Readings for Henry “Harry” Thacker Burleigh (December 2, 1866 – September 12, 1949)
“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth!” (Isaiah 42:10)
While I am tired of talking about the concept of race, Henry Burleigh is more about music, God’s help through others and praise to the Lord but with some racial components.
“Henry (Harry) Thacker Burleigh was an American singer, composer, and arranger who did more than anyone else up to his time to make available the riches of the American Negro spiritual to vast audiences.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for 11 September)
Music is important to me. I like all kinds of music. I believe music to be one of the gifts that God surprises us with by who God places the gift of music in. It crosses all human barriers. But sometimes the person who God puts this gift in can be a block to us receiving it. This is also when God will act through an advocate.
“The presence of a black man in the choir [at St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City] initially caused dissension, but it died down when J. Pierpont Morgan, a member of the parish, took a clear stand on the matter. Even after gaining other employment and becoming a successful composer, Burleigh continued to sing in the choir at St. George’s for many years and became a beloved part of the congregation.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for 11 September)
The one thing we can count on is God surprising us, through us. Who knew that God would come to us in the son of a Palestinian Jewish mother? Who knew God would turn a Church hater like Saul into a Church lover like Paul? Who knew a Civic leader like J. P. Morgan would turn the tide of intolerance in order that the gift of Henry Burleigh could be enjoyed by those who otherwise would miss out on what God was doing in our very midst?
I have often confessed that I can’t see where God is in my life but I can look back and definitely see where God was in my life. Full disclosure, each day now, I find myself not having to look so far into my past to see God at work. Maybe God is deliberately letting me see what’s going on as it is happening, or just maybe, I am becoming more observant to what God is doing in the here and now. I don’t know. But let me say that God will always bring us unexpected happiness. I am so blessed! And, you are too. Some counselors will tell us that we must make ourselves happy. I say, from my own experiences, God can make us happy and God often does this through others, like Paul, or J. P. Morgan, or anybody. God works in surprising ways. We just have to be who God made us to be and God will put people in our path that will help us. Thank You Jesus.
Let us ponder anew what the Almighty can do and hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people. John+