SojournRonald JJ Wong
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​​Song: Sojourn

by Ronald JJ Wong

VERSE 1
Hours of silence on ascent
Light the sky with burned incense
Ancient paths in yearning hearts
Following after singing larks

 

VERSE 2

Springs arise in place of tears
Olive branches now appear
Broken vines into fine new wines
Pour and drink to forgone lines

 

‘See sojourner; hear the preacher
Feel the water; wash and draw near’


REFRAIN
‘Zion calls you; Zion calls you, Zion calls you, come’

VERSE 3
Nations flow as rivers pour
Fill the House on whispered lore
Ashes twirl under dancing feet
In all tongues our prayers will meet

‘See O witness; hear the promise
Feel the voices; roll down justice’

 

REFRAIN

‘Zion calls you; Zion calls you, Zion calls you, come’


BRIDGE
Yet, now I don't see the fig tree bud
Fields are all bare, thorns and thistles cut


VERSE 4
Still I hope in the Lord my God
I will see with my spirit awed
Walk by grace on illumined ways
Till the dawn shall unveil His face

 

REFRAIN

‘Zion calls you; Zion calls you, Zion calls you, come’

 

Songwriter's Reflections

Since young, I’ve been plagued by the need for answers to questions of first things.


Who am I? Why am I here?
 

Much later, when I came to know Jesus as King, I became gripped by the Biblical picture of the pilgrim.

 

If we are sojourners making our way through this world, how should we relate to the people we encounter, the places we pass through, and the pain we carry?
 

If we are exiles, then what does our homeland look like?
 

What is the way there?
 

What is the song of the pilgrim ascending the hill?
 

As I consider the world around me today--environmental degradation, widening chasms along tribalistic fault lines, severe economic inequality, falsehood-based political destabilisation, moral ambiguity and chaos, exploitation of vulnerable communities, sexual predation of children and young persons--against the revelation of Jesus in the last book of the Bible, I am simultaneously pessimistic and yet compelled to act.
 

As a pilgrim navigating through this beautiful world torn asunder by the corruption of sin, what is the point of helping one single migrant worker with his legal case, or growing a capsicum plant, or preaching a sermon, or writing a song, or discipling a younger Christian, or nurturing a child?
 

How will any of this beat swords into plowshares and guns into barrels for wines to be served at the wedding feast of the Lamb?
 

Will dismantling of power structures or crafting of fine-tuned laws or effective bureaucracy implementing sound policies deliver the world into true peace?
 

Would that heal parental wounds or erase subconscious trauma or cure sexual perversion or transform human nature?
 

What will we do as we walk with wanderers in the valley of dry tears?

 

​​Scripture

Psalm 84:3-7; Hebrews 11:13-16; Isaiah 2:2-4; Psalm 46:4-11; Habakkuk 3:17-19

 

"3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!

Selah

 

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion."

 

- Psalm 84:3-7 (ESV)

 

About the Songwriter
 

Ronald JJ Wong is a servant of King Jesus. He is a practising lawyer and Director at Covenant Chambers LLC, who believes in seeking justice, peace and joy for others. He serves as National Coordinator of Micah Singapore, on the board of Operation Mobilisation (OM) Mercy Teams International (MTI), as caretaker of Christian arts and culture community TheGroup.sg, on the advisory council of Koinonia Inclusion Network (KIN), in his church Yio Chu Kang Chapel as a deacon, and on the board of social service agency, Bless Community Services. He is the author of The Justice Demand: Social Justice & The Singapore Church, and editor of Good News for Bruised Reeds, Vol. 1: Walking with Same-Sex Attracted Friends and Vol. 2: Mental Health & The Gospel Community. 

 

When he's not crafting legal submissions, he dabbles in the creative arts. His poetry and prose have been published in various publications. He has also produced and directed documentary short films and plays. He wrote a song King of Justice (Psalm 72) available on iTunes, Spotify, etc. 


More information can be found at www.ronaldjjwong.com.

