"DEEP RIVER," THE MOST INTELLECTUAL OF ALL SPIRITUALS...


The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity


...the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth." (Jn. 16:12-15)


On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, this unique spiritual, Deep River, caught my attention, especially on the eve of Juneteenth. Deep River captures the movement of the Spirit of truth, which guides us to all truth. And although the Trinity is a mystery, the Holy Spirit will lead us to trust in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three in one, who will set us free.


When reflecting on the spiritual, Deep River, the great mystic Howard Thurman called it "the most intellectual of all spirituals." Prophetically, the unknown author captured a deep understanding of nature correlating to his life: “I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”


Here, the bond servant gives an ageless testimony, documenting that their soul has grown as deep as the river. Life has been like a constant stream of growth from the womb, which could only mean that the Spirit of truth guided them.


In another stanza, we read, "I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset." Again, this spiritual is showing insightfulness. The author captures the journey to freedom, going north of the Mississippi River, or crossing the borders of Canada. The water was muddy, and the outer banks washed away into the river. There were high tides, and heavy turbulence, with no wave being the same. And yet they trusted the Spirit of truth through all of these life obstacles. The mud and the horror of slavery soon washed away to a riverbed of freedom as the slaves waded in the water to the golden sunset. Yes, their soul grew deep like the rivers while trusting the Spirit of truth.


Therefore, let the Spirit of truth guide us on this Trinity Sunday to all truth. Like the river obeys the call of the sea, constantly flowing towards the sea's calling, we, too, must trust the Father's call. We can cry out Abba, Father; when flooded with financial burdens. Our Father is Yahweh-Jireh, our provider.


We can turn to the Son, Jesus, who reminded us in our gospel reading, "Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn. 16:15). Jesus wants us to be free from the ravages of slavery and the isms of sin in this world where people fail to love one another. And since Jesus died so that we can be free, let us embrace this freedom like a golden sunset. "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Jn. 8:32).


Finally, we can turn to the Spirit of truth, even when dryness appears. Some would call those moments of loneliness or feelings of hopelessness low tide. History shows that the enslaved people experienced low tide for one extra year in Texas before feeling the type of joy that floods one's soul. It was in 2016 that Opal Lee, the Grandmother of Juneteenth, 89 years old, started a walking campaign in cities along a route from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C. This made Juneteenth a national holiday. I am sure she had some low-tide moments on her journey. Eventually, at age 94 Opal Lee experienced unspeakable joy when Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021.


Yes, we may have some low tides in our lives. Still, St. Paul said in the Book of Romans, "hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit..." (Rom. 5:5). The Spirit of truth will always lead us to trust in the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.


Deep River, my home is over Jordan

O' don't you want to go to that Gospel Feast

That Promised Land where all is Peace?

Deep River, I want to cross over into camp ground.


Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS

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