19th January 2021 Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies


Canvey Island Methodist Church Bible Study.

Theme: Lamenting but Living In Hope 

 

Bible Reading.        Psalm 137

 

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept

    when we remembered Zion.

2 There on the poplars

    we hung our harps,

3 for there our captors asked us for songs,

    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;

    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord

    while in a foreign land?

5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,

    may my right hand forget its skill.

6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth

    if I do not remember you,

if I do not consider Jerusalem

    my highest joy.

7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did

    on the day Jerusalem fell.

“Tear it down,” they cried,

    “tear it down to its foundations!”

8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,

    happy is the one who repays you

    according to what you have done to us.

9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants

    and dashes them against the rocks.

 

Comment:

 

Two of my favourite characters in AA. Milnes children’s stories about Christopher Robin and his Teddy Bear, Winnie the Poo, are Tigger and Eyore; Tigger the bouncy, always optimistic toy Tiger and Eyore, the forever gloomy and pessimistic old stuffed donkey. 

Between them, they represent two opposing responses to the challenges of everyday life and, I suspect, that we all know people whose characters tend to fall on one side or the other of being either a “Tigger or an Eyore”.

Listening to recent news bulletins about the high numbers affected by the rapid spread of the Covid 19 infection (but also against the backdrop of a heroic implementation of the protective vaccination program), it seems to me that the mood of the commentators tends to swing wildly between either pessimism or optimism!

Thus, as I write today, many of us may be caught up in this atmosphere of uncertainty with a matching and understandable abiding sense of gloom and frustration. 

But, we may be asking ourselves, surely we, as people of faith, should be bouncing along with Tigger, in hope-filled enthusiasm about the future, rather than finding ourselves keeping Eyore company in doleful and sorrowful reflection?

 

Psalm 137, made even more famous in 1978 by the music band, Boney M, in their song “Rivers of Babylon” puts a rather different light on the matter and in so doing, gives the Bible's surprising revelation that, it is ok to be sad about things that happen.

https://youtu.be/ta42xU2UXLA

 

"Rivers Of Babylon"

 

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down

Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion

 

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down

Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion

 

When the wicked

Carried us away in captivity

Required from us a song

Now how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land

 

When the wicked

Carried us away in captivity

Requiring of us a song

Now how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land

 

Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart

Be acceptable in thy sight here tonight

 

Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart

Be acceptable in thy sight here tonight

 

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down

Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion

 

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down

Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion

 

By the rivers of Babylon (dark tears of Babylon)

There we sat down (You got to sing a song)

Ye-eah we wept, (Sing a song of love)

When we remembered Zion. (Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah)

 

By the rivers of Babylon (Rough bits of Babylon)

There we sat down (You hear the people cry)

Ye-eah we wept, (They need their God)

When we remembered Zion. (Ooh, have the power)

Frank Farian, George Reyam, Brent Dowe, F. Mc Naughton

 

In fact, we discover through the words of Old Testament scripture that mourning or lament can be a healthy outlet for our human emotions and that they can be good for our psychological health and well being.

For the people of Israel, singing psalm 137, became a lament. They had lost their homes, their way of life, and their freedom, when in the year 586 b.c. the Babylonian army had invaded and had taken them off into captivity to Babylon. In so doing, these captors demanded, perhaps at spearpoint, these Jewish exiles to march by the canals to sing one of the songs of Zion! (Ps137:3). Such Zion songs, of which there are many, were, in better times sung to celebrate the beloved home city of Jerusalem. These songs celebrated Jerusalem’s past relation to David, Israel’s first “real” king, and also its special relation to Yahweh, God of Israel. Jerusalem or Zion belonged to Yahweh. It  was his “ city of our God” (Ps48:1-2, 8; 87:3; cf. 2:6, my holy hill), his the object of special love (Ps87:2), a city that was chosen (Ps78:68-70; 122:3-5; 132:13-18) and established (Ps87:5) by him. This selection of Zion songs United scattered tribes and gave them a national identity.

Torn away from Jerusalem, they had lost more than a city. They had lost their identity and sense of being.

