I imagine you have, at one point or another, read something in the Bible and paused and said, “Wow!” For me it is wonderful to have the aha moment where I think, “Wow, that’s amazing! I’ve never seen that before. Maybe they just added it recently.” Then there are other times that I read and my brain pauses and says, “Wow. That’s odd. I’ve never seen that before. Not sure what to make of it.” That is exactly what happened today as I read Psalm 137. Of course, the psalms are worship songs. Often throughout the ages, even currently, musicians and song writers take the words of the psalms and put them to the current worship music of the culture. It is a wonderful way to sing praise and worship.
However, I can state with a great degree of confidence that you have never sung the words of Psalm 137 in any church or worship experience. I mean, the last verse of the song is about dashing and bashing the heads of babies on big rocks. Not exactly a climactic emotional pinnacle to leave us filled with rich soul lifting worship. The whole of the psalm is dark and dreary, a depressing downer of a ride lamenting the doom of a defeated people. I really did not know quite what to do with this. Why is it even in the Bible? There may be numerous answers to that, but one Christian author pointed me in one direction that feels to be a healthy path and spurred something in my own thoughts and prayer. He noted the place in this psalm of three things: dreams, tears, and songs. The songwriter shares what he dreams about, what he cries about and what he sings about. It leads to three questions that can be helpful and relevant to all of us just as it was to the psalmist.
- What is your dream?
- What leads you to cry?
- What stirs a song?
I am not sure where that might take you. Even in my world I could go in several directions with this. But as it relates to me and the Central District of the C&MA I can understand a little of the place of hope and a dream in the midst of some level of dark days and unmet expectations. Here is what I hear as I ponder this:
DREAM: I dream of a mighty movement of God’s Spirit sweeping across West Virginia and Ohio. I long for lives to be transformed, relationships healed, marriages restored, the sin-bound set free, and tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of souls saved among the 7.3 million who live within our district. I desire to see the enemy of our souls defeated and getting his due. I hope for multiplication of disciples and churches. I wish for unity and collaboration among God’s people and the empowerment of harvest field laborers. As we often speak of it, our dream is for every person and every church to be intentional and aggressive about advancing the Kingdom of God.
TEARS: My own faults and flaws can bring me to tears. Further, I shudder at the pervasive spiritual bondage all around us. My heart aches for those who are captive to self and sin. I cry as I drive through towns and neighborhoods where we aren’t yet present. My mind echoes with the call of the Lord, “Who will go for us?” I hurt that we aren’t more than we are, that many of our churches are stuck and struggling, that too often we are complacent and inward focused, that only one or two of our 90 churches are multipliers of other churches.
SONG: I resonate with the dream of a swell of the songs of captives set free, of praise for victory that only the Lord could give, and of a spiritual choir in our district that doesn’t grow by addition but by miraculous multiplication. I’m a joyful noise kind of person rather than an anointed soloist. So I relish the thought of the Central District choir of praise and awe growing so very large that I can bellow with the best of them and have my best bad singing drowned out in the surge of a flood of worship because of who God is and what He has done for us.
Maybe Psalm 137 has a place after all. Three questions in darkness lead to faith-filled dreams for victorious days in the light.
Jeff Miller, District Superintendent