Lenten Study Session 2: “How Long?”

You can download the guide for this session by clicking here.

Watch the Video Clip (5 – 7 minutes)

Listen to Mark’s words of introduction and listen to the song. Listen to the song a second time. Feel free to sing along, joining in with the words, “how long, how long.”. If you have purchased the songbook Roll Down, Justice!, a reproducible congregational box of the song is found on page 85.

Mark Miller’s Reflection

How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

How long, O God, must we feel like outsiders, strangers in a strange land, a people held captive by fear, abuse of power, prejudice, and unjust institutions? How long, O God, must we be in fear for our children who are growing up in a world of terror and violence?

How many people in our country need to be killed by guns until we muster the will and the courage to stop the madness? We long for your justice, for your peace, O God, we long to be released from these shackles of fear and injustice, and until that time, we cry out with the psalmist, “How long?”

Moment of Meditation (3 – 5 minutes)

Sit in a rocking chair. (If able, have one in your study space.) In silence, just rock. Rock for one minute without interacting with the group (no words, no eye contact … observe silence even if someone asks a question). You may use other gestures (putting your head in your hands, leaning your head back and staring at the ceiling). But keep rocking.

At the end of the minute, ask if anyone in the group had wondered, “How long is our study leader going to sit in the chair and just rock?” “What’s going on?” “What’s next?” “Can I have a turn in that rocking chair?”

Ask members to write down or think about things for which they have waited? And things for which they are currently waiting?

Discuss the Scripture – Psalm 137 (10 minutes)

Have the Scripture read aloud from two or three biblical translations. Invite members to share with the group any experience they have with the text. For example, some may remember that reggae singer Bob Marley had a hit song based on this Scripture or they may recall learning a song based on this Scripture in vacation Bible school.

If time permits, ask for one or two persons to share a story when they felt the despair of waiting, of feeling abandoned, of struggling to make a living, or to make a life in what seemed to be a “foreign land.”


Connect with the Justice Challenges (20 minutes)

Play the video again – the introduction and the song. Encourage the group to sing along with the video.

Have printed copies for each person (or place onscreen or newsprint or read aloud) the following questions. Ask the group members to ponder the questions in light of justice issues that are important to them. Then invite them to write a response to one or more of these questions and be prepared to share something with the group from the reflection. [Allow 10 minutes for this exercise; if people have finished writing and reflecting before then, call the group back together.]

  • What do you fear?
  • What angers you?
  • What one thing makes your heart heavy?
  • Where or how do you feel as an outsider?

Allow time for people to share their justice issues. Be prepared for disagreement. Remind those who are speaking that this is not a time to argue or to attempt to change someone else’s position or understanding of a justice challenge. [Allow 5 minutes.]

Ask people to go back to their notes and go back to the Scripture and write a short “lament” about the concern that hurts their hearts the most. Explain that a “lament” is a way of expressing sorrow, describing frustration and protesting against injustice.


Confession (2 – 3 minutes)

Invite two or three persons to take turns sitting in the rocking chair and reading their laments aloud. After each reading, pause for a moment of silent reflection. Explain to the group that they do not have to respond to each lament, only to listen and empathize with each reader.

Prayer of Intercession (2 – 3 minutes)

If persons are able, gather in a circle [sitting or standing, holding hands]. Lead the group in this prayer [may have a volunteer to read it]:

“Be with those whom need your justice and your intervention in this time and place in their lives. We lift up ___________________________.” (encourage people to speak aloud the areas of injustice and the people for whom they are interceding)

Closing (2 – 3 minutes)

Play the video one more time and sing along. Offer a prayer of benediction and an invitation to see God in every face that we meet in the coming week.

Extending the Study

Commit to praying (even more) for justice. Lift up the names of those in your life who are drum majors for justice.

Do a media watch and make note of the stories that fanned the flames of hate and the ones that offered solutions in the midst of pain.

Hold a song service for justice Use this song. Identify other hymns and songs that can be shared to encourage action and strengthen the resolve of those who seek to do God’s will in making right the wrongs of the community and of the world.

Additional Resources

GCORR’s Lenten Biblical Reflection, Roll Down, Justice!:


Additional Resources


Faye Wilson, Ed. D
Study Guide Author

Faye Wilson, writer of this study guide, is a certified lay servant in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference. For twenty-one years she was on the staff of the General Board of Global Ministries, mission agency of The United Methodist Church, leading seminars and writing books and articles to help people become more involved in mission work

She continues to work in the area and has written leader’s guides to the United Methodist Women mission studies Poverty, How is It With Your Soul?, and Food and Faith. She serves as the music leader at the Peninsula-Delaware Mission U, an initiative of United Methodist Women, where she teaches songs of “justice and joy” from around the world.

A pianist, she lives in Salisbury, Md., and is the minister of music and arts for Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Quantico, Md., and chairwoman the stewardship committee. She also is vice president of the Salisbury District United Methodist Women.

Her favorite scripture is Isaiah 58:6-12; she makes every attempt to live it literally. She has volunteered for ten years with HALO (Hope and Life Outreach), a shelter for women and children. Since establishing her own home in 1978, she has invited more than twenty-five persons to share her space for varying lengths of time.

Mark Miller

Mark Miller is a lifelong United Methodist with a passion for composing and performing music that brings about the beloved community that Christ desires the church to be.

He is associate professor of church music at Drew Theological School and is a lecturer in the practice of sacred music at Yale University. He also is minister of music at Christ Church in Summit, N.J. His hymns are published in several songbooks and hymnals including The Faith We Sing and Zion Still Sings.

Since 1999, Mark has led music for worship at conferences around the United States. He has been a lay delegate to three United Methodist legislative assemblies (“General Conferences”) and directed music for the 2008 General Conference, enabling him to join in Christ’s mission to break down dividing walls in The United Methodist Church through policy, prayer, and music performance. He deeply believes, as scholar-activist Cornel West says, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

Mark earned a bachelor of arts degree in music from Yale University and a master of music degree in organ performance from The Juilliard School in New York.


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