Listening to “Come Sunday” on the eve of Martin Luther King Day

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day. In the wake of recent tweets and comments discrediting Senator John Lewis, one of the famous Big Six civil rights leaders, the day seems more poignant, more urgent, than it has in recent years.

Today, at First Unitarian Church of Victoria, Reverend Shana Lyngood delivered–and, I mean, delivered–a sermon on the mysterious power of music and its staggering ability to shatter us. To crack us open. To change us. To change society. Reverend Shana sang these lines from a song that, she says, shattered her. “Lord, please look down and see my people through.”

“Come Sunday” was written by Duke Ellington in the blistering heat of the civil rights era, in 1965, and his song bears the terrible weight of history as he–and his people–were living it. In writing the song, Ellington took his despair and transformed it into art. Into faith. Into hope. He saw the dark clouds. Yes. But, unlike many of us in these chaotic times, he saw them rolling by.

Take a moment to listen, really listen, to “Come Sunday”. I’ll wait.

There. What did you think? Or, better yet, what did you feel when you listened to Mahalia Jackson sing “Come Sunday”? For me, the song is now as inextricably linked with Martin Luther King Day as the admirable “I have a dream” speech.

I am not a theist and I am not an American, although I am married to one. Tomorrow, however, I’ll tell my kids about MLK. I’ll share with them some of the music of the civil rights movement. And, I’ll do whatever I can to burst the dark clouds that loom over us.

 

 

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