Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa


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Such sermons were, "The Valley of Dry Bones," which was based on the vision of the prophet in the 37th chapter of Ezekiel; the "Train Sermon," in which both God and the devil were pictured as running trains, one loaded with saints, that pulled up in heaven, and the other with sinners, that dumped its load in hell; the "Heavenly March," which gave in detail the journey of the faithful from earth, on up through the pearly gates to the great white throne. Then there was a stereotyped sermon which had no definite subject, and which was quite generally preached; it began with the Creation, went on to the fall of man, rambled through the trials and tribulations of the Hebrew Children, came down to the redemption Page 2 by Christ, and ended with the Judgment Day and a warning and an exhortation to sinners.

This was the framework of a sermon that allowed the individual preacher the widest latitude that could be desired for all his arts and powers. There was one Negro sermon that in its day was a classic, and widely known to the public. Thousands of people, white and black, flocked to the church of John Jasper in Richmond, Virginia, to hear him preach his famous sermon proving that the earth is flat and the sun does move.

John Jasper's sermon was imitated and adapted by many lesser preachers. I heard only a few months ago in Harlem an up-to-date version of the "Train Sermon. The old-time Negro preacher has not yet been given the niche in which he properly belongs. He has been portrayed only as a semi-comic figure. He had, it is true, his comic aspects, but on the whole he was an important figure, and at bottom a vital factor. It was through him that the people of diverse languages and customs who were brought here from diverse parts of Africa and thrown into slavery were given their first sense of unity and solidarity.

He was the first shepherd of this bewildered flock. His power for good or ill was very great. It was the old-time preacher who for generations was the mainspring of hope and inspiration Page 3 for the Negro in America. The Negro today is, perhaps, the most priest-governed group in the country. The history of the Negro preacher reaches back to Colonial days. Before the Revolutionary War, when slavery had not yet taken on its more grim and heartless economic aspects, there were famed black preachers who preached to both whites and blacks. George Liele was preaching to whites and blacks at Augusta, Ga.

The effect on the Negro of the establishment of separate and independent places of worship can hardly Page 4 be estimated. Some idea of how far this effect reached may be gained by a comparison between the social and religious trends of the Negroes of the Old South and of the Negroes of French Louisiana and the West Indies, where they were within and directly under the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England.

The old-time preacher brought about the establishment of these independent places of worship and thereby provided the first sphere in which race leadership might develop and function. These scattered and often clandestine groups have grown into the strongest and richest organization among colored Americans. Another thought--except for these separate places of worship there never would have been any Spirituals. The old-time preacher was generally a man far above the average in intelligence; he was, not infrequently, a man of positive genius. The earliest of these preachers must have virtually committed many parts of the Bible to memory through hearing the scriptures read or preached from in the white churches which the slaves attended.

African United Methodists Won’t Trade Bible for Dollars - Juicy Ecumenism

They were the first of the slaves to learn to read, and their reading was confined to the Bible, and specifically to the more dramatic passages of the Old Testament. A text served mainly as a starting point and often had no relation to the development of the sermon. Nor would the old-time preacher balk at any text within the lids of the Bible. There is the story of one who after reading a rather cryptic passage took off his spectacles, closed the Bible with a bang and by way of preface said, "Brothers and sisters, this morning -- I intend to explain the unexplainable Page 5 -- find out the undefinable -- ponder over the imponderable -- and unscrew the inscrutable.

The old-time Negro preacher of parts was above all an orator, and in good measure an actor. He knew the secret of oratory, that at bottom it is a progression of rhythmic words more than it is anything else. Indeed, I have witnessed congregations moved to ecstasy by the rhythmic intoning of sheer incoherencies.

He was a master of all the modes of eloquence. He often possessed a voice that was a marvelous instrument, a voice he could modulate from a sepulchral whisper to a crashing thunder clap. His discourse was generally kept at a high pitch of fervency, but occasionally he dropped into colloquialisms and, less often, into humor. He preached a personal and anthropomorphic God, a sure-enough heaven and a red-hot hell.

His imagination was bold and unfettered. He had the power to sweep his hearers before him; and so himself was often swept away. At such times his language was not prose but poetry. It was from memories of such preachers there grew the idea of this book of poems. In a general way, these poems were suggested by the rather vague memories of sermons I heard preached in my childhood; but the immediate stimulus for setting them down came quite definitely at a comparatively recent date.


