Sunday, November 08, 2009

Remembrance and Loss – a meditation on Psalm 137

I wrote this for a remembrance event at church. It is also posted on my other blog, which is rather frugally updated!!



By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.

We have not been to Zion. And yet in our deepest being we feel something like a memory of it – a longing for a hidden kingdom. A memory of a place where we belong. And we weep for its loss.

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.

Is it possible to be creative in the face of loss? At times, we give up on life and worship. In pain, bereavement, betrayal, illness, abuse, loneliness, shattered hopes.

We want to live and play our music. We long for healing.

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying: ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’

We feel weak and guilty – mocked, at times. Sometimes, we are victims of circumstance. Sometimes, the mess is our own doing. So easily we let ourselves be overrun by selfishness, deceit, suspicion and greed. We feel like a joke, sometimes.

Forgive us. We do not want our songs of praise to seem ridiculous.

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying: ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

This land is kind to most of us. But our brothers and sisters live at war and risk of death; burdened by corrupt governments; alone – forgotten; in pain, unable to be fully themselves; abused, bullied, persecuted or threatened – living in fear; dying from lack of food, medicine, clean water or shelter. We remember them and ask what we can do to free them to sing your song again?

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying. ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!

Our heritage is the stories of Adam and Eve; Noah; Abraham; Moses; Jacob; David. Betrayal, greed, violence. Creation, mercy, rescue. We want to tell these stories in our own voices, our own language We want to feel part of this heritage. We want to pass your memory on.

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying. ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

It is so long since you walked among us. Since Moses saw your face. Since your prophets shouted your words.
And so we forget. We eat, work, maintain comfortable lives, fight our little battles. Build a safe corner for you. Remind us, whatever it takes, that we are a waiting people: a people not of this world. A people whose God gives them meaning.
And may our memories season our days like salt.

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying. ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.
Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem’s fall, how they said, ‘Tear it down! Tear it down! Down to its foundations! O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

We are ashamed this Psalm ends with such violence – is it in us too?

Perhaps not - but we are good at subtler cruelties: desiring others’ pain or humiliation; fascinated by others’ suffering; gossiping about misfortune; careless with the hearts of those who love and trust us; wilfully ignorant of our suffering neighbours. Obsessed with protecting ourselves at all cost; accepting of revenge; lacking your compassion.

You died in protest against our fear-driven violence. Most of all, we want to remember you. Your determination not to give into the ways of this world. The hope you offer in our darkest moments - because you knew darker and overcame.

We do not want to forget you.

We do not want our song to end in darkness.

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