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How do I sing the Lord's song upon an alien soil?

People of all faiths have made their pilgrimages to various holy sites since the beginning of time. A pilgrimage is a search for the Divine, and of course it can be literal or figurative. Our lives are often considered pilgrimages, an inner journey to encounter the Divine and to live in response to that encounter.

In the mid-90's, I was invited to go on a pilgrimage led by two women for whom I had a great deal of respect. We were going to Ireland for two weeks living in hostels and searching for an encounter with the Divine. We had a good bit of preparation work to do in advance, including the task of finding a question to take with us on the journey...the answer to which we might find along the way.

During the time I was preparing for this pilgrimage, I heard a sermon preached by one of my greatest mentors in the church, the Right Reverend Frank Vest, in which he posed the question "How will you sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?" This line from psalm 137 (appointed for today) was the question I took with me on the journey, and it is still a question I carry in my life today.

I found the answer in 1997 about a week into the pilgrimage, and my journey in life was never the same after that discovery. "Will you respect the dignity of every human being?" "I will with God's help." from the baptismal covenant took on new meaning for me.

The situation in the institutional church today begs the question for me again about how to sing the Lord's song in a foreign land. Much of the institutional church today is foreign land, filled with bullies and angry myopic people whose agendas are more important to them than spreading the love of God. Respecting the dignity of every human being seems to exist only if those humans agree with your agenda, or if you fit into their definition of what ordained clergy should be, or if you dismiss guidelines and rules of order.

How can it be that we would go back as far as the time of the psalmist to see reference to trying to sing God's song in a foreign land? How can it be? Will we never learn?

Or perhaps do we just keep singing and paying the price for it? Like the people in exile in Babylon, do we tell and retell the story of what it means to be a beloved child of God and to live in Beloved Community? Do we search for embassies in foreign lands where we can seek shelter from the storms of the institution?

I don't have any answers except the truth that you and I and all of humankind were created as images of God's affection, to be loved and to love. As a baptized Christian, my marching orders come from my Baptismal Covenant;

that is why I do what I do and when I veer from those guidelines, I confess that I have missed the mark and turn to God (tilt like a sunflower) to remind myself of the Lord's song...singing as loudly as I can regardless of how alien the soil is.


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