God’s Trombones: Sermons That Inspire The Soul


My soul is galvanized every time I hear or read James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. I have often imagined the old time African American preacher who, says Johnson, was “. . . an orator, and in good measure an actor” as he preached. I have directed student perfomances of this deeply moving African American text. “The Crucifixion,” for example, tells the story of how Jesus Christ, my Lord, my Savior, my Friend, suffered death on an old cross so that I might have an opportunity to be more sensitive to the hurting. The “Prodigal Son” urges me to experience and, thus understand, that I must live with a redemptive consciousness. And, of course, I am compelled to understand, through the poem “Go Down Death” this reality: God does call His children home. Those who have suffered “long in the vineyard” are deserving of rest. For sure, God’s Trombones is a poetic tribute to an experience that is Christian and American imbued by an African American cultural sensibility. I thank James Welson Johnson for creating this poetic masterpiece. Let’s continue to read it; let’s perform it. Let’s live within the context of the spirituality of the voice. Amen!

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