In his sermon, “Love your Enemies”, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tells about a trip he once took with his brother A.D. They were traveling from Atlanta to Chattanooga. A.D. was driving and Dr. King was sitting next to him. It must have been a dark night because all the oncoming drivers kept their high beams on when they approached the car A.D. was driving. The way Dr. King tells it, A.D. kept getting madder and madder. Finally, A.D. said, “I know what I’m going to do. The next car that comes along here and refuses to dim the lights, I’m going to fail to dim mine and pour them on in all of their power”(“Love Your Enemies,” Nov. 17, 1957, Birmingham).
You and I we live in a time when people keep turning up the lights, ratcheting up the violence, casting about for villains, doling out blame. The tragedy in Tucson and the climate of rancor in which we find ourselves can drive one to despair—the kind of despair we hear today from the servant Israel who laments, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity….”
All week long the words of the psalms have been echoing in my mind. At one moment I hear the psalmist lament, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song upon an alien soil?” and then I hear a voice responding, “Sing to the Lord a new song.”
Like those ancient Israelites exiled in Babylon, you and I live on alien soil. We live in a world far removed from God’s Shalom, far removed from the reign of God Jesus proclaims. For many of us here tonight, that shooting in Tucson and the rhetoric and hype that we meet in it’s wake confirm what we’ve long suspected—we live on alien soil. How can we sing the Lord’s song?
How can we sing the Lord’s song when we look around and see children dying of abuse and neglect?
How can we sing the Lord’s song as long as families live on the streets?
How can we sing the Lord’s song knowing the violence abroad in our land?
How can we sing the Lord’s song?
This week, as I watched the scene in Tucson unfolding, as I read about the dead and wounded, as I looked at the parents of that nine-year-old girl, and remembered the really dark times in my life—the times when no song came from my lips, I found myself lamenting, “How can we sing the Lord’s song”.
We all have such times in our lives—dark times are part of life. We all have times when we can’t even imagine ourselves singing. Times when we just have to stop and be silent.
And yet God assures us through the prophet Isaiah, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” God calls us to sing a new song.
How can we sing in times like these? How on earth can we sing a new song?
First we have to pause. Get our breath. Get our bearings. Feel the ground beneath our feet. It can take some time to find a new song.
This week, as I’ve been sitting with the scripture and the world in which we live, I’ve been looking for that song—that new song I can sing.
I think I’ve found it. An anti-dote to the violent world and jarring sounds we’ve been hearing. I found my song for the week in the Gospel of Matthew. Perhaps you know it.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted….
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy….
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
A new song. A song that begins in mourning. One that mourns the toll that violence takes. A song that acknowledges the pain and loss in our world and in our lives.
A song that envisions a different way of living in our world. A song that shares a dream with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A dream of justice. A dream of righteousness. A dream for all God’s children.
A song that reminds us that the glue of God’s reign is the glue of mercy and love.
A song that invites us to be a people of peace.
Yet not a simple song. As Dr. King reminds us, “…As long as there is inequality and people are starving and naked and homeless, (as long as people) do not have the basic necessities, then there is no peace. (Peace) requires the presence of justice, love and power”—that power Dr. King often called “love power”(“True Peace,” July 5, 1962, Atlanta).
My dad used to sing a song—not really the whole song just a few words—“How beautiful the feet of those who proclaim the gospel of peace.”
“Sing to the Lord a new song”—a song of peace.