Augsburg Fortress

Never Said a Mumbalin' Word

Never Said a Mumbalin' Word

This unique devotional takes the reader on a spiritual journey through Lent and Holy Week. The focus is on the Spirituals, through which the reader comes to understand the bright sadness of Lent. This title helps readers pave a path of rededicating their lives to God.

Meditations and spiritual exercises will enrich and empower your faith as you encounter the Christ who suffered and died, and who seeks to live in and with you.
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  • Publisher Augsburg Fortress
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780806645551
  • Age/Grade Range Adult
  • Dimensions 5.25 x 7.75
  • Pages 96
  • Season/Occasion Lent & Holy Week
  • Publication Date September 17, 2002


Day 22, Saturday

Go Down, Moses

Go Down, Moses, way down in Egypt's land;
Tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.

When Israel was in Egypt's land,
Let my people go;
Oppressed so hard, they could not stand,
Let my people go.

The Lord told Moses what to do,
Let my people go;
To lead the children of Israel through,
Let my people go.

They journeyed on at his command,
Let my people go;
And came at length to Canaan's land,
Let my people go.

Oh let us all from bondage flee,
Let my people go;
And let us all in Christ be free,
Let my people go.


It is difficult to argue with those who say that Moses is the central figure in the Old Testament. Moses encounters God, is transformed by God, leads the people out of Egypt, leads them through the desert, and receives the Ten Commandments. Whatever we say about Moses, he stands as one of the most obedient figures in the Bible.

But Moses' obedience was tested from the start. "Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt's land / Tell old Pharaoh to let my people go." When Moses heard words similar to this coming from a burning bush, his first response was fearful. Meeting God in prayer is one thing, but experiencing a fiery theophany of God is another thing. It took Moses a lot of serious courage to take up God's challenge to go back to Egypt to meet the Pharaoh on his turf. But Moses did it!

To hear God's word is the first step. We are called to carry it out. To hear the call for liberation is one thing. But if we do not stand before the powers of this world and proclaim it, we fail to seek God's justice.

We sometimes forget that the final release of the Israelites took a long time. Pharaoh did not want to let the Israelites go. Like Pharaoh, we find it difficult to let go of our trappings and possessions.

"Oh let us all from bondage flee," says the words of the song. What keeps you in bondage? How can we flee from the things that trap us? This spiritual lays out the choices. Will we be Moses? Will we be Pharaoh? Will we be the Israelites on the journey?

In Moses, we have a powerful reminder that we, too, stand on holy ground and are called to participate in the ongoing acts of redemption.

Spiritual Exercise

Take off your shoes and repeat these words: "This is holy ground, I am standing on holy ground. The Lord God is here." On the second repetition, open your hands to the heavens.

Make an attempt to repeat these lines at your work, church, or in the rooms throughout your house. Just take off your shoes and repeat the words.

What makes a place holy?
Where do you imagine God would send Moses today? Who in today's world is Moses? Who is Pharaoh?
Remember that the presence of God can make any ground a holy ground for you.  



Lent is not an easy time. It is a time for us to stretch ourselves. Stretching or lengthening our lives can involve a lot of pain and "death." But even more important than pain and death is faith. We need faith to believe that as we experience the ashes of life, life can and will rise from those ashes. Liberation awaits us. Freedom calls us throughout Lent.

Spirituals offer the opportunity for all of us to look at the ashes of our existence. We meditate on these words because we know that the slavery of some has been more painful than others. We meditate on these spirituals because we believe there is resurrection in opening ourselves to the suffering and pain in our lives and others'.

The experience of Yahweh as liberator holds tremendous importance for the Jewish people in light of their experience of suffering and oppression. In their darkest hour they find Yahweh on their side working for their liberation. They sing the praises of Yahweh even as they suffer. Their scriptures reflect their struggle to understand what it means to be the chosen people in light of their suffering.

Christians also give a tremendous attention to suffering. As Christians, we oftentimes describe Jesus as the suffering servant of Isaiah. We remember his resurrection, but we never try to deny the suffering of God.

Black people, throughout the world, have suffered all manner of evil. Throughout their suffering, they have found a voice to await and proclaim God's love and liberation. In these spirituals, I offer the reader a chance to find God in the words of slaves who never stopped believing in God's love.

Lent offers us a chance to rededicate ourselves to God. We are called to identify with Jesus as the Suffering Slave. As we meditate on Jesus, we are called to be change agents in this world. May these spirituals aid our journey as we struggle with what it means to be a people of God. May we find Jesus in them, and may we find ourselves, too. Take time to read the spirituals; they speak volumes of a God who is both ancient and new.

Wouldn't it be divine if we could sing and praise in the midst of suffering, even as we work out our liberation. These spirituals provide deep insight into the hearts, minds, and souls of a people, who like us, struggle to make sense of suffering and the promise of new life.