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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Holy Saturday, April 11, 2020  

Today’s Hymn

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

“Were You There,” African American spiritual
Hymn 228, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

At holidays, my thoughts go back to childhood with my single mother and my brother on the South Side of Chicago. The weeks before Easter were especially exciting for several reasons. Although we didn’t have much, my brother and I didn’t really know that. We were happy to shop for new (Buster Brown) shoes, new pants, and a new sport coat. My pants/coat were often my brother’s from the prior year, but they were still new for me.

Most special were the wonderful hymns selected for this time of the year—songs we sang at our African American Lutheran Church, St. Peter. The hymn “Were You There” was one of my absolute favorites. We were told its origins were in the plantation fields. Black slaves sang this and other spirituals to ease their pain and to rejoice in the belief that Jesus’ death guaranteed us a joyous life after our tribulations.

During my youth, the history we were taught seldom focused on the contributions of black peoples of the world. What a joy for our pastor to tell us from the pulpit that Simon of Cyrene, an African, was compelled by the Romans to carry the cross of Jesus on the way to his crucifixion. How proud we were! I am reminded of Revelation 7:9: “and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

O Lord God, it is through the Passion of your blessed Son, who experienced disgraceful suffering and death, that we are granted the way to eternal life. May we bask in the glory of the cross of Christ and gladly endure the trials, tribulations, and joys of this life, as Jesus showed us how. Amen.

Written by Ken Gaines, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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