Psalm 137 (VU 858) & Luke 17: 5-10
 “The Untied & United Church”

 “The Untied & United Church”

Psalm 137 (VU 858) & Luke 17: 5-10 ~ Northwood UC ~ October 2, 2022        

We prepare to come to Jesus’ table, later this morning, for Holy Communion this morning. And as we engage in that spiritual practice, I am wondering what is filled with meaning for you? Is it…the breaking of the bread…the pouring of the wine? Is it the words offered? What is most memorable at the table, for you? For me, as I think about this morning’s text, my answer are the words: “This is my body broken for you.” Those words from the Eucharistic / Thanksgiving prayer that we share each time at the table are so rich and multi-layered. They are full of help and guidance for our living… “this is my body broken for you”. They touch us on every level.  

How do they speak truth, to you, to be broken? In what context do you take those words into your soul? “This is my body broken for you.” Many of us feel broken at times, don’t we? Quite often feelings of brokenness comes about through loss. The community have gathered now for two funerals in the past week, and hearts are touched by loss. Some gathered on Friday for our Prayer Walk and Service for healing and reconciliation on the Observance for Truth and Reconciliation. And, as we look at the legacy at the actions of our government and our churches, we feel a sense of brokenness here too. Sometimes loss is of a personal nature. It might have to do with aging…mobility once enjoyed in our youth is no longer as we once enjoyed it? The loss of employment? The loss of a loving relationship? What will you be thinking of when the bread is held, and you hear the words: “this is my body broken for you?”  

To be sure, brokenness is a part of our faith and this morning, the readings touch those feelings of brokenness and loss. In the Psalm, the first reading, the Hebrew people had been enslaved and living in Babylon, living away from their home. During their freedom, they believed themselves to be untouchable, protected by God. They believed they would never fall as a nation. They loved to sing and dance – King David is known for his love for music and is often depicted with a harp in one hand. They were a joyful culture. But, at this time in their history, their freedom was broken. Conquered by Babylonian raiders; taken away to live in exile. Forced to live as slaves under foreign rule. They were taunted by their captors. “Sing us another song of your mighty Zion”. But they were not in the mood for songs. They had hung their musical instruments on the trees. They could no longer sing nor celebrate. All they could do was just sit by the rivers of Babylon and weep.   As we hear this text, perhaps it touches on the times that we have wept by our own rivers of Babylon. The times we have shed tears over pains and losses suffered in life. Indeed, we have suffered through the brokenness of life. Weeping over life’s disappointments and ‘what should have been’. We have all wept our own personal river of tears yearning for restoration. Some of us are weeping right now.  

What really struck me in this psalm was how offers insight into healing through feelings of brokenness. Amidst many other psalms of celebration and rejoicing, we find here a deep wisdom for living in difficult times. If we were to read the entire Psalm, it would raise a few eyebrows as we hear the anger expressed by the writer…An anger fierce enough to desire revenge. “Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back. Happy are they who take your little ones and dash them against a rock”.  

Psychologists today tell us that anger is a normal and a healthy part of the grieving process. We know that the Hebrews did not act on that anger. But their anger, their human emotion felt… is very, very real. How many of us have felt rage related intermingled with our grief. A drunk driver takes a life. An abusive partner inflicts violence and pain upon another. Senseless murder occurs. We who are touched by the aftermath are filled with rage and anger. At the beginning, we want to make the perpetrators feel what we feel. We want to seek revenge. Golden rule be damned, we say! We feel ready to balance the scales! Would these actions be wrong? Of course. Were the actions of the perpetrators wrong? Of course. But we experience these feelings, nevertheless, as part of our true being. The emotional feeling of anger, not the acting upon it (of course), is an indispensable part of the healthy path that leads to healing.  

Another piece of the psalm that teaches about healing from brokenness is the image of the harps being hung on the trees. When I was crafting this reflection, I was thinking of how many sermons focus on the light, the joy, the happiness of life. (Perhaps I am guilty of this myself). But this brokenness, the darkness, the pain we experience must also be addressed too. The image of the harps hung up on the trees remind us that there are different seasons of life. As the poet in Ecclesiastes reminds us, the changing seasons of emotion accompany the different parts of life. The harps were hung on the willow trees because the Hebrews could not manage to sing and be joyous in their brokenness. It was not their season to dance and be joyful, the proper thing for them to do was to sit and cry and mourn…for a while.  

We need this as part of our healing journey. It is harmful for our soul when we paste on a false smile and just go on, when our insides our broken and in pain. I always appreciate how our church places out boxes of Kleenex in the pews to encourage our normal emotions. It says ‘it’s OK, in fact it is healthy, to cry’. Of course, we all know that we as a culture are generally uncomfortable with embracing our pain and sadness. Perhaps this is why we come up with platitudes like “Ah, just get over it” or “it’s not worth crying over”. Or the closing song from Monty Python’s Life of Brian “always look on the bright side of life” is sung as we look at the aftermath of the crucifixion scene. We develop gentle ways of softening a loss like saying “she passed away” as opposed to saying “she died”. The image of the harps being hung on the tree is a reminder that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and time to dance.  

And to this reality of life’s struggles that we have faced, and are facing, and will face, we are given this beautiful gospel reading. When life falls apart and becomes “untied”, the gift of our faith is that of uniting us with the wholeness of God’s power and grace. The apostles request of Jesus: “Lord increase our faith”. Their request is ‘Lord help me get through today’. ‘Lord walk with me now for I cannot take another step’. ‘Lord heal me for I feel broken’. And Jesus’ response is to remind them of that faith that has deep roots in their soul. All you need is to rely on that deeply planted faith that rests in your soul. It’s so small, you may have forgotten about it. It’s the size of a little mustard seed, right now. It will grow in better days. But just rest, and be, and know that that bit of faith you have will be ‘enough.’ When life become untied and messy…it will be enough. You will always be united with me.

In the pains of today…your mustard seed faith will carry you through. In the joys that will (one day), that faith will grow and grow. But, for now, have faith…faith the size of a mustard see…and be united with me always.