And so, very understandably, they sang in lament and looked forward to better times.

Maybe that is where you and I are today. Feeling down, but not out; Lamenting loss of one kind and another but not losing hope.

Septum’s Winner, writing under the pseudonym of Alice Hawthorne in 1868 wrote the hymn “Whispering Hope” which Gordon McCrae and Jo Stafford recorded in 1949 as a 78 speed record (yes I can just about remember them). This song stuck in my mind as one that the old Canvey Methodist Church Choir used to sing back in the day.

It’s words capture this balance between lamenting and hoping, casting hope in Christ as the unstoppable force that “rends the dark night of the soul”.

Whispering hope.   https://youtu.be/21Yj_0N1mHo

 

Soft as the voice of an angel,

Breathing a lesson unheard,

Hope with a gentle persuasion

Whispers her comforting word:

Wait till the darkness is over,

Wait till the tempest is done,

Hope for the sunshine tomorrow,

After the shower is gone.

 

Refrain:

 

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice,

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

 

If, in the dusk of the twilight,

Dim be the region afar,

Will not the deepening darkness

Brighten the glimmering star?

Then when the night is upon us,

Why should the heart sink away?

When the dark midnight is over,

Watch for the breaking of day.

 

Hope, as an anchor so steadfast,

Rends the dark veil for the soul,

Whither the Master has entered,

Robbing the grave of its goal;

Come then, oh, come, glad fruition,

Come to my sad weary heart;

Come, O Thou blest hope of glory,

Never, oh, never depart.

Septimus Winner


 

Other Psalms pick up the theme of hope and lead us on through lamenting to invite us to “Cast our Burden Upon the Lord” and to thereby find the strength of the Lord to sustain us in the difficulties and loss that we face. 

Psalm 55:22.     22 Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;

He will never allow the righteous to [q]be shaken.

 

The people of Israel in Babylon did just this. They remained faithful to their faith in God, cast their burden upon the Lord, and lived out their “new normal” in Babylon. Eventually national regimes changed again and their national aspirations were realised and they returned home to Israel and to Jerusalem. Many of those who returned had been born in Babylonian captivity and so they were seeing their beloved city for the first time. God had seen them through this very dark valley and had led them through to the other side.

 

Gospel Reading.      Matthew 11:20-30;

Woe on Unrepentant Towns.     

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[e] For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

The Father Revealed in the Son

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Footnotes

aMatthew 11:1 Greek in their towns

b Matthew 11:5 The Greek word traditionally translated leprosy was used for various c diseases affecting the skin.

d Matthew 11:10 Mal. 3:1

e Matthew 11:12 Or been forcefully advancing

f Matthew 11:23 That is, the realm of the dead

 

Comment:

Picture the scene, if you will. Jesus had been travelling from place to place and, in each town and village, had transformed many lives by his wise teaching and powerful healing touch. Incredible things were happening, miracles had been performed left, right and centre, and the signs of the arrival of God's new kingdom of love were all around to see. And yet not everyone had the eyes or the heart to see. Even John the Baptist had a few wobbles of faith and sent his friends to ask Jesus if he really was “the real thing”. 

 

Matthew11:2-6

2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

 

Perhaps it is therefore very understandable that Jesus felt upset by this lack of faith and response from these townsfolk who had seen all of these events happening before their very eyes. Notice that Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, had the very same human feelings about this as we might have done. It was almost his “Victor Meldew” moment of “I don’t believe it!,”

 

Instead he put his feelings into the words of a lament, 

“21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Matthew 11:21.

 

However, even though clearly frustrated at this lack of response to the call of the kingdom in the face of clear miraculous divine intervention, Jesus did not stay “stuck in a downward spiralling “rut of hopelessness and negativity”. Instead he ended his lament by giving an incredible invitation to all who will listen, and this “call to grace” has wonderfully traversed the years and generations subsequently to us and to all who are ever “weary and heavy laden” to come and find rest for their souls in knowing Jesus.


