Today, we are celebrating the feast day of James Weldon Johnson, an impressive Renaissance man. Born shortly after the Civil War, he was an author, diplomat, journalist, poet, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and civil rights activist. And he has touched all our hearts as author of Lift Every Voice and Sing.
Because of his gift for bringing people of diverse thought together, Johnson was tapped for leadership in the NAACP. In the face of northern race riots and southern lynchings after WWI, he led a silent protest parade in New York. Does reading this give an eerie sense that time has stood still for 100 years? The touching hymn Johnson authored proclaims:
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on 'til victory is won
We've claimed our new day begun at St. Margaret's. Why doesn't it feel more like a new day has begun for our world? In the Gospel lesson for today's Daily Office readings, Jesus tells the disciples that he is going into Jerusalem where he will be tortured and killed. The mother of James and John seems tone deaf, switching the topic to whether they might receive highest honors in his entourage. No one was listening to Jesus.
Maybe we are stuck in time because we are not listening to each other. Absorb the hope for all of us that Dr. Roland Carter exudes here, conducting his own arrangement of Lift Every Voice.