African American Spiritual

“You may have all the rest. Give me Jesus.”

     By Judy Wellert

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I love many African American spirituals and ethnic worship songs because the lyrics are often simple but the rhythms and tunes move me.

When my family lived in the Washington DC area, Reformation Sunday was special because area Lutheran church choirs were asked to combine and sing for a celebration service at the National Cathedral.  Our church choir always participated, and, one year, we sang a beautiful arrangement of “Give Me Jesus.”  It wasn’t an easy version of the song, and singing with over a hundred voices in that echoing sanctuary made following the conductor very important!  The reverberating acoustics in that huge, gorgeous space made the song sound completely different than when we practiced it.  I’m so grateful to have had that experience.  The memory of it still brings tears to my eyes and yet lifts my heart because of the beautiful music, the awe-inspiring surroundings, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In the lyrics, the singer calls on Jesus when she is alone, when she is dying, and when she wants to sing.  In all circumstances, Jesus is the person she wants with her.

You proved your love for me, Jesus, when you gave your life for me.  I know I can count on you to be with me whenever I need your support.  Forgive me for the times I forget and get worried, panicked, or sad.  You are with me always.  May the Holy Spirit guide me to ways I can demonstrate my love for you.