Reverend Jeremiah Wright
Would you repeat these words after me. Remember O'Lord [Echo from audience] against the Edomites [Echo] the day of Jerusalem's fall. [Echo] Most of us are only familiar with what we read earlier in the service today, the first 6 verses of Psalm 137. They contain the powerful and immortal words of a people who are in exile. Words that have been made into anthems and sacred songs both in North America and in Jamiaca. Forty years ago when I was in college our college choir sang Psalm 137, "by the waters of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered thee O'Zion." Twenty years ago almost everybody in the Caribbean was singing the Jamaican version, "by the waters of Babylon, dere we sat down and wept."
The captives in Babylon asked the question, "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" The captives in America answered that question by creating an entirely new genre of music, the Spirituals. They sang sorrowfully, "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long way from home". They sang thoughtfully, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, nobody knows, but Jesus." They sang defiantly, "O'freedom, O'freedom, O'freedom over me, before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave and go home to my god and be free."
Most of us are familiar with just that part of Psalm 137. Most of us are only familar with the first 6 verses of Psalm 137. Most of us have not read or heard the last 3 verses of this song, and most of us, I can guarantee you, have never heard a sermon that touched any of the thoughts or feelings expressed in these last 3 verses.
Today I was telling Freddie Haines the spirit of god has nudged me to touch them and to treat them prayerfully; as many of us try to sort out what it is we are feeling and why it is we are feeling what we feel after the trauma and the tragedy of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, symbols of who America is, the money and the military.
Some of the feelings we have, as people of faith in the 21st century are similar to the feelings of the people of faith had in the 6th century, B.C. And, when you read and, and study this Psalm, in its entirety. The parallel between those feelings becomes almost eerily crystal clear. That's why I didn't want you to stop at the famous and familiar verse six. I wanted you to read, to hear and to experience all nine verses of Psalm 137 to get the full scope of what it is this song is saying. Pray with me for just a few moments on this subject.
The day of Jerusalem's fall. The day of Jerusalem's fall. The day . . . of Jerusalem's fall. If you got your Bibles with you turn back to Second Kings the 25th chapter, Second Kings 25th chapter. In that chapter, there is a graphic description of the carnage and the killings that took place, on the day of Jerusalem's fall. The King of Judah, with all of his army, fled. Verse 4, they tried to run, but the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, captured the king and literally committed murder.
Now, you got to remember the real and the symbolic significance of the walls of Jerusalem. Our choir sings about it. You can read about it when you get home. Most of you just enjoyed the sound of the music, and miss the meaning of the words to the music. Read Psalm one, Psalm 48 when you get home.
Great is the Lord and greatly
to be praised in the city of our god. Jerusalem! Let Mt. Zion rejoice.
Jerusalem! Let the daughters of Judah be glad. Walk around Zion. That's
Jerusalem! Go 'round about. Account it's towers, it's towers. Tell the towers
don't miss this, don't miss this. Tell the towers thereof. The towers of
Jerusalem were the visible symbols of her greatness, her power and her
invincibility! Mark ye well her bulwarks and consider her palaces. This is
Jerusalem! Invulnerable, Jerusalem! Invincible, Jerusalem! The city where God
dwell, Jerusalem. The Chaldeans smashed and shattered that sense of security and
invincibility. When first and Second Kings 25:4, look a breach was made in the
One side of the Pentagon was wiped out and the people who were in there, like the people of Jerusalem who defended Jerusalem, on that wall wiped out. First there was a breach in the wall in verse four, and then verse 2, 10. Verse 10 says they broke down all the walls of Jerusalem. Then they burned everything they could burn and took most of the people into exile.
The people who sang this song saw their loved ones die. The people who sang this song saw senseless carnage. The people who sang this song saw their landmarks burned. They saw their church burned. They saw their town burned. They saw their places of employment burned. They saw their places of enjoyment burned. Some of the people they worked beside, they would never see again. Some of the people they walked beside, they would never see again. Some of the people they lived beside, they would never see again.
And, when you read this song of remembrance, "By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and we wept, when we remembered." When you read this song of remembrance, look what you see, look what you see. Look! Look! You see the people of God. The people of faith, move 3 distinct moves. They move, first of all from reverence, reverence, reverence. The thought of Jerusalem. Those thoughts are thoughts of reverence. The memories of Jerusalem are memories of reverence.
This is a time of self-examination. A time to examine our personal relationships with God. A time to examine our personal relationships with our families. And, a time to examine our personal relationships with our extended family, the family of God. Then the Lord showed me that this not only a time for self-examination. This! This is also a time for social transformation. Now, they ain't gone put me on PBS for the nation to see this. This will be around the Chicagoland area. This ain't gon' be in no national cable. But, this is the time for social transformation. And, this is going to be the hardest step we have to take.
But, now is the time for social transformation. We have got to change the way we have been doing things. We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society, social transformation. We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a country, social transformation. We have got to change the way we have been doing things as an arrogant, racist, military superpower, social transformation. We just can't keep messing over people and thinking that can't nobody do nothing about it. They have shown us that they can and that they will. And, let me suggest to you that rather than figure who we gon' go to declare war on, maybe we need to declare war on racism! Maybe we need to declare war on injustice! Maybe we need to declare war on greed!
Those same lawmakers you saw gathered at the capitol praying, are the same lawmakers who just passed a 1.3 trillion dollar gift for the rich. Maybe we need to rethink the way we do politics and declare war on greed! Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS! In 5 minutes the Congress found 40 billion dollars to rebuild New York and the families of those who died in sudden death. Do you think we could find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death. Maybe! Maybe! Maybe! We need to declare war on the healthcare system, that leaves a nations poor with no health coverage! Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay!
This is a time for social transformation. We, we, we can't go back to doing business as usual and treating the rest of the world like we've been treating them. This is a time for self-examination. This is a time for social transformation. But, then ultimately, as I looked around and saw that God had given me a another chance to try to be the man that God wants me to be. Another chance to try to be the person that God meant for me to be. Another chance to try to be the parent that God knows I should be. Another chance to try to make a positive difference in a world full of hate. Another chance to teach somebody the difference between our God's awesomeness and our nation's arrogance. When I, when I looked around and saw that, for whatever the reason, God had let me see another day, I realized that the Lord was showing me that this is not only a time for self-examination, this is not only a time for social transformation, but this is also a time for spiritual adoration.
In otherwards, this a time to say thank you, Lord! This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. I may not have tomorrow, so I'm going to take this time, on this day, to say thank you Lord! Thank you for my life. You didn't have to let me live. Thank you for my blessings. I could have been on one of those airplanes. I could have been in downtown New York, or a few blocks from the Pentagon. But, for whatever the reason you let me be here.
Psalm 137 (NIV)