One of the catch phrases at my church is that the kingdom of God is about “Justice and Mercy.” In fact our pastor says it so much that it sometimes looses all meaning to me. I don’t intend to give a detailed apologetic here to explain what this means. But, you can get a taste of it on the New City Fellowship website.
However, some of you who are involved with NCF or on the music team might not have ever realized how music participates in this vision for Justice and Mercy. Here is one example from Psalm 137 which is a lamentation about being in captivity.
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?
The psalmist weeps in a foreign land, held captive and oppressed far from his home and culture. His captors mock him by asking for one of those joyful tunes that he used to sing back home in the days of peace and prosperity. But, he is not in the mood to sing; his harp is hanging on the tree gathering dust. Besides, what is there to sing about anyway?
Many people here in St. Louis are in a similar state. Some are actual political refugees, but many others feel like they are in a “foreign land” even though they have never left the street they grew up on. Ultimately, all people have a distant memory of Zion or “echoes of Eden” in their heart that make them long for a place that they have never been or a joy that they have never felt. The songs of Babylon, filled with hedonism, rage, or despair, are a cruel parody of the songs of Zion. Joy and hope become only faint memories and the cold, meaningless groans and grunts of their captors fill what Lewis’ Screwtape called “The Kingdom of Noise.”
People can have their bellies full, their bodies clothed, and their homes repaired, but their heart is still sitting by the rivers of Babylon weeping for Zion. In this context, the Gospel breaks the darkness like the rising sun. As the sons and daughters of the King, we bring the good news to the captives that their chains are broken and the year of Jubilee has come. In this day, the day of the restoration, redemption, and resurrection of all that was lost, the songs of Zion must be sung. So, do justice and mercy by taking the harp down from the poplar and letting it produce music again!