I have a dear friend who just does not like the Psalms. And I understand where she is coming from as some of them are filled with anger, violence, judgment and a need for revenge. Yesterday, Psalm 137 came up in the rotation of scripture that I use for preaching. It starts as a lament of the ancient Hebrews who were taken into exile by the Babylonians, “But how could we sing a song of YHWH in a foreign land?” But it ends in anger, “A blessing on those who will seize your infants and dash them against the rock!” That was enough to send me looking for a different passage to preach on.
Then I remembered that the Psalms are not intended to be a theological statement, but a sharing a of deep feelings, ardent prayers and struggles of the people of Israel, that their joy may connect with our joy, their grief with our grief. When approached from this angle, I could see and feel the grief of those taken into exile, I knew them importance of remembering for them, and I understood why they were so angry that they would wish pain upon their captors. Haven’t we all been there? Haven’t we all found ourselves in some kind of exile – lost, alone, hurting, outcast, struggling? Haven’t we found ourselves angry at our circumstances and even people who contributed to that? Haven’t we cried out to God in the midst of our misery, heaping all the pain and rage on the Divine’s great shoulders?
I decided the best way to preach this was to become a person from the exile. I took the name Mara, which means bitterness, created her story and shared the Psalm in character yesterday. I hope that it brought the passage alive in a way that simply preaching about it couldn’t accomplish. If you would like to listen to the podcast, simply click here and listen to “Singing in Exile.” For a moment in time, Mara’s grief was mine, her anger was mine, and I knew that God was her greatest treasure in the midst of it all.