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 (Manna 50: Our Church)
Songs of Homecoming
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Songs of Homecoming


            1 Those who trust in the Lord Are like MountZion, Which cannot be moved, but abides forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds His people From this time forth and forever. 3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest On the land allotted to the righteous, Lest the righteous reach out their hands to iniquity. 4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, And to those who are upright in their hearts. 5 As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, The Lord shall lead them away With the workers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel!

Song of Ascent, the Sixth

            Those who trust in the Lord
Are like MountZion
Which cannot be moved…

I have read these words,
committed them to memory.
They speak a mighty message.

Greatly though
do they elude my touch.

For I am not
one likened
to MountZion.

I am not a Psalmist’s muse,
a serene or natural scene:
            not the tree
            lush and unwithering,
            not the stream
            profuse and unceasing.

I am perhaps
            a dusty hill
            the wind levels flat,
            a meandering brook
            the dry bank laps.

I see my brothers and sisters,
standing stalwart and tall –
            they are a range
            of mighty MountZions,
            casting vast shadows
            across the plain I am.

My spirit shrinks
at the contrast.

And I wonder
why I even try
if every new word,
if every new sight
effaces the faith
I aim to hold.

I search
for a foothold.

All I see are words.

From a child,
I have heard and read
Your acts of creation
O Lord.

How You spun the mountain, the sea
out of unbreathing air
into a world of daunting dimension,

And how two thousand years ago,
You sparked light and life
against the darkest, hardest hearts.

Yet, for all this knowledge
of creation, all I can say is,
I have heard and read,
I have heard and read.

But Lord,
do not let me
lisp this refrain
much longer.

As I find entrance
into the birth of every new day,
may I see also
Your creation in my life.

Create the mountain
Create the tree
Create the river
Out of the nothing that I am.

Let me intone Your words,
believe Your acts,

that my unsteady voice
may sing back those songs of life

You’ve played
since the beginning.


            1 When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, We were like those who dream. 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 3 The Lord has done great things for us, And we are glad. 4 Bring back our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the South. 5 Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. 6 He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.

Song of Ascent, the Seventh

When the Lord brought back the captivity…
I did not know I was free.

One envisions returns as idyllic events:
            Families holding hands,
            singing and skipping on a
            dusty, homeward road,
            cheeks flushed with freedom, or—
            a line of serene, holy men

            humming their way up the temple steps,
            black robes cascading behind them,
            faces placid and assured.

For different people
are different returns
though the destination is one.

I think of Paul and his
Damascan moment,
when light exploded his darkness
and scales fell from his eyes.

Without a doubt,
Lord, You can be grandiose,
but are not always so.

For my part,
I waited for the marvelous:
I waited for You to come
in a burst of blinding light.

I waited to hear shackles
clank definitively at my feet.

I even waited
for Your still, quiet voice,
which, I thought,
should still be pretty loud—
since it is Yours, O Lord.

But while I was waiting,
I realized
You had come.

For here I am,
the most petulant pilgrim,
standing in the midst of these hills.

I was hesitant to come,
            yet I came,
Reluctant to praise,
             yet I did,
Resistant to accept your grace,
             yet I have.

And the pervading emptiness that
pressed against my heart
has long disappeared,
though I never knew it left.

Such things would not be possible
if You had not come.

And so,
I know,
Lord, that You have come.

And so,
I know,
Lord, that You are here.


            1 Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep. 3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Song of Ascent, the Eighth

            Unless the Lord builds…

What a mound of rubble
we are bound to form.

This conclusion
grates hard against
my spirit.

For why can we not
be Your children in
our own right and effort?

I strained to the utmost
to reach You,
attempting reform on
every inch of my life.

I pushed all energy
to please You,
finally breaking
my strength, my will,
my voice.

At last, I sat hopeless
among my own wreckage,
not touching, not seeing,
not sensing You
in any real way.

My mind knows
You are here.

The daily miracles
You breathe into my life
declare, You are here.

And yet,
I only stand, staring out
into the retreating horizon of
Your presence.

My heart
still needs to journey
a thousand miles of
spiritual distance.

The bridges I’ve built
with clay, with wood, with iron
with all the tools, with all the ways
within my arm-stretched reach
fall short.

I’ve tried to touch You as I know how.

But Lord,
what is needed to bridge spiritual space
but the invisible strength of faith?

I say, Yes
I must reach through faith
but faith dances lambent,
glossed, in my mind.

Love, hope and grace
are other abstractions
my heart cannot begin
to imagine to envelop.

These are spiritual materials
made to span spiritual distance
but how can I acquire them,
O Lord, and
how can I build?

I search my soul,
and where is faith?

I scavenge for Your love
but what is that in me?

I yearn for hope,
yet hope stays as desire.

I mine for what I do not possess.
I harvest empty every time.

But You,
O Lord, have said
all things are possible.

And somewhere
within me,
I do believe
You can gift what
I now have no hope of holding.

If it is Your will,
You can gift them.

Gift them,
then, O Lord.

Gift them,
that I may touch You,
see You, sense You,

that I may gaze up,
and with a child’s relief say,
My Father.


            1 Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, Who walks in His ways. 2 When you eat the labor of your hands, You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. 3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants All around your table. 4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the Lord. 5 The Lord bless you out of Zion, And may you see the good of Jerusalem All the days of your life. 6 Yes, may you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel!

Song of Ascent, the Ninth

            Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.

Why is it, Lord,
the simplest messages
are the hardest to believe?

Shall I wax like Solomon
and observe with wizened voice,
I have seen those who fear and
those who walk with the Lord
yet suffering and unblessed?

The fate of the righteous
troubles me.

I am no brave
biblical hero.

I do not like persecution.
And when I am reviled,
it is not my first inclination to bless.

Why, yes,
I am moved
—almost to tears—
when the apostles rejoice
they are counted worthy
to be flogged in Your name.

And yes, I speak
unflaggingly of Paul
when he gives thanks
in all circumstances.

Let faith briskly march on the page
in its emblazoned-lettered path.

But should some of Your grit-edged
blessings stride right into my life,
Lord, I assure You,
my rallying cry will
soon be rendered mute.

I know Your ways
surpass the physical,
soaring above and scaling
beyond the strata of the world.

Yet, here is the bare fact:
I struggle for the spiritual
being as physical
            as ever.

In plain dumb wonder
of Your ways and blessings,

my eye alights on a seed,
a sapling just rooted,
uncurling into this
immense world.

And I think,
this is it:
            All I am
            is a seed,
            You’ve created.

            All I am
            is a seed,
            I will bury
            within the mystery of
                     Your word.

And so I simply ask,
let me be the seed,
blind perhaps to
how life grows,

but stretching out
sure and steady
to the world around,

to the sun and soil
You have so
amply provided.

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Publisher: True Jesus Church