I wish to thank our gracious host here in Brussels, Deputy Mayor Mampaka and his team…..
Let us stop for a moment of prayer in silence, in memory of the victims of the horrific bus crash in Switzerland killing and injuring so many of our youth. There are no easy answers when fate deals us a cruel blow. We lean to our faith, not to our own understanding, and ask God to see us through the long, dark night, until the morning comes. Hope and faith in God, in time, will be a source of healing. We know that if we have the faith, you have the power, and nothing is too hard for you.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. Remember, LORD, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!” Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
I want to speak today about singing the Lord’s song in a strange land, knowing that nothing is too hard for God. We fall down sometimes, but we get back up again and again, because the ground is no place for champions.
In a world so tightly bound by science and technology, where speed dwarfs distance, where we can see each other around the world in real time, we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or die apart as fools.
We have learned in our tribes and races and nation states, to survive apart, we must learn to live together in a one-world house. What affects any one of us directly, affects the rest of us indirectly.
If you neighbors house is on fire because he or she violated some code or made a mistake, it does not matter whose fault it is. When the wind blows, God rains on the just and the unjust alike.
In this world there are no more foreigners. When banks collapsed on Wall Street, the impact was felt around the world. The global economy faced a crippling recession. War anywhere triggers death and injury, stifles economy, and fuels migration.
Human rights and democracy are threats to tyranny and tyrants. Against old schemes of royal blood and racial supremacy, schemes to perpetuate privilege – democracy for all, one blood out of which we all emanate, sharing of resources. There are legitimate voices that keep rising and keep resonating, demanding justice and freedom now.
This is a time of crisis.
A War in Iraq sends two million Iraqi refugees to Syria.
A War in the Middle East, sends 500,000 Palestinians to Syria.
A Time of crisis.
War in the Congo, 6 million deaths later, sends thousands to Belgium and across the world. We are not foreigners, we are neighbors. This land is our land.
The Congo made Belgium rich.
We pray for peace and reconciliation in that great country. The Congo is too rich for the people to be too poor. We call for help to share all the wealth of the Congo, with the people of the Congo.
This is a time of crisis.
Time of crisis.
War drums beating in Iran.
North Korea. War drums beating.
In Egypt, the fate of the non-violent revolution is being reversed.
In Libya, with the low intensity war, the media has left but the human rights abuses have not left. Dark-skin Africans are imprisoned by the thousands; and thousands of others are migrating to other countries. The cameras have left, but the pain remains.
In Syria, we see war and massacre in real time, every morning and night.
These wars drive fear, danger, and poverty.
This drives patterns of immigration as an unintended consequence.
There is too much violence in the world. And too many who believe that more weapons are more war will reduce the violence.
Too much war with too much expense.
Too much concentrated wealth in the hands of too few; too much poverty for the many.
Too much injustice.
Voice of justice are rising up, and occupying the gap between life and death. Violence stands between us, and drinkable water.
When there are no barriers, based upon race, tribe or class, previous condition, servitude – we do amazingly well.
The athletic field is perhaps the best example.
Soccer – when the playing field is even, the rules are public and the goals are clear – and the referees are fair and the score is transparent…that sense of justice must apply beyond the athletic encounter.
There are many unintended consequences of war, beyond violence, death and injury.
It’s a big factor in immigration.
Yesterday’s colonized people have now come to the land of the occupiers – formerly of the Belgian Congo, formerly of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe; formerly Portuguese Angola now Angola.
They are today’s immigrants, and are now today’s citizens and officials, demanding human rights.
The monochrome Europe will be multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-religious – forever more.
I once made what I thought to be a mild statement when I visited South Africa in 1979, not realizing how radical it was.
“Human rights for all human beings. Measure human rights by one yardstick.”
Those who control wealth and privilege want to control the rules by which people live. The most threatening rule of all – the most revolutionary rule - is the Golden Rule, the 1:1 ratio.
The absence of these rules creates painful patterns of exploitation. In this scripture, we see a people living in captivity. It says that by the rivers of Babylon, we wept; and we remember Zion. We remember where we came from. We remember the Congo. Cameroon. We remember where we came from.
Remember lost freedoms and joy.
But more than that they required of us a song. They required of us to use the gift of singing to entertain the oppressor. Not celebration for the oppressed.
Conquerors make extreme demands to break the spirit of the oppressed.
The oppressor wanted them to sing for their entertainment, not for the glory of God.
Often in captivity, we sing through pain. We sing under occupation. We laugh on the outside, and we cry on the inside. We sing amidst rejection.
We sing in a different language. We sing to entertain the oppressor, not for the emancipation of the oppressed.
The question is asked how can we sing the Lord’s song in this strange land. But for the Lord there is no strange land. Wherever we are, under whatever condition, we can sing.
We can look at the oppressor and while they dance, the Heavens roar at evidence of our strength and faith.
We sing, but don’t adjust to humiliation. Keep singing till the morning comes.
Singing is a form of power. It can be a source of spiritual defiance. A source of hope.
Singing affirms our faith.
It allows us to dream beyond our circumstances. We are sustained by Faith and Song. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen.
Singing is the fuel of revolutionary spirit. It allows you to keep dreaming beyond the Isle of Patmos. John was on that lonesome island, left to die and perish, was able to see a new Heaven and a New earth. Paul in silence sang in jail, with nobody to pay their bail.
They were set free.
In South Africa they sang at Robben Island, turning jail cells into museums.
So tonight in Brussels, sing.
In the U.S., against the odds of 246 years of slavery, 100 years of legal apartheid…in the end, martyrs and scholars, activists like Dr. DuBois, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. King – their faith in the dream of sharing humanity was vindicated. One day a young African American, Barack Obama, became our President.
Against all of the odds, his victory represents redemption; represents overcoming. He’s turning the economy around, reviving industries, insuring the uninsured, bringing hope to those in despair in America and around the world.
Against ugly and venomous attacks, he keeps on singing the Lord’s song.
If we believe in God with all of our heart, soul and might, and love one another as we love ourselves, there is a power that surpasses understanding.
And if we do these things, God will intervene and heal our land. The writer says, “If my people, who are called by my name, and humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, God will forgive their sins and heal their land.”
Keep singing. Keep rejoicing. Remain determined. Keep the faith.
Keep Hope Alive.