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By the rivers of Babylon

Somebody said something powerful to me the other day- about Psalm 137. You probably know it- and if you’re over 40 you will be singing along to “that” tune by Boney M
“By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion- our tormentors demanded songs of joy- but how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

The Psalm was written out of bewilderment- the people of Israel had been removed from God’s temple in Jerusalem- where the ark of the covenant was- where they had come to believe God himself resided. They had been forcibly taken away to a place hundreds of miles removed- and found themselves surrounded by “tormentors”- captors who demanded they sing their songs of praise in a place of foreign Gods, idols and idolatry.

The lament is “How can we possibly worship God here- like this- without the things we need? Surrounded by all this awfulness? Away from the place where we have to be?”

And the observation that struck me is that the very song of lament provides its own answer- it becomes the song, the psalm that we still sing today- thousands of years later, which declares the determination of God’s people to be faithful- and to remember Jerusalem, the city of God as their “highest joy”. The lament becomes an expression of faith and hope.

In the lament over what has been swept away we find a celebration and creativity around what is good. It’s partly for this reason that expressing our sadness or our sense of loss at this time is important- because the “other side” of what we have lost is a celebration of what we have had in the past and a longing for what we hope to build in the future. Our sadness then, can become the ground in which thankfulness and hope grow.

So, as much as we must remain positive, and thankful, for the many blessings which we currently enjoy, we should not hesitate to express the real pain and loss we feel at this time. Our God is the God of the cross as well as the God of resurrection- God of our brokenness as well as our beauty. We must offer him everything we are and everything we feel- and trust that out of it will grow thankfulness and praise.
If today the lament all feels too much- please get in touch. Don’t feel you are on your own.

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