By Pastor Adrian Garcia

By the rivers of Babylon we sat down;
there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows nearby we hung up our harps.
Psalms 137:1-2

The Children of Israel were being held captive in Babylon, condemned to exile. Their captors requested them to sing joyful songs from their motherland. Yet, sitting silently by the riverbanks of the Tigris & Euphrates, they choose to hang their harps under the willow trees.

Greatly saddened, after losing everything: lands, homes, money, and freedom (their most prized possession), they dispiritedly replied to their captors, “How can we sing happy songs in this dire circumstance?'' The exiled Israelites believed that singing in a strange land betrayed their identity, culture, and faith. So, they kept silently immoble in honor of their people.

Is this the best attitude? Can they survive endless mourning? From the standpoint of genuine repentance, I can see how the weight of their own guilt prevented them from singing, for it was their sin that brought them to that point, after all. In the past, prophets exhorted them against their evil ways, and bid them to return to God. Yet, in spite of God’s warnings, they brought it upon themselves to lose their beloved lives. In this grave sense, mourning seems to be the order of the day.

Then Prophet Jeremiah comes along with a letter from God to the exiles. He doesn't condemn or trample over them. Instead, he exhorts them to have a change of heart. Jeremiah 29:5-7 says,  “Build...settle down...plant...eat...marry...have children...increase...work...pray on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too.”

God is telling them, “Don’t linger in your mourning by the riverbanks.” He tells them to make a new life in this strange land; go raise families in the midst of this predicament. Now is not the time to remain silent. It is the time to rise up and strengthen our faith. It is time to pray, not for pain relief, but for God’s peace.

The pandemic has brought us to uncharted lands of deep mourning for our losses. We have lost some of the good old days, along with precious security. Yet, God is calling us to stand up and stop dwelling by Babylon’s riverbanks. Let's raise up strong families who cry out for his peace over this new land. This peace shall also extend to us, and only then will Jeremiah 29:11 will come true.

I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for...” GNT


is the Pastor of Latino and Outreach Ministries at FUMC