During last Sunday’s online worship service, a small ensemble of singers sang the spiritual, “We have come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His holy Word, He’s never failed us yet, Singin’ oh, oh, oh, can’t turn around, We’ve come this far by faith.”
The lyrics to this popular spiritual speak of life as a march and a movement, a pilgrimage of hope. I listened Sunday morning to that song and later that day I watched footage of the funeral processional of the late Congressman John Lewis. Did you see it? Did you notice the scene as his body crossed the Edmond Pettus Bridge on a horse drawn carriage in Selma for one last time? Were you moved by the salutes of the State Troopers? I thought of how Congressman Lewis’ life made a difference as he encouraged non-violence and justice for all as he journeyed through difficult days.
As I think about our journey of faith through 2020, it is obvious that this time has not been easy for many people. We have all made adjustments. Most every human being on our planet has been impacted in some way by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Churches have made decisions to keep their congregations safe. Parents have struggled to contemplate the best way to care for their school-age children. We have sadly lost friends to this disease. This pandemic season is now part of our life journey. As we have encountered a pandemic we have also faced the sad reality of racism and injustice that continues as an undercurrent of sin, pain, and brokenness.
As I think of the life of Congressman Lewis and the wisdom found in the Spiritual above, I am reminded that each day we all have a choice. We can live in anger, resentment, violence, judgment of others, divisiveness and fear, or we can take steps forward toward justice, peace, and love. This movement forward is a daily pilgrimage where we “lean on the Lord and trust in His holy word” which says things like,
• “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
• “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3: 3-5
• “But get rid of all such things —anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth, and do not lie ... as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience ... and above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3
• “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:35
As we lean on the Lord and trust in the wisdom of God’s Holy word, I pray we discover we “can’t turn around.” God calls us in this difficult year to a pilgrimage of hope, a journey of discovering anew what it means to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love our self. (Matthew 22: 36-40).
Dr. Cory Smith is the Senior Minister of Auburn United Methodist Church. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, The Candler School of Theology at Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is married to Alicia, and they have one daughter, Sarah Morgan.