I’ve been thinking a bit about Negro spirituals recently. Maybe because we are in the process of selling our flat and it makes me realise how we become attached to our homes. The lines of a song my mother used to sing go round in my head: “This world is not my home, I’m just apassing through, if heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?”
When our lives are comfortable and our homes are secure, we don’t have much need of a hope of heaven. When life is difficult, as it surely was for black slaves, what hope is there, if not hope that in my father’s house, there are many mansions? Hope that knows that heaven is sure? So the songs say:
‘I want to go home, where there’s no hard trials, I want to go home, where there’s no whip a-crackin’
‘My brudder, how long, ‘Fore we done sufferin’ here? It won’t be long, it won’t be long, it won’t be long, ‘For de Lord will call us home.’
‘Wish I was in heaven sitting down, wish I was in heaven sitting down, wouldn’t get tired no more, wouldn’t get tired no more.‘ Song after song about their hope of heaven.
Those song-writers, rich in faith, knew that surely heaven is not a place on earth. ‘They admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth… they were looking for a country of their own, longing for a better place – a heavenly one. Therefore, God is proud to be called ‘their God’ and he has prepared a City for them.’ Proud to be called God of the the slaves, the stranger, the alien, God of the homeless, the refugee, the asylum seeker, God of the orphan, God of the widow. This is my God. Hallelujah!
While I was musing on this, Mark Meynell drew my attention to this album: Wayfaring Stranger – A Spiritual Songbook Kristin Asbjørnsen She is a Norwegian singer with a voice straight out of a jazz club doing an album of Negro Spiritual covers. I love it. Read what Mark has to say about it on his blog – Quaerentia (http://markmeynell.wordpress.com/ – always worth a look).