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I was speaking on a Sunday in Kansas City, addressing meetings in various colored churches. When I had finished my fourth talk it was Page 6 after nine o'clock at night, but the committee told me there was still another meeting to address. I demurred, making the quotation about the willingness of the spirit and the weakness of the flesh, for I was dead tired. I also protested the lateness of the hour, but I was informed that for the meeting at this church we were in good time. When we reached the church an "exhorter" was just concluding a dull sermon.

After his there were two other short sermons. These sermons proved to be preliminaries, mere curtain-raisers for a famed visiting preacher.

THE APOSTOLIC AGE

At last he arose. He was a dark-brown man, handsome in his gigantic proportions. He appeared to be a bit self-conscious, perhaps impressed by the presence of the "distinguished visitor" on the platform, and started in to preach a formal sermon from a formal text. The congregation sat apathetic and dozing.

He sensed that he was losing his audience and his opportunity. Suddenly he closed the Bible, stepped out from behind the pulpit and began to preach. He started intoning the old folk-sermon that begins with the creation of the world and ends with Judgment Day. He was at once a changed man, free, at ease and masterful. The change in the congregation was instantaneous. An electric current ran through the crowd.

It was in a moment alive and quivering; and all the while the preacher held it in the palm of his hand. He was wonderful in the way he employed his conscious and unconscious art. He strode the pulpit up and down in what was actually a very rhythmic dance, and he brought into play the full gamut of his wonderful voice, a voice -- Page 7 what shall I say? At first thought, Negro dialect would appear to be the precise medium for these old-time sermons; however, as the reader will see, the poems are not written in dialect.

My reason for not using the dialect is double. Set ordered the creation of the chest and then invited his brother to a banquet. During the feast, he offered the remarkable chest to anyone who could fit inside it. Everyone tried it, but only Osiris fit inside. The moment Osiris laid down in the chest, Set nailed the lid closed. Then he sealed the chest with molten lead and threw it, along with his brother, into the Nile.

The chest which some say inspired the idea for Egyptian sarcophagi , was carried out to sea and then came to rest in a tamarisk tree growing near Byblos in Phoenicia. The tree grew around the god in the coffin and he remained there until he died. Scene from tomb of Ramses III. KV11 Public Domain. The goddess returned to Egypt with her husband and worked to reconstitute his physical body. Then Isis transformed herself into a kite bird. She used magic words and the beating of her wings to revive him and then conceived a child with him. That child was Horus.

The body parts were then scattered across Egypt. The only part she could not find was his penis, which had been eaten by an oxyrhyncus fish making it a forbidden food in ancient Egypt. So he became the ruler and judge of the Underworld. Horus eventually avenged his father by killing Set and becoming the new king of Egypt.

Shroud from the time of the Ptolemaic dynasty showing Osiris and Anubis with a deceased man. Public Domain. Osiris was not an Underworld Duat deity to be feared. In fact, his reputation as a good and benevolent king probably created a sense of security for people nearing the end of their lives. Although people did not need to fear the deity himself, it was no easy task to enter his domain. It was pretty much guaranteed that a person who made it that far would be welcomed into the afterlife since the ancient Egyptian judgment did not seek perfection, instead it looked for balance.

If the person could convince benevolent Osiris that he or she deserved to be there, they could stay.

God's Hand at Work

The judgement of the dead in the presence of Osiris: Anubis brings Hunefer into the judgement area. Anubis is also shown supervising the judgement scales. Then Hunefer is brought to the right in the presence of Osiris by his son Horus. Osiris is shown seated under a canopy, with his sisters Isis and Nephthys. At the top, Hunefer is shown adoring a row of deities who supervise the judgement. This association with the Underworld provides another explanation why Osiris is often depicted as a mummified pharaoh — dead pharaohs were associated with him and mummified to look like him.

Although it may seem contradictory at first, Osiris was also considered a fertility god — at least in terms of agricultural fruitfulness. But if you look at the agricultural cycle of apparent death and rebirth , you can begin to see some of the reasoning behind this.

For the ancient Egyptians, Osiris was symbolically killed and had his body broken on the threshing room floor each harvest. Then the flooding of the Nile took place and the land his body was revived once again. These factors can easily be likened to elements of the Osiris myth. In one agrarian ritual, a dirt figurine was created in a mold to represent Osiris and it was placed in a small sarcophagus. When the plants grew from the box it was said that the deity had been brought back to life. The ancient Egyptians also had a legend stating that their people had been cannibals until Osiris and Isis taught them about then persuaded them to use the practice of agriculture.

