Summary: Christ the King Sunday. Despite how dangerous the world is, we know that Christ reigns.
The Worst of Times or the Best of Times?
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
November 26, 2006
One of the things that I most appreciate about the book of Psalms in the Old Testament is its honesty. The people who wrote those hymns and poems and songs were utterly and completely open and sincere with God. If they were happy, everyone knew it. If they were sad, everyone knew. If they were hurting, everyone knew. If they were afraid, angry, annoyed, lonely, or mad at God, everyone knew. They pulled no punches and hid no emotions.
I would like to read you the 137th Psalm. This was written after the nation of Judah had been attacked and completely destroyed. The nation’s people had been carted off to Babylon; cut off from their land, their Temple, and their way of life. They didn’t know if they would ever return to their homeland again. And so a poet sat down and wrote these words. I would invite you to hear the anguish that he is expressing.
By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.
Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem’s fall, how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down! Down to its foundations!” O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us. Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock.! (Psalm 137:1-9 NRSV).
We all know that there are certain events that define every generation. For the Hebrew people of the 6th century BCE, it was the Babylonian exile. For our generation, the defining event was the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Shortly after that day, I was trying to figure out a way to express my thoughts. I wrote a poem titled “Lament Over the Destruction of New York.”
Remember that everyone at that time felt as though we had been gut-shot. We were all furious. Our rage boiled over. What I wrote that day was not filled with theological nuance. Thoughts of turning the other cheek and going the extra mile were as far from my mind as the Green Bay Packers are from a Super Bowl ring. I was having a little trouble with the Prince of Peace on the day that I wrote this. Peace was something I wanted little of. I, like the rest of the nation, wanted to beat somebody up.
Lament Over the Destruction of New York.
By the twin towers we sit and weep.
We have seen the joy ripped from our souls
and piled on mounds of death and rubble.
Our enemies are demanding things of us which we are not willing to give; They want us to be afraid, lonely, desperate.
They desire to hear our cries of anguish
and see the places where our tears have flowed.
We desire peace and freedom.
We long for answers for our pain.
More than anything we seek a renewal of faith.
But how can we have peace and freedom;
How can we find relief;
How can we rekindle faith in the midst of evil and death?
We will never forget.
We would rather die ourselves than to forget the victims:
the sons and daughters,
the mothers and fathers.
We will be happy when the perpetrators of this violence
are brought to justice
We will rest comfortably when those who design evil fall victim
to their own brand of ugliness.
We will rejoice when they feel pain,
and mourn with uncontrollable tears;
when the innocent among them have perished.
How do we make sense of the present? Five years after September 11, 2001, we still wonder. It is a question we all have; a question shared by our ancient Hebrew brothers and sisters. 600 years before the birth of Christ, they were living in exile in Babylon. Interestingly, this land that was the source of their troubles is also the land that haunts us in the 21st century.
They had been beaten by the Babylonian army. Those who were left alive and were of possible use to the Babylonian economy, were deported in chains across the desert. Those who somehow managed to stay alive, but who could be of no use to Babylon, were left to fend for themselves: the sick, the infirm, the poor.