When I opened my hymn book to “Let Us Break Bread Together”, I saw it was a Negro spiritual song, which means the song was written by an American slave. Immediately, my heart strings were struck as I read the lyrics:

VERSE ONE

Let us break bread together on our knees;

Let us break bread together on our knees.

REFRAIN

When I fall on my knees,

With my face to the rising sun,

O Lord, have mercy on me.

VERSE TWO

Let us drink wine together on our knees;

Let us drink wine together on our knees.

(Repeat REFRAIN)

VERSE THREE

Let us praise God together on our knees;

Let us praise God together on our knees.

(Repeat REFRAIN)

“I don’t know this song, but let’s sight-read it,” my mother said, and sang alone, first, to show us the sound of tones. Interestingly, when a hymn book provides shape notes (i.e. ‘Do’ is a triangle, ‘La’ is a square) even amateurs can sing! And how blessed to have sung it! The tones rose and fell so sweetly – yet they were powerful! – and the lyrics were equally so.

As I sang, my imagination wandered to the picture of a slave woman, falling to her knees at the start of a new day. Before she even began her work, she was tired and weary from the bondage she faced: the bondage of inequality.

Extraordinarily, the slaves from American history put their hearts on a plate and served it to God in spirit and in truth. How did they do that? The same way Job from the Bible did. Quoting Job, he said,

“Do not mortals have hard service on earth?
    Are not their days like those of hired laborers?
Like a slave longing for the evening shadows,
    or a hired laborer waiting to be paid,
so I have been allotted months of futility,
    and nights of misery have been assigned to me.
When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’
    The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn.”

Job 7:1-4 (NIV)

To honor and respect today’s hymn, I selected many different arrangements of “Let Us Break Bread Together”. Truly, let’s break bread together, each of us with our unique ways of showing worship.

Something else moved me today – with the news of protests happening in America, and Vice President Pence’s statement about the Colts game he walked out on, it is important for each American to understand heritage, and how different each American is because of the unique heritages. Many Americans don’t know their original ethnicity, saying “I’m a quarter” this and that, or 1/10th, or 1/20th, or “going back, on my father’s side”.

Makes one wonder, does heritage matter? Sure. How peoples’ lives are framed comes partly from the traditions their ancestors passed on, privileges earned, and struggles faced. There are countless heritages, and endless beginnings, which made America. It is through diversity that America grew strong. It is through respect that America will stay strong.

Pains of Heritage

By: Lacy Andrews

America for all!

Americans, free.

Whilst they try to remember,

The pains of their ancestors.

 

I soberly wonder

Surely! By this time,

We can forgive and forget,

Perhaps, if we give respect.

 

History roots go deep,

In the hearts of men,

Pilgrims came, died, and conquered

Slaves served, were sold and tortured.

 

Native tribes were ruined,

Spaniards came to save.

Puritans fled government,

And Chinese came for profit.

 

Indians were farmers,

Dutch came as merchants.

Russians fled from poverty,

Syrians were refugees.

 

America for all!

Americans, free.

Yet they try to remember,

The pains of their ancestors.

 

I somberly ponder

Even at this time,

We can’t forgive or forget

Unless we learn to respect.

 

Every race overcame,

The trials of men.

Englishmen settled, peaceful.

Africans became equal.

 

Native children lived on,

The Spanish flourished.

Puritans made Jamestown,

The Chinese made Chinatown.

 

Indians fought for rights,

Dutchmen fought in war.

Russians fought persecution.

Syrians fought omission.

 

America for all!

Americans, free.

Whilst they try to remember,

The pains of their ancestors.

 

I quietly wonder,

If ever in time,

Will we receive forgiveness?

Or forget respectfulness?

 

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