We Shall Overcome

A few weeks ago pastors and church leaders of the ELCA gathered in Springfield, MA to hold our annual Synod Assembly.  As part of the opening worship we sang “We Shall Overcome”.  This is a protest song that became a key anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement.  In between verses of the song we read words from Biblical prophets as well as contemporary prophets to remind us that through our baptism we are called to fight the injustice found in our world. 

I would like to share some of these words in light of the tragic shooting in South Carolina this week.  A shooting that took nine lives including Rev. Clementa Pinckney the pastor of Emmanuel AME church, a seminary classmate and friend to many of my colleagues.

I ask that you say a prayer for the families of those who were killed, pray for the congregation of Emmanuel AME Church, pray for the Charleston community and our nation as we fight for racial justice in our communities around the country.  If you don’t know what to say in your prayer, use the following words as your prayer.

God has shown you what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. ~ Micah 6:8

We shall overcome, we shall overcome,

we shall overcome some day.

Oh, deep in our hearts we do believe

we shall overcome some day.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through the waters of baptism, in the death and resurrection of Jesus your Son. Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred that infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and, through our struggle and confusion, work to accomplish your purposes on earth; so that, in your good time, every people and nation may serve you in peace and harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

We shall all have peace, we shall all have peace, 

we shall all have peace some day.

Oh, deep in our hearts we do believe

we shall all have peace some day.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ ~Matthew 25.34-40

We shall see the Lord, we shall see the Lord, 

we shall see the Lord some day.

Oh, deep in our hearts we do believe

we shall see the Lord some day.

Each one of you has to be God’s microphone. Each one of you has to be a messenger, a prophet. The church will always exist as long as there is someone who has been baptized…Where is your baptism? You are baptized in your professions, in the fields of workers, in the market. Wherever there is someone who has been baptized, that is where the church is. There is a prophet there. Let us not hide the talent that God gave us on the day of our baptism and let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people. ~Oscar Romero

We’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand, 

we’ll walk hand in hand some day.

Oh, deep in our hearts we do believe

we’ll walk hand in hand some day.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching. Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:  I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. ~Isaiah 42:1-7

We are not afraid, we are not afraid,

we are not afraid today.

Oh, deep in our hearts we do believe

we are not afraid today.

We give you thanks, O God, for at the river your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit. By water and your Word you claim us as daughters and sons, making us heirs of your promise and agents of justice and reconciliation. We praise you for the gift of water that sustains life, and above all we praise you for the gift of new life in Jesus Christ. Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may move every human heart; that the barriers dividing us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; and that, with our divisions healed, we might live in justice and peace; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

God is on our side, God is on our side,

God is on our side today.

Oh, deep in our hearts we do believe

God is on our side today.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. ~ St. Francis

You may find yourself with questions about the shooting in South Carolina or many other actions of violence in communities around the country.  I invite you to find ways to grieve and to work for justice and peace in our world.  You can do this through conversations with a friend, through personal prayer or by gathering with others who are seeking answers in a community of worship.  Find ways of being an instrument of peace and hope in the world and in the lives of those in need.   You are invited to join the people of Faith Lutheran Church or other churches around the Gardner Area to worship, seek peace and pray for hope and love.

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