AFRICAN AMERICAN
HISTORY MONTH


A Psalm of Remembrance
Psalm 137
~embracing pain, pathos, and hope ~




Dr. William S. Epps, Senior Pastor

Sunday, February 6, 2022
 1By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.2We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. 3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. 4How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? 5If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. 6If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. 7Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. 8O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. 9Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. Psalm 137 (KJV)
 
Introduction
 
The second month of the year is labeled African American History Month. African American History month commemorates and celebrates the legacy of the past with its impetus for our involvement in the present to give us a vision for the future. Our country and our world are experiencing challenges which require commitment and courage, faith and fortitude, and resolve and resistance. We have been here before as history reminds us. I need not recant the sacrifices, struggles, and sufferings we experienced and overcame. 
 
The Israelites were admonished to remember what God has done for them. They were constantly reminded to observe special customs, days and traditions that would be ways of remembering and not forgetting what the Lord had done for them. In remembering God’s works in scripture and our lives, we strengthen our faith in God. 
 
This is a psalm about remembrance that expresses pain while harboring hope. The present predicament is painful. In the midst of extremity, grief and anger are both inevitable and inseparable. The worst possible response to victimization would be to feel nothing. If there is to be hope and life beyond devastation, death and despair, then grief and anger must be felt and expressed. Thus, the whole psalm becomes an invitation to a kind of prayer that is passionate in its utter honesty. 

The children of Israel placed themselves beside the streams because they saw in them the image and symbol of their floods of tears. 
"We sat down" (Psalm 137:1). Their posture depicted their emotional state. 
Sitting on the ground is a mark of misery or captivity, grief and pain. 
 
Here the laments express this grief. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyedMy eyes will flow unceasingly without relief, until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees. What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city (Lamentations 3:48-51)Oh that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the slain of my people (Jeremiah 9:1).

Consider what it means to lament (a passionate expression of grief or sorrow).
Monday, February 7, 2022
Then comes reflection: "... we remembered Zion". Psalm 137:2 It necessarily implies they had forgotten. In their peace and plenty they took for granted what they had. You never miss your water till your well runs dry is a familiar idiom which expresses not appreciating the benefits and the sacrifices that so many have made for you to enjoy the liberty you cherish. Loss is a reminder of what you had. The sad reality is that you neglected to do what was necessary to preserve and save what you cherished. 
 
In the midst of suffering the temptation among some is to split hope and history. We either hold to a faith that is attached to what happens in history (the good, the bad, and the ugly) or we believe in history that ends in despair without delivering lasting victories. However, there is hope within history and we can and have experienced hope within the historical developments of our lives. 
Our hope in God makes a difference in the conviction that God’s purpose is being fulfilled. Exodus, Isaiah and Jeremiah, the birth, life, teachings, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus speak to this purpose; it us through the biblical narrative that in the midst of human suffering there is always hope.
(Walter Brueggemann / Hope Within History/ John Knox Press 1987)
 
Consider what it means to experience the Presence of the Lord in the midst of lamenting life’s experiences of grief and sorrow.  
Tuesday, February 8, 2022
Firstly, lamenting is a part of life (trouble in my way I have to cry sometimes).
 
1By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. 2We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. Psalm 137
 
This is the painful cry. In grieving there is an experience of being displaced, disjointed, distressed, and disappointed. A time of pain and pathos passionately expressed. There is a melancholy about the current condition in which the people find themselves. Remembering life's painful predicaments brings weeping. 
The Israelites used their psalms (lamenting and otherwise), songs and other scriptures to teach their children about the world and the faith that there is a God who rules above with a hand of power and love. “God-in-control”.  
There is a place to acknowledge grief and sadness. The lament is a way to express how you honestly feel and yet trust in God. Without the lament you forget why you praise God. You also remove the hope that God offers in times of difficulty. 
 
The ultimate goal of grief and mourning is to take you beyond your initial reactions to the loss, to a place where you can live with the loss in a healthy way. The patterns of the Psalms teach a pattern for life, that after lamenting we return to praise. We weep with God over the broken state of our world joining the Lord in Holy sorrow. We bring our pain to God allowing God to offer us the other side of the picture – the way it is, is not the way it will always be. The lament psalms are a confirmation that faith in God will lead you to a healthy way of managing pain and pathos. Lamenting is part of worshipping God. Biblical laments never lose sight of God. Laments are always prayers to God. Therefore, we do not mourn as those who have no hope. We trust that the Lord will bring the Lord’s purposes for the good of humanity to fruition. The will of God will ultimately prevail despite the circuitous route that it takes given the autonomy of humanity to make choices.   
 Consider what it means to live with losses in a healthy way.  
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Just like the psalms of laments express their voice with pain, pathos about their present predicament, we express ours about the atrocities perpetrated with disinformation, falsehood, insensitivity, prejudice, racism, sexism and violence. The Israelites used their psalms (lamenting and otherwise), songs and other scriptures to teach their children about the world and the faith of “God-in-control”.
“…if we remove lament, we forget why we praise God”. Not only that, but we forget why we need God in the first place – we remove the hope that God offers. And, as ever, that hope is desperately needed.
 
The patterns of the Psalms teach a pattern for life- that overall we turn and return to praise, and lament is an essential part of that process. To weep with God over the broken state of our world is to join Him in His Holy sorrow. To then bring that pain to God is to allow God to offer us the other side of the picture – the peace that can be carried together with lament, the hope of Christ that sorrow points us towards.
The lament psalms themselves are a confirmation of this, because what else is lament, if not another form of praise to a God who hears us and is in control?
 
