Psalm 137 begins with the famous verse, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.” It goes on to ask, “How could we sing the Spirit’s song in that strange land?”
This Psalm may resonate with us as we approach the birthday of the United States as an independent nation and find ourselves in an ever stranger land. Technology and the cyber world are evolving rapidly in unsettling directions, corporations are getting more massive and grabbing more control over our lives and government than ever before, Russia is able to tip our elections in the directions it chooses, and there is little semblance of cooperation in the political realm where incivility and alienation grow ever more extreme. Even the planet seems to be in upheaval with extreme weather and natural disasters.
How can we sing the Spirit’s song in this strange land?
Singing and seeking the sacred way and working to establish God’s loving realm of compassion, justice and peace on earth are urgently important. We need to overcome whatever obstacles block us, external or internal, so we are not held captive and paralyzed.
We are so blessed to be part of a spiritual tradition that has sojourned as strangers in a strange land and kept the faith and persevered and overcome many times—out of Egypt, out of the catacombs of Rome, out of the Dark Ages, out of wars and slavery and persecutions of all kinds. As the Apostle Paul urged one such group to do—build up the church! Let everything we do in the church be building us up as the body of Christ, making us more inspired, more loving, more kind, more comforted, more courageous, more one, more powerful a force for changing the world.
We will read Paul talking about the church’s many gifts in I Corinthians chapters 12 through 14. The children will revisit the original Pentecost story. We will experiment with a new prayer designed to build up the church and enable more people to sing the Spirit’s song.
We will sing the African-American spiritual, “I’m Goin’ a Sing When the Spirit Says Sing” and the popular recent hymn, “Many Gifts, One Spirit (God of Change and Glory)” as well as the beloved traditional communion spiritual, “Let Us Break Bread Together.” Becky Bailey will be directing the choir and playing piano. The choir may sing one or more versions of “By the Waters of Babylon.” Stay tuned for updates on that!