The air is crisp, the college students have returned, and last Friday was the Fall Equinox. “Autumn Leaves” – the great jazz standard sung by everyone from Edith Piaf to Bob Dylan – seemed like the perfect way to begin this cold but bright Sunday morning. After the stifling heat and smokiness of early September, this new season has been welcomed with open arms. As the leaves began to turn and the new academic and church years commence, we all look forward to a fresh new start.
What does it mean to live a committed life? We cannot just feel spiritual and faithful; we need to act in love, and for love. We must fight together against injustice, against racism, against hatred. “Make Them Hear You”, from Flaherty and Ahrens’ 1998 Broadway musical Ragtime served as the second part of this morning’s prelude, leading us into the service. Turn-of-the-twentieth-century character Coalhouse Walker Jr. has felt the heavy hand of racism in many ways. He owns a brand new Ford Model T (at a time when a black man owning a car at all is unheard of), which is vandalized by a cruel gang of white firemen, then pushed in the river. His wife has been killed by the Secret Service after being wrongfully accused of trying to assassinate the President. The courts have no interest in justice for a black family. He decides that he wants an eye for an eye, fighting back with brute force that only fuels the flames between the races. Finally seeing that violence has accomplished nothing, he agrees to surrender peacefully to the police, and sings “Make Them Hear You”, proclaiming that we must speak out and always continue to work for change and to eliminate hatred in the best way that we can:
Is just to love and be loved in return
Is everything it seems.
But for now I find
It’s only in my dreams.And I can change the world,
I will be the sunlight in your universe.
You would think my love was really something good,
Baby, if I could change the world.