 

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Visual: Migrant

by Daisuke Chew

Daisuke Chew has a background in architecture. A graduate of Cornell University School of Architecture, Art and Planning, he has worked at various architectural and design-related firms in the US and Singapore. Though not professional nor published, he has long been a keen photographer, and looks for the beauty and humour in the people, places and stories found in our vernacular and everyday.

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Devotional: Strangers In The World God Made

By Aaron Lee

I was recently lamenting to a friend that I have not had the opportunity to travel abroad for a long time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic having caused an unprecedented closure of international borders for months on end. My friend commiserated with me and taught me a new word: hodophile. Apparently, it means “a lover of roads and travel”, which is indeed what I am.
 
In my Bible reading over the years, I have been struck by the stories of weary travellers. Some had to travel for business. Some had to travel to fulfil family duties. Some were pilgrims seeking spiritual truth. Many were refugees fleeing war and persecution; yet others were captives of war or returnees from exile. Genesis 18 records how Abraham welcomed three "strangers" into his tent and provided them with food, water and shelter. When they left, he even travelled with them a short distance "to start them on their way" (v16). In those days, the traveller had few legal or political rights. He was largely at the mercy of the inhabitants of the place where he journeyed.

Evidently, the historic Biblical customs concerning welcome and care to outsiders were a central value of the ancient world. In the harsh, desert environs of the Middle East, these customs were in practice a sacred code for the welfare of the stranger. By accepting the traveller, especially in providing him food and partaking in a meal with him, a host also covenanted to protect his guest. Indeed, the Middle Eastern hospitality code was so strong that it evoked a warning: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2).  In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers.” During Jesus’ public ministry, he and his disciples were wholly dependent on the hospitality of others while they ministered to people from town to town (Matthew 10:9-10).

The new song “Sojourn” by Ronald JJ Wong is not only rich with Biblical imagery, it also profoundly explores the related themes of the stranger, long and dangerous journeys, home and belonging—all from the perspective of the pilgrim preacher. Through its poetic lyrics and its searching, hypnotic solo vocals, the song expresses more about the exilic wandering than it does about Zion, the longed-for destination:

Hours of silence on ascent
Light the sky with burned incense
Ancient paths in yearning hearts
Following after singing larks


The song’s melodic structure has a meditative quality in its repetition and simple rhymes. One can imagine the pilgrim ruminating and praying aloud while walking: “Yet, now I don't see the fig tree bud / Fields are all bare, thorns and thistles cut… Still I hope in the Lord my God”.

This Biblical song is indeed soul food for our journey of ascents. It reminds us that all of us are sojourners. We walk in the wilderness, breathing the free air while suffering the thorns and thistles of daily life and dying a little each day. Yet we turn our faces with hope toward Zion, that great City of God. And we have Jesus to accompany us on the way.

Friends, if we were to look around us with new eyes, we would see an entire world of people in need of respite and hope, to be welcomed, included at the table, hugged, healed and loved. Such are strangers away from Home. In a very real sense, they are at our mercy. We may not be able to open our homes to all, but we can open our hearts to as many as we can, share what we have, and refresh them with the gospel of new life.

 

Prayer

 

“The stranger has not lodged outside,
For I have opened my doors to the traveller.”


Job 31:32

Jesus, I remember that once upon a time you were a stranger to me. I was desperate and hungry for you, and I did not even know it. In your love and mercy, you knocked one day on the door of my heart and gave me the grace and courage to open myself to you. Now you are my Lord, my Master, and my soul friend. Thank you. May I not only be a lover of roads and travel, but also a lover of the stranger. Help me share my new life with the weary pilgrims you bring my way, and to welcome them home to you. Amen.


 

About Aaron Lee

 

Aaron Lee is a pilgrim poet, ethics lawyer and bi-vocational pastor. He and his wife, the national artist Namiko Chan Takahashi, are co-founders of the Laniakea Collective, an intercultural and interdisciplinary art practice. They love to help people discover and pursue their calling to a creative life.