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 could we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?
Did you ever notice that if you’re someplace really dark, particularly someplace that’s also unfamiliar, every sound you hear seems to be magnified? Or even worse, every creak of the stairs, every snap of a twig, every banging shutter becomes a signal that something (or someone) sinister lurks in the darkness, waiting to hurt you?
A few years back, I signed on to be part of the launch team for a new book by Canadian church leader Carey Nieuwhof. It wasn’t really a difficult job: I was to read a proof copy of the book, write a review of it and post it where people interested in the book might see it, and promote it on my social media accounts. The book was called Didn’t See It Coming, and it was about seven major pitfalls that can crop up suddenly and cause trouble for people in leadership.
Chapters 5—8 of 1 Kings tell the story, in great and exacting detail, of the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. Our reading for today comes from the last episode of the chapter, the dedication of the completed Temple. But if we read that, with all its pomp and celebration, without knowing about how we got here, we have missed a great deal, sort of like when we go straight from Palm Sunday to Easter without stopping to take a look around Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
I warned them, but they wouldn’t listen, Samuel must have thought to himself as he watched Saul’s reign as king crash and burn. But they just had to be like everyone else and have a king.
It broke the Lord’s heart. After he had brought them out of Egypt, cared for them all those years in the desert, helped them take the Promised Land and settle in it, they still didn’t understand that with the Lord on their side, they didn’t need some guy in a crown, just like they hadn’t needed a god made of gold at Sinai.
I read an article recently that said many couples find sleeping in separate bedrooms to be good for their personal health and the health of their marriages. We don’t always see it that way; oftentimes we catch ourselves assuming that a couple who sleep apart must be a troubled couple. But if you’ve got very different sleeping styles or schedules, having separate rooms can be beneficial to the relationship.
The story of the exodus from Egypt is the formative story of the Jewish people…and, we could argue, the basis for our own formative story (in other words, the story we tell about why we are who we are as a people of faith). The grandest and most joyous of Jewish holidays is Passover, which remembers and even, in a way, re-enacts the moment when God freed their ancestors from slavery.
This summer, starting the first Sunday in June, we have been examining the question “What is Church?” from a variety of angles. We’ve seen that we are a community called by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and that our thoughts and actions are meant to be rooted in Scripture. We’ve heard Christ’s call to be witnesses to his resurrection. We have noticed the relationship our particular Church tradition has with the Table, with Communion being central in our worship and our life together, and that our history as Disciples has included gradually expanding the welcome to that Table. We have considered the place of prayer, faith, hope, love, and grace in Church life, and we have been encouraged to be people and a church characterized by compassion, kindness, and generosity.