Jesus took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples. Then he took a cup, gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. When they had sung a hymn, they went out... - Mark 14:22-26, excerpts (NRSV)
Whenever I read Mark’s story of the last supper, one detail always chokes me up: Before they went out, they sang a hymn.
Jesus knew something dreadful was coming. Even so, he didn’t skip the closing hymn, likely a psalm about God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
How could he sing of deliverance when there’d be none for him? In the same way his ancestor Miriam grabbed a tambourine in the rush to escape Egypt ahead of Pharaoh’s army. She knew she’d need it later for the victory song.
Someone once asked Sojourner Truth how to destroy slavery. She replied, “Lay a song on it.” If you’re of a certain age, you remember freedom songs above the blows and snarling dogs. It’s no surprise that when despots come to power, they first purge the poets and singers. They know where real power lies.
Jesus sang a hymn that night, a song the Spirit taught David. David taught the people. They sang it to their children. Jesus learned it from his mother, who learned it from hers.
Hope and joy against all odds, he sang for his whole short life. He sang it when they killed him. He was singing when he burst triumphant from the grave.
Every faithful community knows it. As long as we’re singing, we’re invincible.
Maybe we can’t yet sing safely in our sanctuaries, but your song resounds in every act of hope and joy, in every no to wrong, in every body on the line. It never dies. Praise to you forever!
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.