October 6, 2019 – A SONG OF LAMENTATION

Text:  Psalm 137

Last Friday, I joined more than 12,000 people in marching for Climate Action downtown Winnipeg. The whole event for me was like a pilgrimage, a journey to the sacred place, where a diverse group of people came together to sing, pray and act. I took a bus, and the first thing I noticed on the bus was a sign held by a student, that said, ‘save the planet.’ That sign alone could explain why joining thousands of others for the general strike was the best way to spend my day-off. Never before in our human history has there been a massive global movement for the right of Mother Earth. She has been crying out for our attention for a long time. We are finally beginning to understand the fragile web of life we all share, and the consequence of our life styles. We are beginning to question strong beliefs that support our current system – capitalism, consumerism and individualism. It is not surprising that those who speak out most against climate injustice are some of the most vulnerable people who do not benefit from the current system: children, youth, Indigenous peoples around the world, and those who are facing the most severe consequences because of their locations. In such a time as this, we must come together to support one another. That’s what we did along with millions of people around the globe last Friday.

As a person of faith, I am always curious to know what God is doing in the world, and how I can take part in the ongoing creation. Last Friday, I saw God in the sanctuary as well as on the streets. Prior to the strike, people from different faith groups came together to pray and to sing – Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Christians. We all spoke the same language of love, justice and peace, and how it is our responsibility to care for creation. Following the prayer gathering, we went out to join thousands of others who were gathered at the Manitoba Legislative building. The whole event was organized and led by Manitoba Youth for Climate Action, a collective young people, who have been actively demanding action on climate change. Standing among the huge crowd, I found myself much older than most of the crowd, the opposite of what I usually experience in the United Church.
Some signs held by individuals caught my attention: ‘I am studying for a future that is currently being destroyed’, ‘be part of the solution not the pollution’, ‘we are missing our lessons so we can teach you one’, ‘There is no planet B’, and ‘I want to meet my grandchildren.’ The march was led by a drumming group along with a huge piece of art, created by Art City Winnipeg, a globe that reminds all of us to love where we live. Throughout the march, the youth led the crowd in chanting – “What do we want?” “Climate Action” “When do we want it?” “Now” That slogan was ringing all day long, and is still ringing in my ears. It speaks for our children and their future. It speaks for our Mother Earth, and everything in it. That is what a song of lamentation sounds like in 21st century. The whole creation is groaning. Our children and youth are crying out for a sustainable planet. Such a song comes from the deep place we all share in our hearts – the place of pain for what’s been lost, and the place of hope for what is possible. The power of singing the song is that it allows us to experience the immanent future right where we are.

Listen to the ancient communal lament sung by those who were weeping because their primary place of worship, the temple in Jerusalem, was destroyed.

“By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

This is a psalm for the long haul where there is no easy solution or promising future. Their temple has been destroyed, and they have been forcibly removed from home by the Babylonian imperial policies of relocation. They now have to find a way to live with their loss – the loss of their home, community, and environment. They have lost much not everything. No one can destroy their yearning for homecoming. Their hope is sustained by singing the song of lamentation, and it is passed on to the next generation one after another. Their temple has been ruined. Nevertheless it is still their temple, where their memories reside, and it is the substance for their defiant hope.

Climate change affects everyone and everything. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. We may sit down and weep when we remember how our home, our Mother Earth has been damaged. We may ask one another, ‘how can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ We have lost much but not everting. We, humans have failed to protect our environment, but not completely. No one can destroy our yearning for a better future. No one can stop our song of lamentation. Our beautiful earth is still our home, where our precious memories reside, and it is the source of our defiant 137hope. Joining millions of others around the globe we can still sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land.