a psalm in a leaders meeting the other night. It’s that one made famous by Boney M – ‘By the rivers of Babylon…’
It struck a chord as he read it out. It starts with these moving words:
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord's song
in a foreign land?
Then moves to a prayer of devotion to the psalmist’s homeland:
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!
It ends with some of that psalmy violence that tend to smash and jar on modern ears:
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!
We have been through a tough time over the past couple of years. Now, to put this in perspective, we haven't faced anything like the terrors and trials of, say, our persecuted brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq. But we have seen the closure of dreams, the departure of friends, the collapse of some ideals.
At times it has felt, as we arrive at yet another guitar-and-tambourine worship session (you may have to be a charismatic Christian to get what I mean here) – at times it has felt like, ‘How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?’ In this place of desolation, where broken hopes stare at us and mock us? Zion – the ideal, the dream, the heady days of youth and optimism – seem a memory more than a reality.
Yet love has held us. The love of very faithful, very generous, very kind people. And behind that the love of a very faithful, very generous, very kind God. And now the waters are rising. Gently, new hope is coming. And I find myself ready to pray, ‘Don’t let me forget. I really do love the church of Jesus. At her best, at her most loving and given and generous, this Jerusalem of Jesus really is above my highest joy.’
But what about that last stage of the psalm? Am I ready to take the ‘little ones’, the attractive, alluring, cute things of the world – entertainments, distractions, diversions, pollutions – and ‘dash them against the rocks’? To use Jesus’ words, ‘to enter violently’?
Almost. The tide is rising. I want to live for God. I want to live for Love.