“Rev. Dyson, that was a lovely service. You brought the Word! I’m glad I stayed to the end.” Typical comment after a Sunday service of worship.
“I want you to know that the sermon was hard to hear at times. Oh, your voice was strong, Rev., and my ears picked up what you said. It’s just my head didn’t want to hear all your fine points. I felt a little uncomfortable at points. Even so, I stayed with you. You know you called it a sermon, but you had about three or four sermons there. All of them strong!” Not quite typical comment after Sunday worship.
“In fact, Rev., I’m not sure I really want to call what you did a sermon. Oh yes, you preached some difficult truths, but I also sensed love flowing through what you said. Like a love letter you might write. A truthful love letter. Maybe that’s the way all sermons should be: love letters from God through us to us.” Uncommon comment after a service of worship
“I appreciate what you said in that sermon, and I appreciate even more the way you are sending us back out into the world with a charge to action. I’m going to let you work on me and let the Spirit work on me and let my actions reflect the truth I heard coming from you about being white and being black.” Still less common comment in response to a sermon.
Michael Eric Dyson structures Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America as if it were a service of worship. He begins with a call to worship, a statement of purpose and identity—a fairly conventional call to worship. Dyson moves to hymns, and these begin to diverge from traditional worship as we hear from KRS-One, Tupac Shakur, Beyoncé, and others. The scripture reading comes from the Book of Martin Luther King, Jr , 1968:3-8. Dyson’s section titled “Sermon” is autobiographical and confessional, personal and corporate. His book is a beautifully intimate work, perhaps begun as a lament, but I heard love supporting and sustaining the work.
Dyson’s work is elegant in its simplicity. He invites readers to see the world through his eyes and through the eyes of a history too long invisible. Dyson speaks to white America of not only what has been hidden or lost, but of the lives that have been destroyed because of the particular racial history in this country. It is an easy book to read, difficult to digest, and important for our time.
Do read this book and reflect on its message.
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, by Michael Eric Dyson. St. Martin’s Press, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-250-13599-5