Lent

2015: Jehoshaphat's Army: The Transformative Power of Art

Second Sunday in Lent

2015: Jehoshaphat's Army: The Transformative Power of Art
President Barack Obama, Ruby Bridges, and representatives of the Norman Rockwell Museum view Rockwell’s "The Problem We All Live With."

Pray

Holy One, May we submit our whole selves, our gifts and our talents to you. May the sounds of our lament, echoes of prayer and bellows of praise be found on our lips, and may it be the rhythm that moves our souls during this Lenten season and throughout the course of our lives. As the Psalmist said, “You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.” –Psalm 22:23, 30-31

Today we pray for Dallas Bethlehem Center in Dallas, Texas; and for Hea Sun Kim. Amen.

Learn

Read 2 Chronicles 20:20-22.

Prayer, fasting, worship and radical praise have been both essential spiritual disciplines and critical tools of warfare — spiritual and literal — all throughout human history. We have seen evidence from the stories recorded in the biblical account to those from the front lines of the American Civil Rights Movement, and even in current times of resistance to racial oppression that have led many to march for peace and justice. Music and art have always been a focal point of struggle and celebration, and are tools for the liberation of God’s people throughout the generations. From Miriam’s Song capturing the people of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt, to the Psalms of David and the Psalter writers, to the hush harbors of the Deep South where the slaves gathered for spiritual retreat, to migrant workers journeying from distant lands with hope in their heart and a song on their lips. Throughout various struggles for justice, powerful struggle songs called us to “study war no more” and “lift every voice and sing.” These were the songs of resistance, of hope and healing, of righteous indignation, of love and justice.

In this text (2 Chronicles 20:20-22), we see that Jehoshaphat was given specific instruction by God to do much the same thing. God told him to use not the sword or spear, but song, prayer and praise as the weapon that would be raised up against the enemy of Judah. One can only imagine how much faith it took for Jehoshaphat to put the “praise team” ahead of the army as they went into a battle for their very lives. Yet, it was the music that moved them, and God brought them into victory. Today we still face powers and principalities, spiritual wickedness in high places, and systemic ‘isms that encamp us all around. We must position ourselves to hear from God and be in solidarity with each other against structural evils like racism — lifting up holy hands not only in the church but in the streets. We must sing the songs of freedom, and use music and art that speak to the struggles of the current day. Sadly, much of the same societal strongholds still echo from our past, but if we bring the music not only of past social justice movements but also write the songs that we can sing while in the struggle today…this too is our reasonable act of worship.

What if the church were like Jehoshaphat’s army, leading with the transformative vision of art and song? How many enemies could be defeated? If only we were obedient to God and went forth in praise, confident that victory over injustice can and will be won!

Mentor

How have you used music or art in your church, conference or unit as a tool to gather people together in critical times to faithful public action? Songs of freedom, spirituals, songs of lament and of victory, are calls for spiritual renewal, revival and prepare our mind and soul to “be the change we want to see in the world”.

Current events have also been like a muse for many artists, inspiring paintings, poetry, plays and many other forms of cultural, communal, political and spiritual forms of artistic expression. The artist Norman Rockwell captured the struggle to overcome racism with strength, determination and faith. He painted the well-known portrait of Ruby Bridges called The Problem We All Live With. This 6-year-old girl, who risked her life over 50 years ago in the Deep South at the height of racism and segregation, was escorted by Federal marshals into a New Orleans public school in November 1960. Six years later the Brown v. Board of Education ruling declared that separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional, and Ruby Bridges became the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South.

Transform

In what ways can you use art as a statement of faith and justice today in your community? Here are some ideas for how you can harness the power of art and song to enhance your work for social and racial justice:

  • Select a song (in any language) that has been used in a movement for social justice. Use the lyrics and music to host a conversation about how the song impacted the struggle for justice and what we as justice seekers today have to learn from how the song was used.

  • Consider collaborating with youth/young adults to write and perform a play, write a song, choreograph a dance, or even paint a picture of how we as United Methodist Women members will stand unified — just as Jehoshaphat’s army did, for justice and liberation for all God’s people through the love of Christ and faithful action.

The Rev. Dionne P. Boissière is chaplain at the Church Center for the United Nations. Janis Rosheuvel is executive for racial justice for United Methodist Women.

 

Posted or updated: 2/26/2015 11:00:00 PM
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