40 Days of Mercy: Week 4

This week’s poem comes from the largely forgotten African American poet James Weldon Johnson whose book “God’s Trombones” takes as its task to preserve the language and cadence of the African American preaching tradition. The collection begins in a prayer for mercy and then moves through Biblical history to arrive at the final judgement, a moment either of vindication for the faithful and oppressed and of judgement for the faithless and proud. You can see how Johnson’s own experiences of racial oppression have weathered these poems. But there is also something universal in the way that they present all of humanity being acutely in need of mercy, and the call they bring to the God of mercy to vindicate all who persistently, doggedly trust in Him. The poems are powerfully accompanied by the stark images created by Aaron Douglas, and for me the perfect musical setting of them is this piece by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, said to be based on a melody written by a slave after he was flogged. As you read these words and hear the music, may you join Johnson in his prayer for mercy, but may we also cry out for those whose pain at this moment is greater than you or I may ever know.

Image: illustration for “God’s Trombones” by Aaron Douglas (1927)

Published by Matthew Pullar

Teacher, writer, blogger, husband, father, Christian. Living in Wyndham in Melbourne's west, on the land of the Kulin Nation. Searching for words to console and feed hearts and souls.

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