Although there is no strong evidence to say ancient Egyptians were cannibals, they seemed to like the idea of Osiris having brought order to their civilization. His skin color also shows this association; if it was green it could represent the rebirth of the vegetation and if it was black it was for the fertile soil of the Nile River valley.

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Osiris, Egyptian God of the Underworld. If not in the wrappings, he is shown in a tight-fitting garment. As a king of Egypt, he was depicted with the Atef Crown - a combination of the Hedjet , the crown of Upper Egypt, with an ostrich feather on each side. Osiris is also shown wearing the long, curved false beard of a dead god.

Another symbol of Osiris is the Djed pillar. This symbolizes the stability and continuation of his power and may represent his spine. This pillar was seen as an important feature and ritually erected in some Abydos festivals. The raising of the Djed pillar was a nod to the resurrection of Osiris — a stable monarch. A scene on the west wall of the Osiris Hall that is situated beyond the seven chapels and entered via the Osiris Chapel. It shows the raising of the Djed pillar. Jon Bodsworth. Head of the God Osiris, ca.

Amazing Testimonies

Brooklyn Museum. Busiris Djedu was another important Osiris sanctuary and it is where one could see the name of the city written with two Djed pillars. A third key site for the followers of Osiris was Biggah Senmet. But the reach of the Osiris cult was much wider since all the cities which claimed to have been a location where a part of his dismembered body was buried also had a cenotaph to the god.

Although deceased kings were originally the only ones to associate themselves with Osiris upon their deaths, by BC every dead man could be linked to the deity. People saw him as a god who could protect them during their lives and who would judge them fairly in the Underworld.

Basic Principles Background

By making Osiris more accessible, he also became more popular and his cult spread throughout Egypt, sometimes with the god joining or absorbing other fertility and Underworld deities. This ability to incorporate the local gods enabled Osiris worship to remain prominent through to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Serapis , for example, was a Hellenistic god that combined Osiris with Apis - the sacred bull of Memphis. Greco-Roman writers also saw connections between their god Dionysus Bacchus and the Egyptian deity.

Osiris only fell with the rise of Christianity. Bust of Serapis. Although Osiris was the Judge of the Dead, he was also associated with rebirth, so the festivals related with him tended to focus more on celebrating life. This has already been noted with the Osiris figurines to enhance agricultural fertility. Processions and nocturnal rituals also took place at his temples and aspects of his life, death, and rebirth were key elements of those rites.

The following section of a hymn to Osiris suggests just how popular his festivals, and the god himself, were to the ancient Egyptian people:. Unto thee are offerings made by all mankind, O thou lord to whom commemorations are made, both in heaven and in earth. Many are the shouts of joy that rise to thee at the Uak festival [the 17th and 18th days of the month Thoth], and cries of delight ascend to thee from the whole world with one voice. Thou art the chief and prince of thy brethren, thou art the prince of the company of the gods, thou stablishest right and truth everywhere, thou placest thy son upon thy throne, thou art the object of praise of thy father Seb, and of the love of thy mother Nut.

Thou art exceeding mighty, thou overthrowest those who oppose thee, thou art mighty of hand, and thou slaughterest thine enemy. Thou settest thy fear in thy foe, thou removest his boundaries, thy heart is fixed, and thy feet are watchful. Thou art the heir of Seb and the sovereign of all the earth. Thou hast made this earth by thy hand, and the waters thereof, and the wind thereof, the herb thereof, all the cattle thereof, all the winged fowl thereof, all the fish thereof, all the creeping things thereof, and all the four-footed beasts thereof.

O thou son of Nut, the whole world is gratified when thou ascendest thy father's throne like Ra. Thou shinest in the horizon, thou sendest forth thy light into the darkness, thou makest the darkness light with thy double plume, and thou floodest the world with light like the Disk at break of day.

Thy diadem pierceth heaven and becometh a brother unto the stars, O thou form of every god. Thou art gracious in command and in speech, thou art the favoured one of the great company of the gods, and thou art the greatly beloved one of the lesser company of the gods. Probably from Thebes. Another important aspect of Osiris worship was to present dramatic passion plays reflecting the life, death, mummification, and resurrection of the deity.

The plays involved local priests and important community members and the mock battles between The Followers of Horus and The Followers of Set were open to anyone.

Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa
Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa
Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa
Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa
Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa
Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa
Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa Gods Hand at Work : 7 True Stories from Africa

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