By Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Presiding Bishop, Fifth Episcopal District, The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Focus Verses: Psalm 137: 1 -4 (NSRV)
1 By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. 2 On the willows[a] there we hung up our harps. 3 For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
The strange land of social distancing, isolation, shelter-in-place, and quarantine has leapt upon us with short notice. While many of us understood the threat of the coronavirus, few of us envisioned how radically we would have to change our day-to-day habits in response to it. We have never been here before. This new and strange land demands much from us from a simple refraining from hugging and greeting with affection, to being locked out from visiting sick and shut-in loved ones, to being unable to go to our normal jobs and work. How can we sing in such a strange land?
This was the dilemma of the Israelites who found themselves in exile in Babylon, far from their homes in Jerusalem. They lamented and their laments grew more intense when their captors asked them to sing, to go about life as if nothing were happening. Their faith, and displays of it through song, were regarded an entertainment and a mere tool of the establishment to reinforce its authority over them.
As we dwell in this strange land, where COVID-19 has become our captor, let us lament this destruction and devastation of human life and lives. But, let us also be aware that there will be those who ask us to pretend nothing is happening and attempt to use our faith to their benefits. However, let us not forget that there is still power in the Lord’s song. After raising the question, how can we sing, the Psalmist invokes memories of God’s everlasting presence.
Let us sing, not for show nor for the delight of others, but because we know the power of the songs of Zion. These songs remind us of the promise that God would never leave us nor forsake us. These songs remind us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. These songs remind us that the whole world is still in God’s hands.
God of all time and space, bless us this day to not forget your songs. Enable us to sing from the depths of our hearts, no matter where we are, because we know you are with us, even in this strange land. Amen.