#Treasuresofdarkness Day 28, Revelation 1:15

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
“O sometimes it causes me to tremble! Tremble! Tremble!”
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?
Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?
“O sometimes it causes me to tremble! Tremble! Tremble!”
Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
“O sometimes it causes me to tremble! Tremble! Tremble!”
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
“O sometimes it causes me to tremble! Tremble! Tremble!”
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

I begin with a 19th century Negro Spiritual first published in 1899 in Old Plantation Hymns. I think of the emotions weaved into such a simple song by a people who were born into a system of oppression designed in order for them to suffer as Euro-Americanxs reaped the benefits of their labor. This song of lamentation refers to the execution of the Savior however told as if they themselves were true witnesses.

Were you there? A question of both concern and of conviction. As this song was originally sang amongst peers, there was a shared experience and understanding of this tragedy. “Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble!”, like a victim of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder having an episode as the trauma replays viciously in their head. For a people over a century removed from the crucifixion, it is sung as if they walked away from the tomb that morning.

Maybe they did just leave the tomb. Lest we forget how common it was to see a Black body hanging whether it be a loved one or a stranger. Often times these were innocent people both enslaved and free hanging low like strange fruit on the poplar trees. Public whippings were held like Christ in the courtyard as they prepared his weak body to carry his own cross up the hill. We too were marched up a hill or into the field for this public display of empire. Since the beginning of our nation, Jesus was murdered every day.

“. . .and on turning I saw seven gold lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man. . ”

Were you there? Then there is also the same question posed to the outsider. If you were then what role did you play? Were you part of the group shouting “Crucify him!” or were you denying Christ like you were Peter? Tell us. Why weren’t you there? Did you come to be an ally of Christ long after or did the crucifixion just not effect you at the time?

So many Anglo- Christians used the crucifixion to hate Jews but never thought to hate themselves. It was not Judaism that killed Christ, it was the silent majority and nationalists who believed empire would work in their favor. While Black people would be strung up like classical instruments, White families would orchestrate community gatherings to watch bodies burn 10 feet in the air and squirm for breath as spectators ate room temperature ham and mayonaise sandwiches below. Plenty did not attend these events. Many did not speak out much either. Eyes closed like window drapes made by the finest cotton. See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.

“. . clothed in a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.”
. . . . his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace. . . .
“His head and his hair were as white as white wool, white as snow;”

The verse designated to be reclaimed comes from the book of Revelation as John speaks to the seven churches describing the Son of Man. As he colorfully paints the divine experience that it is to witness He who is almighty, John specifically mentions feet. We know in scripture feet has been an iconic symbol especially in the New Testament. The Gospel of John (13:1 – 7) teaches of Jesus, master, washing the feet of his disciples as it reflects humility, purity, hospitality and stewardship. Feet is also found in the gospel of Luke (10:38 – 42) as Mary sits at the feet of Jesus in the manner of any student ready to learn from their teacher. For the John of Revelation to acknowledge these particular limbs of the Son of Man presents a yielding posture to burnished bronze feet refined in a furnace, as if they were sculpted by God Herself. He describes himself as falling down “as though dead” to burnished bronze feet. Iconic.

“. . his eyes were like a flame of fire, . .”

In reality it is life giving that the feet of Christ would be described as the feet of folk who would slave for hours under the hot Americanx sun for hundreds of years. It reminds us that Jesus too was born into a disenfranchised community of rural poor twang speaking folk left to be impoverished at the hands of an empire. But this Jesus of the Disinherited was about as well known on the plantation as the slave owner’s knowledge of how to season chicken. John is recorded to be bowing at the feet of darkness while Black Americanxs found themselves bowing to the face of White Jesus. Call it incarnated disconnect.

“His feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace. . .”

What we learn through story telling is who was there and what was their role when the police state came for Christ, especially in the Western Hemisphere. A slave owner could recite the Curse of Ham with biblical annotations but become incoherent to A wooly hair Jesus who sought camouflage refuge amongst Egyptians. If you teach a complacent fair eyed Christ, you are not a follower but an opportunist. And if you remain silent to the assault on the gospel, chances are you’re a beneficiary.

What must be made known is that much like the New Testament, the Americas love feet- especially black feet. Hanging black feet. Hanging black feet that would be set on fire as broken necks would quiver for freedom. The Americas love hanging black burnt feet so much they took town photos together and made postcards to share with others. Or post it as the cover image for every national newspaper. Or video recorded the lynching and leave it on repeat on every major network. Or donated money to the murderers solely only knowing them for terminating a Black life. The Americas would shoot a barefoot Jesus in the back while praying and declare it in the name of a Christ.

“In his right hand he held seven stars, . . “

The song Were You There speaks to me as I reflect on this description found in Revelation thinking of how prophetic is this description of Christ only for it to be everything we were taught to fear. In the midst of seven lampstands we see a man in a robe with wooly hair and dark colored skin. He is carrying something in his right hand with a certain look in his eyes. Some may even say that he looked like a demon. Is he is armed with this double edged sword, or is that a can of Ice Tea? If John of Revelations were a kkkop or a self declared vigilante, he might have just feared for his life and sent the Savior back to heaven.

“. . .and from his mouth came a sharp, two edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full force.”

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? How about when they crucified my father, my mother, my brother, my sister, my daughter or my son? Were you there when they refined their burnished bronze feet, arms, head, and legs in a furnace for cremation? Sometimes it causes me to tremble. Sometimes it makes me wonder what will happen when our Savior comes back to judge the living and the dead. Will He make it to us safely or will someone stand their ground? Who will speak up the next time one of us is gunned down? If a Black life hangs in 2017, will you make a sound?

I can’t breathe.

An Agnostic and a Lutheran come out of the same womb. Nearly two decades later they team up to reinterpret scripture through the artistic lens of Black women born in the United States. Two of the Faison sisters, Brianne (IG- @brianneisworking ) and Nicolette ( Twitter- @afrolutheran ) use their prophetic mediums to remind the reader that nothing is new under the sun and the gospel is a clear today as it was when it was written. Designed and written by Nicolette Faison. Photographed by Brianne Faison. (Model- Andre)