On it was Hall Johnson’s arrangement of the spiritual, Take My Mother Home whose words also paint a picture.
I think I heard Him say, as he was strugglin’ up the hill.I think I heard Him say, “Take my mother home.”I think I heard Him say, when they was nailin’ in the nails.I think I heard Him say, “Take my mother home.”“Then I’ll die easy. Take my mother home.”“I’ll die so easy if you take my mother home.”
Those words, Belafonte’s raspy voice, and an emotional pastoral re-telling of the crucifixion touched me…changed me. Even at the age of 8, I knew I’d come into contact with something timeless and holy.
I tell you that to tell you this. I received a Facebook message on Good Friday. It was from a young woman from a church I served years ago when she was a youth. She wrote to thank me for singing Take My Mother Home at a Good Friday service 10 years ago. For it was while I sang that song, she, at the age of 12 or 13, experienced the Christ in such a way that she surrendered her life to Him as I sang. I have been able to follow her life since and I know that her relationship with Christ is the driving passion and priority in her life.
What she doesn’t know is this…how close I came to not singing that song at that service. It’s a difficult song to sing on the best of days. Singing it on Good Friday is a test of a singer’s ability to maintain the mechanics of the instrument while singing a very emotional lyric. Singing it on Good Friday while your own mother is dying from cancer is probably just asking for trouble. But, that’s what I did…and am thankful I did.
How many opportunities to touch others do we excuse ourselves from with very understandable motives? What began with a kid listening to a gray haired preacher tear up while relating the crucifixion and to an African-American entertainer sing a spiritual became a thread in a tapestry that included a young Christian political activist 40 years later. What humbles me…and scares me…is how easily it could not have happened.
What a God we serve. This God entrusts us with a thread of faith that has the capability of weaving countless lives together in the tapestry revealing a transformed world. And, every day, each of us has a choice: shall we risk further weaving our lives in community with others, or shall we selfishly and selectively engage our thread in the larger tapestry of faith and thereby weaken and distort its message?