Cover photo: An aerial view of protesters gathered near the makeshift memorial in honor of George Floyd, marking one week since his death (Minneapolis). Photo by Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images.
We are using the 2020 Presbyterian Women’s Horizons Bible Study for our Summer Series: Into the Light: Finding Hope Through Prayers of Lament, a $10 resources with 9 lessons. This is week 2 on lamenting together; week 1 was intro to lament.
Singing the Lord’s Song/being in communion when separated and in times of darkness
How do we sing the Lord’s Song when our world’s violence makes any thoughts of even one peaceful Sabbath a pipe dream? When you’re in such a dark place that you wish death on somebody, maybe even yourself? When our people and communities are broken, divided by illness, grief, spite or sheer vengeance? When your own church’s communion – much less the world’s – seems impossible?
From Sacredise: https://sacredise.com/lectionary-resources/proper-22c/
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The readings this week offer a fascinating juxtaposition of ideas. The Old Testament and Psalm readings all explore the pain and humiliation of God’s people when they are defeated, conquered and exiled, and as they long for forgiveness restoration and salvation. Even Psalm 37 deals with similar issues, albeit in a more generalised way, speaking of the pain and confusion that arises when destructive or evil people prosper, and the difficult work of faith and patience in God’s action on behalf of those who trust God’s ways. The New Testament readings, on the other hand, explore the impact that a life of simple, ordinary faith can have, and the attitude of humble servanthood which expects no undue reward for simply living faithfully. In essence, both Testaments are saying the same thing this week.
In a world where bad things happen to good people, and where it often appears that the lawless and ‘godless’ get the best, it can be tough to live in faith and faithfulness. Justice can take a long time to come, and it can be tempting to use any means – however undesirable – to achieve what we long for. This applies even when our goal is to manifest God’s reign. However, as we live in faithfulness, and pass our faith on to others who come after us, the small, ordinary acts of goodness and justice that we do each day, the small faithful commitments to our convictions that we renew each day, really do ‘move mountains’ and change the world, little by little, into a place where God’s salvation is visibly revealed.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: In the light of the huge challenges facing our world – hunger and poverty, human rights abuses, unequal distribution of resources, human trafficking, dread diseases, environmental degradation, conflict and war – it is easy to get frustrated and impatient, and it is extremely tempting to embrace any strategy that gets results. The danger here, though, is that we can too easily become what we seek to overcome, and our efforts, which may appear successful in the short term, leave us in deeper trouble in the long term. Two important principles that the lectionary offers us this week are 1) the power of small acts of goodness and justice, and 2) the need to think systemically and long term, waiting at the “guard post on the wall” (to use Habakkuk’s image) to observe, nurture and cooperate with any manifestations of God’s reign that emerge. In the world of big business, big politics, and powerful lobby groups, such long term thinking can be frustrating, but, as demonstrated by Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela (it must have taken faith to spend 27 years in jail and then still embrace dialogue as a valid process to end apartheid) such faithful, consistent and just living does result in significant change. What long term commitments to justice can you embrace or renew in your community this week?
LOCAL APPLICATION: Perhaps the best focus, on the local level, this week, is the power of small, ordinary, “everyday” acts of justice. When we refuse to live according to the expedient, self-centred, materialist values of the society around us, it may appear to have no impact, and we may feel like we become nothing more than a laughing stock – a people in exile, suffering for what may sometimes feel like foolish and ineffectual convictions, while those around us “live it up” and succeed. The promise of the Scriptures, though, is that such alternative living does have an impact – a significant one – and also has lasting value – becoming the heritage of faith and goodness that is passed down through generations and across communities. The reassurance this gives is that our suffering is not in vain, and that our faithfulness is useful to God. In our “instant gratification” society, such perseverance and endurance is hard and counter-cultural, but is a powerful witness to the Gospel. Where has your church’s commitment to “everyday justice” grown tired or weak? In what ways do you need to renew your commitment to persevere? What alternate living choices do you need to make or renew together? To whom can your faith heritage be passed on? What can you do to inspire and sustain small, long term, commitments in your community this week?
בָּכָה bâkâh, baw-kaw’; a primitive root; to weep; generally to bemoan:—× at all, bewail, complain, make lamentation, × more, mourn, × sore, × with tears, weep.
Psalm 137:3 captors/tormenters
תּוֹלָל tôwlâl, to-lawl’; from H3213; causing to howl, i.e. an oppressor:—that wasted.
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon [?]
Psalm 137:7 rase/tear down/lay bare
Outline of Biblical Usage [?]
- to be bare, be nude, uncover, leave destitute, discover, empty, raze, pour out
- to bare, lay bare
- to lay bare by emptying, empty
- to pour out
- to make naked, strip bare (of sexual offences)
- to pour out
- (Niphal) to be poured out, be exposed
- to expose oneself, make oneself naked
- pouring oneself, spreading oneself (participle)
Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)
עָרָה ʻârâh, aw-raw’; a primitive root; to be (causatively, make) bare; hence, to empty, pour out, demolish:—leave destitute, discover, empty, make naked, pour (out), rase, spread self, uncover.
