I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
In 1983, the rock and roll group U2 used these words to work a tune that became a song called 40. The repeated words from the Psalm are:
“I will sing, sing a new song”
Followed by U2’s own question
“How long to sing this song?”
It seems apparent that they understood that the psalm itself expressed longing for something new…and the realization that the moment of newness was “not yet”.
While this song was reflective, perhaps even meditative, they used the same questioning line in another song on the album… expressing frustration and anger.
“Sunday Bloody Sunday” remembered the death of thirteen protesters in Derry, Northern Ireland. Amidst the agony of violence and hate, comes the cry:
How long, how long must we sing this song
How long, how long???
We ask this question in so many contexts:
how long must we endure?
how long must things be broken?
how long will we fail to love God, neighbor and self?
One question that we are all wondering is “how long will this virus continue to upend our lives”, which leads to a connected, rather specific question, less important but certainly on many of our minds,
“How long before we can once again gather as the full community at St. Paul’s?”
No one knows the answer to this question, but I think I can safely say that it will not be resolved by Holy Week and Easter. So I will say out loud the sad, and difficult words now:
We will not have services here at the church during Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
This is a hard decision in the sense that we know our services sustain people in their daily lives, especially in times of crisis. This is also the right course for our community, for we are called to care for one another to the best of our abilities. This action may not only prevent individuals from getting sick, but from spreading the virus to those most at risk, and could potentially keep our healthcare system from being overrun. These precautions are worth it precisely because they may make a difference.
I am working now on a series of reflections and videos to be released daily during Holy Week. It is also my intent that, whenever it is safe to return to public worship together at St. Paul’s, that that Sunday will be a Festive Easter Resurrection service, no matter what the calendar says.
However, I want to point out one more set of lyrics from U2.
Following the cry, “How long must we sing this song. How long?”, they give an answer.
“Tonight, we can be as one, tonight.”
Being one together is never solely about physical presence, or any liturgical service, but about God connecting all of us, woven to each other because we are all made in the image of God.
Thanks to God’s love, we remain one.
Thanks be to God.