“This morning I am going to tie together Luke 12 and the 20th-century prophet and philosopher Curtis Mayfield, who wrote ‘People Get Ready.’ This was an anthem of the civil rights movement and the bluelight parties in house basements. It is political commentary and rhythm and blues,” said the Rev. Dwight D. Andrews. He preached at the 9:15 a.m. Friday morning worship service. His sermon title was “People Get Ready!” and the Scripture readings were Psalm 33:12-22 and Luke 12:32-40, Jesus’ admonition to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man.
Andrews quoted some of the lyrics of “People Get Ready”:
People get ready
There’s a train a-coming
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank the Lord.
“The image of the train is a powerful one in African-American culture. It means passage, movement and an improved place in life, new openings and beginnings. The train was critical to the Great Migration. Artist Romare Bearden embedded trains in his paintings,” Andrews said. “There are countless songs with trains in them like Duke Ellington’s ‘Take the A Train,’ John Coltrane’s ‘Blue Train’ and Don Cornelius’ ‘Soul Train.’ The train was a pivotal part of my friend August Wilson’s play The Piano Lesson. There is also the gospel train that crosses over the Jordan to the land of Canaan. They all signify movement, liberation and freedom.”
“People Get Ready” has all the tenets of faith, Andrews said. One doesn’t need a ticket to get on board; all one needs is faith. The train does not move because of political movements or economic changes. It moves from faith.
“Faith is the engine that moves us from here to there,” he said.
Yet, people are not always sure if they are ready to get on board. He quoted a poem by Lois Blanchard Eades, “If Jesus Came to Your House.”
“If Jesus came to your house,” she wrote, “would you have to change your life all around for his visit or would you automatically include Jesus in your daily life?”
“If Jesus came to your house, would you ask him to wait while you took a conference call?” Andrews said. “You have to be watchful like the slaves in the Scripture because you don’t know the time or hour [that Jesus would come].”
The challenge is people have not been paying attention, he said.
“How did we get here? We have not been prayerful and careful with our friends. We have not taught the songs or lifted up the Spirit,” he said. “We have expected [the children] to learn by osmosis. We have to pass on the love, heritage and faith we know to be true.”
Andrews invited members of Black Lives Matter in Atlanta to come to his church and share with the members. At the end of the session, a young woman said she was surprised that church folk had come to talk because she did not think church folk were interested in freedom and struggle.
“Sister, dear sister, the church was born in struggle. It was a voice for freedom and a place to strategize before going out to march. It was my fault that I had not taught you,” Andrews said. “They only know Martin Luther King and ‘I Have a Dream,’ and that is a footnote. They think the struggle began with their experience; we have not been watchful.”
The train is ready, but people are not prepared to get on board, he told the congregation. People are anxious about the world, anxious about their stuff.
“Those who have stuff want to keep it, those who have some want more, and those who have nothing want everything,” he said. “But we are already richly blessed: the Spirit of the Lord is on us.”
“I am going to make Mayfield a theologian. He said all you need is faith to get on board; faith is the ticket to grace,” he said. “The most expensive gift is free. Let the people say Amen.”
The congregation responded, “Amen.”
“We need new ways of loving and knowing. We need to sing the songs; we don’t need to be musicians or preachers,” Andrews said. “I have learned this week that we all have a song to sing and we should sing it with joy and melody.”
Andrews taught the congregation a spiritual from the Georgia Sea Islands.
That’s alright, that’s alright, that’s alright, that’s alright.
It’ll be alright.
‘Cause my soul got a seat up in the kingdom,
“God bless you. Amen,” he said.
The Rev. Scott Maxwell presided. The Rev. Mary Lee Talbot read the Scriptures. The Motet Choir, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, sang “Worthy to Be Praised!,” by Byron J. Smith. The Harold F. Reed Sr. Memorial Chaplaincy and the Daney-Holden Chaplaincy Fund provided support for this week’s services.