“Lift Every Voice and Sing” v. 1
Call to Worship
One: Let us speak of mercy and justice.
Many: For these are the things suitable for our God.
One: Let us follow the ways of mercy and justice, for they are the ways of peace and community.
Many: Let us lift up our hearts in conviction and our voices in commitment and praise to the Lord of peace and the God of justice; the hope and healing of humanity.
Oh freedom, oh freedom!
Oh freedom over me
And before I’ll be a slave
I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free!
There’ll be singing….
No more crying….
No more dying…
Excerpts from Letter from a Birmingham Jail
I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider
My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
“If I Can Help Someone”
Excerpt from Dr. King’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in Oslo
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that We Shall overcome!
This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.
“Help Us Accept Each Other”
Excerpt from Letter From a Birmingham Jail
But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from within the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us…in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers.
But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times.
But, even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle…even if our motives are at present misunderstood. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
Prayers of the People
Jesus, when you walked on dusty roads or sat by glistening waters, you met people where they were. When you bent down low to touch the leper, or raised your eyes to touch Zacchaeus’ heart, heaven and earth were met.
And so our prayer today is that our world will know your healing touch and your forgiving heart.
That those who have been hurt by insincere actions and damning words will hear your healing voice. That those whose lives are filled with dark thoughts, or unimaginable fears, will know your peace.
Walk beside those who are close to giving up hope and where life seems to have no point; where people struggle to make ends meet and fear the policeman’s knock on the door. May children living on the streets or tending to ailing parents feel the touch of a caring hand and an end to injustice and fear.
And may all who weep and mourn, all who feel abandoned and unloved, turn towards your voice, move towards your arms and hear the whisper of your presence in the long hours of night.
Inspire us and encourage us to bend down low; to embrace those for whom society has no time or patience. Raise our eyes upwards to see the struggling patient and the exhausted caregiver.
And where young and old stumble and fall, may we be there to offer support, that all will know your love that transcends all others. We ask this in the name of Christ who taught us to pray singing …
“I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me”
Call to worship: by the Rev. Brett Strobel
Prayers of the People: by the Rev. Eleanor Macalister