By Angela Pleasants

I grew up in a small rural church in Guilford County. Worship was a mixture of what we would call Methocostal. It was a blend of Methodist with a bit of flavor of Pentecostal thrown in for good measure. The music was lively with hand-clapping, foot-stomping, and a holy dance we called “shouting.” 

The proclamation of the word was an art form. If you will permit me to use my classical music terms, it started with pianissimo to a mezzo forte to forte. The preacher would crescendo to that fever pitch where the dance between the congregation and pastor began. 

I am using the musical terms because this was a combination art form between dancing and music. The pastor would give a preaching style called “whooping” in the black church tradition. The history of whooping began with enslaved Africans who brought the tradition to the Americas, and free black pastors picked up the tradition. It was a way of informing the heart and mind. 

While the pastor was at the height of his (we only had male pastors during this time) whoop, the congregation would respond in cadence. I recall one of the familiar responses was, “Say so, pastor,” or “You better say so.” 

When I was young, I did not know what my elders meant when they said, “Say so.” There was even a prayer with the words sung, “Let the redeemed of the Lord, say so.” It became an amen in our church tradition. 

When I was older, I understood what my elders meant when they said, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” These saints came through the tribulation of segregation, discrimination, hatred, and unrest. They fought long and hard and saw victories along the way. They related their plight to the Israelite’s journey from the bondage of Egypt to the Promised Land. What were they saying? They were saying how God is gracious and merciful, powerful and mighty. They were giving their thanksgiving and praise to the God who keeps covenant relationship. 

I recall the lyrics to one song of deliverance: 

“How I got over?/ How I got over?/ My soul looked back and wondered/ How I got over?/ Just as soon as I see Jesus./ The man who made me free./ It was the man who bled and suffered./ You know he died for you and me./ I wanna thank him because he brought me./ I want to thank him because he taught me./ I wanna thank him because he kept me./ I gonna thank him because he never left me./ I wanna sing hallelujah./ I might shout this evening trouble over./ I gonna thank Jesus for all he’s done for me.”

So, when these saints (my parents included) said, “let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” they were not only talking about their victory from the bondage of oppression, depression, suppression as a black ethnicity but also from the bondage of sin and death. Salvation in Jesus alone has “brought them from a mighty long way” (saying the words of the elder saints in my home church).

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalms 107:1-9). 

If you read this entire Psalm, it reads like the cadence of the “whooping” style of black preaching. The people are in peril, and they cry out to God, and God answers. 

1. People cry who are lost and perishing – God rescues. 

2. People are imprisoned – God sets them free.

3. People are mortally ill and in peril at sea – God hears and responds.

They are lost and found, captive and redeemed, sick and healed. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

And what is the response of those redeemed? Their response is thanksgiving and praise. You must read the entire Psalm to capture the full richness that no matter the extreme calamity, God is able to break through to help, especially those who cry out to him.

In Psalm 107, we see the plight of those who are lost, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted. It’s thought the Psalmist was referring to the celebration of the end of exile. These were the Israelites in exile, but it also is typical of any one of us who has not found the satisfaction that comes from knowing God.

What caused Israel to be in exile? God chose Israel not because they were more numerous than any other people. God chose them because he loved them and kept his oath to their ancestors. God brought them out with a mighty hand and redeemed them from the house of slavery when they were in Egypt. 

God is good and faithful and maintains his covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments. 

So, what happened to Israel? How did they end up in exile? Israel forgot her first love. God referred to Israel as his vineyard. In Isaiah 5, he called them his “beloved vineyard on a fruitful hill.” 

God planted Israel as a choice vine and expected it to bear good grapes. But something happened. Instead of good grapes, it brought forth wild grapes. Instead of guarding their hearts with the words of the Lord, they permitted:

1. Greed

2. Self-indulgence. Instead of paying attention to God and his work, they were giving full attention to material things that were passing away. 

3. Cynicism and testing God.

4. Moral perversion. They declared what is right, wrong and what is wrong right. They made up their own morality.

Israel was supposed to demonstrate to the world what a covenant relationship with God looked like, but they did not produce ripe fruit. Overall, the sin was their failure to admit there is someone outside of themselves who has the right to establish the parameters of our existence.

And so, they ended up in a foreign land, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” By the rivers of Babylon, Israel hung up their harps, sat down, and cried. Their cry became a lament to the God they once turned from, and he heard their cry.

Likewise, today, God also hears our cries. My cry may be different from yours, but it is a cry nevertheless, and God hears our cries. Some of us are crying over what we once knew of a denomination, but God hears our cry. Some of us are grieving over a significant loss; God hears our cry. What is your lament today? Take heart because God hears our cry. Our lament has become a form of intercession, and God hears. 

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

“For thus say the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:10-11). 

God has a plan for us. God has a plan for the Global Methodist Church. He is planting us as a choice vine, but we cannot forget our first love. Let us not become so consumed in leaving a current denomination to start a new denomination without first coming before God in complete repentance and consecrating ourselves for what lies before us. 

Whenever the Israelites were preparing to be led out by God, they went through a period of consecration. Consecration is separating ourselves from what is impure and unclean to prepare ourselves to deepen our relationship with God. After their period of consecration, God said he would do amazing things before them. God was gracious to them, and he will be toward us. 

God’s mercy has no beginning and no end. It endures forever. Our sin required his good mercy, and therefore, we praise him from the depth of our being. 

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. 

When we think of deliverance, sometimes our mind first goes to deliverance from illness, deliverance from suffering, or deliverance from oppression in society. But the greatest deliverance of all happened for us on Calvary. 

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

Jesus said:

1. “I am the way” – meaning he is the access to the Father’s presence in heaven.

2. “I am truth” – meaning the authoritative representative revealer of God. He discloses God exhaustively.

3. “I am the life” – meaning he is the mediator, creating the avenue to God. 

We were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from our ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.

We were in sinfulness and bondage, but the price paid was the atoning death of Jesus Christ, who delivered us from sin and death. From our former life, believers have been redeemed, purchased with a price, the blood of Jesus. And now that we are saved, delivered and restored in our relationship with God, we are grateful people, living a life of thanksgiving to God for our new family and now living in awe and wonder and faithfulness before him. We have not just survived. We have thrived and conquered. We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ who first loved us and continues to shower us with His love.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

Angela Pleasants is Vice President for Clergy and Church Relations for the Wesleyan Covenant Association. She is a clergywoman in the Global Methodist Church, having served as an elder in the North Carolina Annual Conference where she served as a district superintendent, chairwoman of the conference’s board of elders, and was twice elected as a delegate to General Conference. This article is adapted from her address to the Wesleyan Covenant Association Global Gathering in Indianapolis in May. 


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