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Let us Break Bread Together


People Breaking Bread

Let us break bread together on our knees, (on our knees) Let us break bread together on our knees. (on our knees) When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me. (on me) Let us drink wine together on our knees, (on our knees) Let us drink wine together on our knees. (on our knees) When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me. (on me) Let us praise God together on our knees, (on our knees) Let us praise God together on our knees. (on our knees) When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me. (on me) Let us praise God together on our knees, (on our knees) Let us praise God together on our knees. (on our knees) When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me (on me)


This is a song many of us hear during a communion service. As beautiful as it is, learning the history of this song deepens the meaning.

This was a Negro spiritual, first published in The Journal of American Folklore in 1925.

Some have suggested that this song was used by slaves as a password to meet for forbidden worship services.

It is also believed to have been used in the underground railroad as a way to plan meetings secretly, suggesting that the first line was an announcement of a meeting. We don’t really know if the entire song was in a code about meetings, although I could imagine that. Perhaps “Let us break bread together” could have meant “Let’s meet together,” “on our knees” (Don’t get discovered), or “with my face to the rising sun (time of meeting or location). (These thoughts were not found in my research, just speculating on my part).

When we hear it, we can think of how it has been part of helping set people free. It still does, maybe not physically, but when we stop to remember what the communion service means for us, reminding us of the sacrifice that saves us, and reminding us of the unity we share. After all, none of us are saved, apart from the body and blood of Jesus that we remember when we take communion.

As people of the towel and basin, we are also reminded of the importance of serving one another when we observe the washing of the saint’s feet. This year, on Maundy Thursday, we observed this ordinance that evening at church. One of the ladies, who was using a walker, and is on oxygen, got on her knees to wash the feet of a sister in the Lord. It was so moving to all who saw her.

A few days later, still rejoicing over the blessing, I saw a post on Facebook from The Rev. Dr. David Hines, about the washing of the saint’s feet at Gum Swamp. David wrote: “I invited folks to wash the feet of whoever they felt led. Husbands and wives were weeping as they washed each other's feet. I saw grandparents washing the feet of their young grandchildren. I saw a brother and sister together as they each washed the feet of their grandmother. As the song says, "Surely the presence of the Lord (was) in this place!”

Surely, indeed. What a blessing to break bread together with other believers, who just like us, have found joy in celebrating the body of Christ that was sacrificed for us, and the church, the body of Christ on earth today.

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5).

Sources:

The Complete Book of Hymns by William J. and Ardythe Peterson, 2006

Song by Unknown Author / Public Domain

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