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Lent #5: “Strange Fruit

If Lent is truly a time of prayer and penance, acknowledging the sinful self, seeking atonement and preparing for the promise of Easter, then surely it is a time to look inward and admit that each of us bears a “dark side” that is complicit with the ills and evils of our world. In a recent conversation a friend said, “I always thought of myself as a good person, and I am, but there is another side of me that I’ve let lie hidden, and it’s pretty dark.” He’s not the only one.

One song, in particular, brings this out full force. “Strange Fruit” sung by Billie Holiday is a song that reveals the results of hatred and bigotry that have been the basis of racism for so long in our country, and the world. It speaks (sings) to the lynching of blacks in the south that took place over decades. The same sinful intent is still alive today in the culturally racism that pervades our lives. “Strange Fruit” could be said to be an anthem to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Southern trees bear strange fruit: blood on the leaves and blood at the root—black bodies swinging in the southern breeze. Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south: the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth; scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh, then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck, for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck; for the sun to rot, for the trees to drop. Here is a strange and bitter crop.

We’ll be performing “Strange Fruit” at our Good Friday Blues worship service as we acknowledge the ways in which Christ is still crucified in our world today. It’s a difficult song to perform because it hits so close to home. But then again, Lent should not be a time of ease and comfort.

Lenten Jazz Blessings.

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