Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Is This Really Where We Are? — A Psalm of Lament

Oh Lord, Is this really where we are? 

A man once said, “I believe, but help my unbelief”.

I’m not sure I ever understood, until I myself had to cry out to you,

Is this really where we are, oh Lord.

Are we really as far from the Kingdom of God as it sometimes seems?

It is hard for me to believe that after all the work,

All the faith by so many,

All the sacrifice and pain,

All the growth and transformation,

All the ways in which I have seen humanity be its better self,

That we are still keeping captives based on profit and skin color.

It is hard for me to believe that after Jesus called us to renounce wealth,

We have built a society based upon turning money into an idol.

It is hard for me to believe that after all the words of Christ

Against the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees,

those who claim to be his messengers today,

Are often Scribes and Pharisees themselves.

Our churches are becoming more corporations than covenanted communities of faith,

Our nation is becoming more Roman than even the Romans were..

After all of the prophets, and all of the people crying out for Justice,

I have to ask, my heart has to cry out Lord,

Is this really where we are?

Are we really still such a tribal people?

It is hard not to give up.

As I stood outside a tent-city jail in a hot and dusty land,

Crying for the Captives to go Free,

And remembering that Jesus too was a captive

Held by an oppressive state and religious leaders,

My heart has to cry out…  Is this really where we are?

Thousands of years of sacrifice and pain, of witness and the prophetic,

And we are still fighting for equal treatment for all,

We are still speaking for the least among us,

For the inheritance of the poor and the meek,

For the justice that rolls down like waters,

And peace like and ever flowing stream.

Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief…

Is this where we are?

Will we never come out of the desert of racism, of oppression,

Of the idol of wealth, of misogyny, of hatred, of fear.

And into the Canaan of Beloved Community,

That Jesus called the Kingdom of God…

And if this is where we are, oh Lord,

Then where will I find the strength to stay on the road,

And not to just throw up my hands and give over the work?

To say that humanity can never be Beloved,

That we can never be the Kingdom of God…

But Jesus said it is coming, and so I return to the work,

For the faith is that we must bring about the Kingdom…

We Lord, you and I…

For if this truly is where we are, we cannot stay here.

This Lament was a homework assignment, written as a part of a Christian-Centered Spiritual Retreat I have been on with a group of military chaplain colleagues, many far more conservative than I.  We were invited to write a lament in the tradition of the Psalmist from the Hebrew Scriptures, to express something that has been weighing on our hearts.  As I moved into the project, I felt not only moved by the Spirit, but also influenced by the writings of Dr. King in the Birmingham Jail, and by my own experience recently Standing on the Side of Love outside the “Tent-City” Jail in Maricopa County, Arizona.  And as the Psalmist shared his lament, it is only right that I do as well. 

Yours in faith,

Rev. David

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