One of the songs performed on Nashville Public Radio's Studio C program yesterday was a modern day spiritual written by a local song writer named Dan Hart. I have been obsessed with the thing ever since I heard the Portara Ensemble rehearse it over the weekend. For one thing, the guy absolutely slaying the piano is a white-haired old man who you would never guess could play anything with such soulful beauty. But what really gets me about this song is the lyrics.
There must be a well that's fed by an eternal stream of tears.
And I have filled my cup there once too many times in my life.
Where is your God? I have heard them say
When they hear me cry every night and day.
But I know there's a city where sorrow is gone,
and every tear wiped away.
Sadness in the streets I walk down, trouble everywhere I turn.
And mourning in the hearts of those broken and bruised in this life.
All through the night on this bed I lay.
Longing for the light of a brand new day.
I know there's a city where the sun never sets,
and every tear's wiped away.
I don't know about you, but there are times over the past year where I have felt these lyrics. Bearing witness to the degradations of modern life, with its cruelty and suffering, the nastiness and violent edge of our politics, makes these words come alive for me. No, our response to a screwed up world isn't simply to "lay on this bed longing for the light of a brand new day." If we see cruelty and suffering, it's our job to work to end it. Still, history teaches me that some of the evil in this world cannot be overcome. Some of our most intractable problems have no solution on this side of eternity.
But, I know there's a city....