Justice, Mercy, Humbly With Our God 01.14.12

Last weekend, we honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,.

As we journeyed through what it means to forgive our enemies, show mercy, love justice, walk humbly & live as ‘agents of change’ in a broken world, my spirit was moved.  Personally, this was one of the most stellar worship experiences I’ve been apart of & I’d love to share a few highlights…

We began with a classic (throw back!) song called “Victory Chant” – a worshipful, upward, & energetic praise anthem. One of my passions is experimenting with different styles in worship, I love re-working songs & trying new musical approaches. I believe that when we stretch our imaginations in worship, we allow the ultimate innovator to fill our lives with fresh insight & joy.

So, with this particular song, our creative team decided to go in a FULL on tribal esque, HIGHLY percussive direction.  My friend Jumaane, a professional tap dancer, opened up the song with a 20 second a capella tap riff.

No music. Just his feet.  ALL improvisation.  It was bananas!

He laid down a percussive foundation that took us straight into worship…. It was as if he was dancing on our behalf.  BUT, before the song & tap began… before the lights turned on, & the congregation erupted in celebration…  Silence filled the room & the following words appeared on the screens:

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed
my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever.”
Psalm 30:11-12 (NIV)

For nearly 200 years, slaves were forced to worship in secret. Hidden from the control of their owner, they used the stomping of their feet, the clapping of their hands, and the lifting up of their voices to worship God from the depths of their being.  “Like the drum was made to create a rhythm, our bodies were made to worship.”  This entire moment felt reverent & it gave us such a rich context for what was to come.  During the song, people sang, clapped, & lifted up their praise to God.

Sheer joy.

At one point,  Jumaane & one of our percussionist (Dennis), traded rhythmic phrases. In other words, Jumaane would tap for 4 measures (or a few seconds) & then Dennis would play the conga for 4 measures, sort of mimicking what Jumaane had just tapped.  Back & fourth. Back & fourth. Building off one another….  Again, so much energy & joy.

Later on in the service, we sang a song called “Love Justice” & after the first chorus, I read an excerpt out of Dr. Kings letter from Birmingham Jail. I would encourage you to read the entire letter here.

Towards the end of the song, the congregation joined in & sang the words, “justice, mercy, humbly with our God”.  It sounded & felt glorious.

Last highlight but certainly not least, was having Dr. Perkins in the house, an American civil rights activist, founder and president of the John M. Perkins Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi.

A few of my colleagues had the honor of going down to Jackson to interview & shoot a video of Dr. Perkins. The video provided a powerful glimpse into the life of one trail blazing man of God; a heroic fighter for freedom & justice.  Here’s what stuck out to me in the video:

At one point, Dr. Perkins describes the physical beatings & mental abuse he endured in his life time. Each time I listened to his words, my body tensed up & I felt anger, sadness.  And then, each time he spoke of reconciliation & forgiveness, my eyes began to tear & my heart break. Think about the nature of what he chose to forgive. Just think about it.  These words from Dr. Perkins, wrecked me every. single. time:

“It’s a profound mysterious truth: Jesus concept of love overpowering hate.
I know it’s true, because God made it true in me. He washed my hatred away & replaced it with a love food the white man in rural Mississippi.”

During the video, I sat on the edge of the stage, right above where Dr. Perkins was sitting. Occasionally he would look up, smile, & hold his hands to his heart – I could feel a wave of humility, courage & grace radiating from him.

FInally, I’d love to leave you with one of my favorite MLK quotes along with a quote from the Dr. Perkins video. As a black woman, I sometimes feel like society tries to pigeon hold my identity or negate my worth. But oh, how I thank God for education & weekends like this at Willow, where the truth is spoken.  Never take for granted the opportunity to learn. Never take for granted the opportunity to be stretched in your thinking.  In many places, all over the world, education is all the people have.  By the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, may you continue to grow in wisdom & understanding about reconciliation…  May you soak in truth & not lies.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“This is education: Asking a question about the condition you’re in & looking for a solution.”
– Dr. John Perkins


Posted by Aaron Niequist on 01.17.12 under Lead Worship, Weekend Experience.

One Response to “Justice, Mercy, Humbly With Our God 01.14.12”

  1. That was a great service! I do hope you post the video.

    Posted by Rafael on 12/13/09 January 30th, 2012 at 9:42 pm

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