“How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!” – Psalm 137
If I hear one more snarky, mean-spirited, cynical reference to “Let’s all get together and sing ‘Kumbaya,'” I swear I’m gonna… gonna…gonna… what the heck am I gonna do?
I grew up singing this song. It held me together, even when I had all kinds of hard, unanswerable questions about what Christianity really meant. The questions boiled in my young, searching soul. I met and fell in love with one of the first people I truly loved, singing Kumbaya at church camp, when I didn’t really think I could do the religion thing anymore, but still heard God’s holy voice in “Oh, Lord, Kumbaya.” In truth, God did “come by here,” at just the right moment. No cynic will ever steal that from me. Thank God.
How did it happen that this sweet, simple, unutterably sacred song became an object of ridicule? How did that happen?
Oh, yes; it was the Babylonians. The ones who mocked attention to God. The ones who thought that devotion was for the foolish and the weak. The ones most in need of hearing God’s plaintive call to us. The God who wants us, more than anything, to call plaintively right back. “Come by here. Please. Please. Come by here. The cynics are at the gate; come by here.”
Now I know what I’ll do when someone mocks this holy music. I’ll sing louder. No defense; just a song, calling God to come by here. That will fix ’em. Nothing else will.
Holy God, Kumbaya. Pretty soon, if you’re not too busy. Thank you. Amen.
Alan Parker is the Pastor of the United Church of Craftsbury, Craftsbury Common, Vermont.