I attend a church where the service is pretty animated. There are times of prayer and seriousness, but in true African-American fashion, we clap our hands as we sing praises, and we’re even known to dance before the Lord sometimes. In addition to the traditional remarks like “amen” and “hallelujah” called out during the sermon, (yes, during the sermon) we punctuate the pastor’s words with comments like “Say that,” “Sure you’re right,” and “Now you’re preaching!”
This spontaneous combustion of energy while in church may seem strange to some, but you’ve got to understand something. As a people in America, we’ve been through some pretty terrible times. The Middle Passage, slavery, the segregated Jim Crow South, and the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement, are all part of a past that left scars and wounds that still need to heal. The silent racism that still exists pops to the surface from time to time in bigoted comments caught by the media, racial profiling, and the fact that it’s the 21st century and we’re still having “firsts.” The one thing we had to hold onto that never let us down was our faith, so Sunday mornings meant a chance to praise our God who saw us through another week of madness. We may stay in church longer than other denominations, and make lots more noise than other religious organizations, but we have something to thank God for, and we’re not afraid or ashamed to let Him know that!
Psalm 18:28-29 says, “For You will light my lamp; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall.” Many people have tried to extinguish the lamp of Black people; yet, the Lord God has enlightened our darkness. When we think of the goodness of God, our strength and hope is renewed. We feel like we can “run against a troop” and “leap over a wall.” Hearing the truth of God’s word and fellowshipping with the saints in church reminds us of how far we’ve come and how much God loves us. What other reaction could there be but unreserved praise?
Even if you aren’t an African-American, if you woke up this morning, you should be giving God some praise. If you are able to read this blog, you should be giving God some praise. If you have a reasonable portion of health and strength, you should be giving God some praise. If you have clothes and shoes, you should be giving God some praise. If you know where your next meal is probably coming from, you should be giving God some praise. If you have family and friends, you should be giving God some praise.
But guess what? Even if you don’t have all those things, you still should be giving God some praise. Why? Because He’s worthy of praise just because of who He is, whether He gives you stuff or not.
So again, why do we African-Americans praise God so vigorously? Whether going through hardships or remembering His goodness, we’ve learned that giving God praise means enjoying God’s presence. “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel,” Psalm 22:3-4 (KJV). How ‘bout it? Doesn’t that information make you react like you can run against a troop and leap over a wall? If so, you’re welcome to say so out loud at my church!
Happy Black History Month!
©2013 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.
And pick up a copy of Sharon’s new book, Power Suit: The Armor of God Fit for the Feminine Frame, available at Christian bookstores, online, from New Hope Publishers, from the Life That Matters Ministries’ website, and now also available on Kindle!