“Take my Hand”- Greeks, Tom Dorsey, and Harriet Tubman all reach out, how will you reach out?

Lent 5 Year B 2021

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Take my Hand mural

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me sta-and
I am tired, I’m weak, I am worn
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the li-ight
Take my ha-and, precious Lor-ord
Lead me home[i]

I love the melody of that hymn, the lullaby-esque quality that soothes ones soul that is in desperate need of soothing in the midst of struggle.

This song was written in 1899 by Tom Dorsey, written in his grief over the death of his wife who died in childbirth and newborn son who also died that same day. As one might imagine the grief was overwhelming, inconsolable.

And as the son of a preacher also musician, Tom sat down at the piano in his grief, picked up a familiar tune and wrote this prayer from his weary heart.

A prayer of beseeching, a prayer of seeking guidance, acknowledging the storm, the struggle, the pain and also there is light to come, that he was not alone and like a loving parent, God will take his hand to lead him on.

Take my hand.

It’s the phrase you say to children when you cross the street. For safety

It’s the action of young lovers as they grow closer in relationship. For love.

Currently we don’t do a lot of hand holding (and perhaps more hand wringing) in these pandemic times, but we miss clasping hands in handshakes in high fives, in ways where we connected. For hospitality and welcome, and affirmation.

Take my hand also acknowledges that we cannot live in community alone.

In grief, in sorrow, in joyful times- we are connected by each person around us and through God in our midst.

It takes courage to ask to take someone’s hand

and it takes courage to ask for someone’s hand. (ask anyone preparing for marriage!)

We are being vulnerable, asking for help. Reaching out.

We are trusting that the person reaching back will lead and guide us on the path for healing.

Today in our Gospel, the Greeks who came to Philip reached out to say “take our hands Philip, we want to see Jesus.”

Philip was familiar to them, he was their guy they could ask vulnerably, for help.

They wanted guidance through the challenges of living in an empire that was full of oppression.

They were seeking hope in a world where the “powers that be” were not changing.

These friends were Greeks, not Jews, they were outsiders.

Philip reaches back to them, with Andrew. and holds their hand

Brings them to see Jesus.

Take my hand precious Lord.

Think for a moment about times when you have cried out these words too, “take my hand precious lord”

Moments where you have felt as an outsider

Moments of grief or loss

Moments of frustration and need for companionship on this journey

Moments where you have needed someone to help you through the storm.

In the past year

At your work

In your faith journey

Who are those people who have brought you along, helped you to see the divine in your midst?

Helped you to not give up hope,

Who have held your hand?

And who has reached for your hand?

Have you reached back?

Did you swat the hand away?

In a broad sense “taking one’s hand” is what the church is and does. As Chris Schwenk shared in his coffee talk last week, the word “Church” literally means “gathering”- for joining together. To see God in our midst of the inconsolable times and also to move us towards change.

And to see Jesus means to realize that our Savior dies on the cross as a means of salvation. That in his death, giving up all that he was, we are given life. In his death, our hope is renewed, our sufferings understood and our struggle a part of the path of faith.

Take my Hand

This phrase is also the title of a mural that was unveiled in 2019 by Michael Rosato.[ii] A FSU graduate and resident of Cambridge MD. This mural is of Harriet Tubman reaching out to the observer, offering her hand to you to come with her into the wildness of the water and journey with her. She is breaking through the bricks of a wall to invite you to something bigger.

Harriet Tubman has always fascinated me.

Perhaps it’s because I lived on a military base with so many rules that I thought were unfair and unjust and I yearned for freedom. (oh my naïve understanding of lack of freedom)

Perhaps it was the fact that she refused to hear the word “NO” and would not listen to a system that was stacked against her because it saw her as black and female and therefore without deserving of dignity.

Perhaps she intrigues me with her creativity for making things happen and

perhaps it was the awe of her risking her own life and health on behalf of others’ freedom.

She both believed that God has freedom in store for each of us and that caring for others was more important than her own self.

Michael Rosato has a curious story of becoming an artist. As a military brat, he felt the call to ROTC and the military.  And then the choice between art and air… he chose art and found himself in front of the pieta by Michelangelo.

A broken Jesus in Mary’s hands.

And Michael’s hands began to work in paint.

The mural TAKE MY HAND calls you to take Harriet’s hand, inviting you to come with her.

Her eyes are determined, strong, and those eyes assure you that she knows the way.

In this mural she is an icon to let you know that you are not alone, even today in needing freedom, new life, and hope.

This past week we heard of the killings of 8 people in Atlanta, 6 of which were Asian American Women. My alma mater, Sewanee, is struggling with student behavior that does not respect the dignity of every human being and their own historical roots established in the mid 1800s in the south. Here in Tallahassee, we have our own work to do with racial healing and we are still experiencing death and illness, isolation and disconnection due to the pandemic.

This week, I invite you to reach out, reach out to someone new this week check on them, listen to them, struggle with them and listen some more.

Let God take both of your hands together as we are tired, weak, worn through the storm, through the night –Let God Lead us on to the li-ight.

Tom Dorsey in his grief, clung to God for hope and light and did not give up.

The light in our world is within each of us. We have to work together, acknowledge our faults and short comings and work towards change in our own community so that each person’s belovedness from God can be recognized and honored.

I find the words of this prayer from Laura Jen Truman a great guide for our path ahead:

As we continue to take the single step that is in front of us, Jesus, keep us from becoming what we are called to transform. Protect us from using the empire’s violence- in our words, in our theology, in our activism, and in our politics- for your Kingdom of peace. Keep our anger from becoming meanness. Keep our sorrow from collapsing into self pity. Keep our hearts soft enough to keep from breaking, keep our outrage turned towards justice, not cruelty, remind us that all of this, every bit of it, is for love. Keep us fiercely kind.

(Laura Jen Truman page 74 in The Rhythm of Prayer)

Precious Lord, Take our hands

With the comfort of the song by Tom Dorsey

The Curiosity of the Greeks and friendship of Philip and Andrew

The strength and courage of Harriet

And make our lament the catalyst for change.

We have work to do!

[i] https://www.google.com/search?gs_ssp=eJzj4tFP1zcsNjAtLC7OKTFg9JIqScxOVcitVMhIzEtRKChKTc7MLy1WyMkvSgEAJWoOcg&q=take+my+hand+precious+lord&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS924US924&oq=take+my+hand+&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j46j0l3j46l4.5389j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#wptab=s:H4sIAAAAAAAAAONgVuLRT9c3LDYwLSwuzil5xOjJLfDyxz1hKYdJa05eY7Ti4grOyC93zSvJLKkU0uFig7KUuASkUDRqMEjxcaGI8Oxi0ktJTUsszSmJL0lMsspOttLPLS3OTNYvSk3OL0rJzEuPT84pLS5JLbLKqSzKTC5exKpTkpidqpBbqZCRmJeiUABUmJlfWqyQA1SuAFGjkJWZq1CUmlqWWgwApg1AK7wAAAA

[ii] https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2019/11/27/fsu-grad-michael-rosato-harriet-tubman-muralist-believes-magic-creation/2576171001/

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