How Do You Sing the Lord’s Song?

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Lamentations 1:1-6
Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Funny enough – there ain’t a whole lot of communing going on in the scriptures provided for World Communion Sunday.

Exiled from the Promised Land, the people of Israel are inconsolable and vengeful. (Make sure you read that last line in Psalm 137. Read it again. You got it – they want somebody to enjoy bashing baby heads into rocks). Her streets empty of God’s people, Jerusalem also suffers, mourning and shedding tears (Lamentations). Separated from each other, holy people and place are incapable of singing the Lord’s Song.

Yet, World Communion Sunday sounds so nice. I have thoughts of happy people at church standing in a big circle holding hands, singing together, sharing Eucharist and a tasty potluck, earnestly wishing God’s peace and goodwill to fellow hand-holding, encircled singers around the globe.

This vision doesn’t include Pam, the mission-minded church pillar, who recently diagnosed with cancer and racked with pain can’t get out of bed, much less join the church on Sunday morning. Nor does it include Wade, the gentle 96-year-old whose body is willing, but whose mind can’t remember your name or the fact that he asked you the same question five times in the last eight minutes. It ignores Jill, the single woman who miscarried a year ago, but is too ashamed to tell anybody even though raw grief still doubles her over, isolating her. It conveniently neglects congregations in places like Syria, whose people and places of worship are being annihilated.

How do we sing the Lord’s Song when our world’s violence makes any thoughts of even one peaceful Sabbath a pipe dream? When you’re in such a dark place that you wish death on somebody, maybe even yourself? When our people and communities are broken, divided by illness, grief, spite or sheer vengeance? When your own church’s communion – much less the world’s – seems impossible?

Separated from people he loves and suffering on behalf of the Gospel, Paul’s letter to Timothy offers insight in light of Christ:

How do you sing the Lord’s Song?

Sing together, because this is the church’s holy calling (1:8-9).

Sing unabashedly and trust that God’s power will sustain you (1:8).

Sing, even though the Lord’s Song may incite violence and cause more suffering for those who sing it (1:11-12).

Turns out the church, the body of a crucified Christ, finds deepest communion with God and each other – in suffering. It is precisely in our darkest places that Christ meets us.

How do you sing the Lord’s Song?

Be and bring Christ’s incarnate communion into the dark. Sing into the death-ridden places, the absence of memory and identity, into broken relationships, barren towns, and bottle-strewn back alleys, under overpasses and down empty streets. Sing, despite separation, loss, violence and pain.

Sing, because Christ abolished death, the darkest place of all, and promised life (1:10).

5 Responses to “How Do You Sing the Lord’s Song?”

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  1. Thank you, Anna, for these insightful reflections on this very difficult psalm. As repulsive as is the venegful wish to murder the children of the enemy might be, at least these desires are expressed to God rather than inspiring actual retaliation. God, we may presume, is a cooler head. Thanks again. Peter

  2. Jenny W says:

    After I read your reflection, I was looking through the UM hymnal for hymns for this Sunday’s worship. I came across two that could be paired with anyone taking cues from Anna’s writing: “Christ for the World We Sing” and “How Can I Keep From Singing?” The lyrics are perfect: “My life flows on / in endless song / above earth’s lamentation. I hear the clear, though far off hymn / that hails a new creation.”

  3. Rowland Van Es Jr says:

    Thanks for tie in with communion and connection to Timothy. Communion means sharing in the life of others in the body of Christ, especially with those who are suffering. We sing despite the circumstances, not because of the circumstances of the body of Christ. Africans still sing God is good all the time and all the time God is good. Can we sing?

  4. Ruth says:

    Thank you for a very well-put thought which puts into words what was so nebulous in my mind! I’m very grateful. Yes, the last line of that psalm is one of the ‘difficult’ bits of the Bible but as an outpouring of honest anger and grief by a hurting people, should not be ignored.

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