Psalm 137:8 ravaging the daughter of Jerusalem
Outline of Biblical Usage [?]
- to deal violently with, despoil, devastate, ruin, destroy, spoil
- to violently destroy, devastate, despoil, assail
- devastator, despoiler (participle) (subst)
- (Niphal) to be utterly ruined
- to assault
- to devastate
- (Pual) to be devastated
- (Poel) to violently destroy
- (Hophal) to be devastated
Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)
שָׁדַד shâdad, shaw-dad’; a primitive root; properly, to be burly, i.e. (figuratively) powerful (passively, impregnable); by implication, to ravage:—dead, destroy(-er), oppress, robber, spoil(-er), × utterly, (lay) waste.
Psalm 137: Complex Communal Laments
Journal of Biblical Literature
Vol. 127, No. 2 (Summer, 2008), pp. 267-289 (23 pages)
Imagine the 267N5 Imagine the act of decapitating little children or infants against the edge or corner of the wall of Jerusalem. Something that is supposed to protect is now employed to behead. The violent and traumatic visual image of such a repeated act goes beyond anything we can comprehend.
Mock-simha; fake song of victory over enemies
275 Why would Ps. 137k accentuated by laments & curses, be place in the midst of these 0135-137] Thanksgiving and praise psalms? This is a bold but unconventional editorial move that proposed to give thanks and praise through lament laden with honest feelings of enmity. Thhanksgiving and praise arise not only from positive elements in life. Rther the true mark of these practices if finding the courage & strength to praise & give thanks when there is nothing worthwhile or praiseworthy. 176 Brueggemann says that Ps 137 is marked not by despair but by hope. However, we cannot move into this hopeful realm all too quickly without allowing the pathos to resound and have its rightful place. The ? is, Can those in Babylon, both the first wave and the second wave of forced migrants collectively voice “Hallelujah” or “Thanks be to God” in the midst of their most difficult time? The answer seems to be complex.
278 by the waters of Babylon; by the irrigation canals where the Judean royalty and religious leadership were put to work maintaining/desalinating the canals.
280 weeping willows crying for those who hung the harps
v.3 wordplay beween captors, tormenters & hung
282 For there our captors asked us for the words of a song, but our tormenters asked for mirth, ‘Sing for us a Zion song!’
283 Captors, Babyonians, may be separate from torments, who may be fellow-laborers who are not Jewish.
284 Bookends: Forget/do not remember
Musician wiling to forgo righthand instrument & mouth/tongue for praising God
College Press NIV Commentary 470
v. 5 Wordplay: forget with become crippled/lamed
Conversations Among Exiles
The Christian Century, July 2-9, 1997, pp. 630-632.
In response to times of crisis, Leviticus urged the practice of holiness, and Deuteronomy stressed neighborliness. Unless the experience of loss is expressed, examined and understood, new ways of living are not able to emerge.
|In our time of dislocation the church can offer ways of speaking and acting that the dominant society regards as subversive, but without which we cannot for long stay human.|
The church can
1) express sadness, rage and loss as an alternative to the denial that inevitably breeds brutality.
2) be a voice of holiness that counters the trivial commodity-centered world by the practice of disciplines that make communion possible.
3) be a voice of imaginative, neighborly transformation, focused on those in need.
4) express new social possibilities, rooted in the truth of God’s good news.
Before us is the choice between succumbing to a fearful self-preoccupation that shrivels the spirit or heeding God’s call to re-enter the pain of the world and the possibility of renewal and salvation. [Numbers added]
http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org/PopupLectionaryReading.asp?LRID=10 Maafa service – Maafa is an African word used to refer to four centuries of worldwide enslavement of black people. The remembering in Psalm 137 (v. 1, 6, 7) occasions anguish, accountability and anger. Babylonians asking for a kind of minstrel show. Includes sermon illustrations.
Phrase from an article that is no longer at the link: Hope without singing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGz5wbIGm0w British Bishop on singing the Lord’s song in a strange land in a time of COVID-19
Call to Worship, Prayer, Personal Meditation by Joan Stot http://www.thetimelesspsalms.net/w_resources/pentecost20c_2013.htm
Includes dealing with the last vengeful verses and provides alternative of Lamentations 3:21-26 as an assurance of pardon or final blessing. http://hwallace.unitingchurch.org.au/WebOTcomments/OrdinaryC/Pent19Psalm137.html
Our bulletin is at https://1drv.ms/w/s!AuB3z496aTHTgcYfmV3FepVsFsaFng
The sermon will be here; target date is 6/15. https://1drv.ms/w/s!AuB3z496aTHTgcYfmV3FepVsFsaFng