There is a biblical way to lament that is part of worshipping God. “Biblical lament never loses sight of God. It’s always a prayer to God. The character of lament for us is different. We don’t mourn as those who have no hope.” We trust that God will bring the Lord’s purposes for the good of humanity to fruition. The will of God will ultimately prevail despite the circuitous route given the autonomy of humanity to make choices. 
 
Just like the Israelites in their captivity lamented, we find in their Psalms of laments a voice for expressing our pain, pathos and predicament. African Americans are threatened with the most consequential losses since 1876. There was a death blow to Abraham Lincoln’s post-slavery democratic experiment which was delivered by the election of Rutherford B. Hayes. But he didn’t single handedly kill reconstruction. A combination of judicial and executive actions, plus entrenched racism, did the job. There is a lesson about those times that could be applied to circumstances of today. The judiciary has gutted the voting rights bill and given rights to the states to control voting. We see what is happening with voter suppression with state houses preparing to rig elections to insure the outcomes they desire. We see the threat of intimidation and violence to exert control. The moral from Aesop’s fable, the Wolf and the Lamb, is that the tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny, and it is useless for the innocent to try by reasoning to get justice, when the oppressor intends to be unjust
 
There is a sweeping white backlash against changes to the country’s racial caste system that plunges a dagger into the heart of democracy. Just as reconstruction was replaced with white-created discriminatory political and social systems (vigorously enforced by laws and customs for nearly 100 years) decades of protests, legal and legislative actions are being overturned perpetuating slavery’s legacy and promoting racism and sexism.   
 
Consider what it means historically for African Americans in every
generation to have to combat racism and sexism,
discrimination and the devaluing of their humanity. 
Thursday, February 10, 2022
Secondly, they refused to humor their captors.
 
 3For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. 4How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land. Psalm 137
 
The melancholy captives refused to pretend that everything was alright when it wasn't. They did not have a “don’t worry be happy” attitude. Even among believers in Christ, the worldview can be much the same, praising Disney’s happily-ever-after theme. We are sometimes unable in our ability to accept and deal with the pain that inevitably arrives in life. 
 
A warped ‘stiff-upper-lip’ philosophy can encourage some believers not to dwell on pain, or the doubt and questioning it often brings. Yet Biblically, lament has always been a valid part of the Judeo-Christian heritage.  It’s in the Psalms that we see most clearly the believer’s model for lament.
 
They refused to share what is important and sacred to them with those who only sought to ridicule what they considered priceless. Their action was to refuse to succumb to their captors' request. Defiance is the response to those who will demean, degenerate and demonize you. Defiance takes on the form of resistance. We need to resist succumbing to disinformation, conspiratorial falsehoods and threats of violence. We resist what is inequitable, immoral and unjust. We will not celebrate with those who demean the value of those who are not like them, as though they should be deprived of a quality of life equal to theirs. We will not sing to humor you nor will we participate in promoting discrimination, prejudice and violence.  
 
Notice they did not capitulate to their captors’ request. They were resistant and refused to do what their captors wanted them to do. They protested in defiance of the circumstances they were experiencing. No, we will not. They were defiant in their declaration. Defiance has its place and purpose. They were persistent in their protest. They were resistant in their resolve. They exercised their faith not in frustration but in courage, fortitude and resilience.  
 
Consider what it means to be persistent in protesting the oppression
which is imposed by inequality and prejudice.
Friday, February 11, 2022
Thirdly, remember to pledge your loyalty to God
 
5If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. 6If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. 
  
Lastly notice that they make a pledge of loyalty to their faith and what it means to them. 
 
Just maybe this is your time to do your part on your watch of the faithful journey we take in life to witness to the reality of the powerful, pervasive Presence that has brought us safe thus far. We believe that that same Presence will see us through all of life’s changing scenes with its reversals and uncertainty. 
 
We have experienced hope within history all the days of our lives through the sacred traditions of our faith. We continue to put our hope in the Lord of life as we follow the example of our Christ. 
 
Consider what it means that our trust is in the Lord, as the One to whom we owe our allegiance - as the One who has carried and sustained us through slavery, the Jim Crow era of segregation, civil rights legislation, voting rights legislation, and now voter suppression and possible voter nullification.
Saturday, February 12, 2022
As Winston Churchill reminds us, no success is final and no failure is fatal. Every advancement must be sustained by conscientious people to reinforce and support the continuance of every attainment with the same determination, energy, resolve and vigilance that was used to accomplish it in the first place.
 
There is a line uttered by Hamlet to Horatio after being visited by his father's ghost and learning that his uncle Claudius murdered his father. In short, a shocking supernatural event that fundamentally alters the way Hamlet perceives the state and the universe: "The time is out of joint; O cursed spite!/That ever I was born to set it right!" [I.V.211-2]). 
 
Conclusion 
 
Am I a soldier of the Cross-- A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
 
In the name, the precious name,
Of Him who died for me,
Through grace I'll win the promised crown,
Whate'er my cross may be.

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
 
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
 
Since I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord!
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
 
Consider how your allegiance and faith in the Lord contributes to your persistence against prejudice and unjust predicaments.    




Am I am Soldier
of the Cross?
Doris Johnson
2412 Griffith Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90011 
Phone: (213) 748-0318