 

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


 

Singer/Songwriter Len Magee combined this call of Jesus with the sentiment of Psalm 55:22 in his song, Cast your burden upon the Lord- Len Magee

https://youtu.be/SfdS8fUbjec


 

1

In this world filled with fears And heartache and tears

I've got something more precious than gold For Jesus draws near

And He takes all my fear

And He whispers sweet peace to my soul

 

Chorus

Just cast your burden upon the Lord And He will sustain you

His love has no end

He'll always be your friend Cast your burden on the Lord

 

All the world's sin

It was laid upon Him

And He bore it to Calvary's tree But He rose again

Yes forever to reign

In the hearts of poor sinners like me

 

Chorus

So cast your burden, etc.

 

If deep in your heart You are being torn apart

By the pressures of life day by day Well here's good news for you

Jesus died for you too

You can have your heart mended today

 

Chorus

But you've gotta cast your burden, etc.


 

They say that “A problem shared is a problem, halved”, and here we have the promise of Jesus himself, that when we share such burdens with him our load will be lightened.

They will also be lightened when we share them with each other. St Paul talks about Christians as being the body of Christ who are United together and so ‘look out’ for each other and help to share the load that each of us occasionally has to carry as the events of normal life come our way. 

 

1Corinthians12:12-27;

 

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.


 

Today, the UK has sadly recorded a further 1,610 deaths due to the Covid 19 infection, the highest figure since the pandemic began in 2020.

Some of us reading these lines are personally affected by this. We have lost loved ones or know friends and family who are ill now. Whilst we lament the sadness, trauma and loss, and lift up these loved ones before God in prayer, we also look to Jesus who stretches out his hand towards us to lift us up and to lighten our burdens. 


 

Burdens are lifted at Calvary.       https://youtu.be/CHIOIKMYW0Q

 

Days are filled with sorrow and care (sorrow and care)

Hearts are lonely and drear

Burdens are Lifted at Calvary

Jesus is very near

 

Chorus:

Burdens are lifted at calvary (lifted at Calvary)

Calvary (lifted at Calvary), Calvary (lifted at Calvary)

Burdens are lifted at calvary (lifted at Calvary)

Jesus is very near

 

Cast your care on Jesus today

Leave your worry and fear (worry and fear)

Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary

Jesus is very near

John M Moore.

 

Finally, there is “hope on the horizon”. The Covid Vaccine is being rolled out across the population of the United Kingdom. In Castlepoint, I am hearing that many of our congregation have already had the vaccination with more to follow as the NHS works it’s way down the list of priority groups.

Above and beyond Covid though, whatever happens, we are all safe and secure in the strong arms of Jesus. Whether in this life or the next, he will hold us firmly in his arms of love and bring us into his closer presence.

Whether we are ‘Tiggers or Eyores’ we all have permission to tell God how we feel and by so doing, to discover that he is with us, leading us through and into his peace and presence of his promised land, to peace in his valley. It is his “footsteps in the sand” that make our journey through life easier.

Amen

 

To end our Bible study, ‘Lamenting and Living in hope’, the spiritual ‘Peace in the valley’, sung by Ruby Turner

https://youtu.be/R3KBqqc7uvg


 

I am tired and weary, but I must toil on

Till the Lord comes to call me away,

Where the morning is bright and the Lamb is the light,

And the night is as fair as the day.

 

[Chorus]

There'll be peace in the valley for me someway,

There'll be peace in the valley for me.

I pray no more sorrow and sadness or trouble will be,

There'll be peace in the valley for me.

 

There the flow'rs will be blooming,

the grass will be green,

And the skies will be clear and serene,

The sun ever shines, giving one endless beam

And no clouds there will ever be seen.

 

[Chorus]

 

There the bear will be gentle, the wolf will be tame,

And the lion will lay down by the lamb,

The host from the wild will be lead by a Child,

I'll be changed from the creature I am.

 

[Chorus]

 

No headaches or heartaches or misunderstands,

No confusion or troubles won't be

No frowns to defile, just a big endless smile

There'll be peace and contentment for me.

 

[Chorus]


 

Sending Christian love to all

 

Colin