More Than Conquerors
O Thou, most Holy, always Almighty, forever Immortal:
may the thoughts of our hearts and the inspiration of out minds
be found blessed by you, our One and only God,
creating, reconciling, sustaining, and bringing wholeness.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, remembering Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors taunted us to sing our songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy:
“sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
But how could we sing a song of YHWH
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill!
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
if I ever forget you,
if I ever stop considering Jerusalem my greatest joy.
Remember, YHWH, what the children of Edom did the day Jerusalem fell,
when they said, “tear it down! tear it down to its foundations!”
Brood of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
a blessing on those who will repay you
for the evil you have done to us!
A blessing on those who will seize your infants
and dash them against the rock!
Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible. Sheed & Ward.
O God, who sometimes seems more absent than present.
In times of crisis and unrest, your transcendence
we acknowledge in praise.
Yet, by your paramount nature we know you are above,
beyond, greater, and free of the world's brokenness
and all harm.
How else could we rise above our common plight?
Nevertheless, we pine to experience the healing ways
that you are in, with, and under all turmoil and chaos.
Be not far off.
Be the balm of healing shalom
within our days, especially now.
This, O God of mercy and compassion, we need
and know not, without you, how to find justice
Blessed are You and blessed is your Kin-Dom,
"we sat down, wept, and hung up our harps, not being able to sing a song of how everything used to be, taunted by our captors"In ancient Hebrew, to sit down was an expression of worship. Weeping is a form of worship that presents our selves--as human and broken as we are--to the God whose own tears and groaning mix with ours. So, while we do our best to worship God, our worship feels somewhat empty. It sometimes is like screaming in great and dire straits into a void of nothingness. Thus, our harps--the instruments of worship--we hang from a tree branch. There, upon that limb they echo in the breeze in a tone and rhythm in expressions we know not, but are challenged to hear and take from the sound something of good. Like a sacrament that no longer may be celebrated, but the memory of meals and sharing, and communing together speaks volumes, nonetheless. It is somehow incarnational to employ one's corpus in the liturgy of worship. Even masked, in social distancing, or quarantined, we are connected. And our connection reaches beyond the temporal and spatial unto those who have gone before us and those who will follow.
"in a foreign land we remember, for even in memory there is presence of what was, and hope in what would become. without memory, we are fighting the battle with one arm behind our back, trying to speak with our tongues fixed atop our mouths. but in remembrance we acknowledge our history (even be it Edom--the enemy) and our link to the Other (even be it laying in ruins like Jerusalem)"The people of the Hebrews were conquerors and also the conquered. In the brokenness of the world people find need to name an enemy, need to claim a scapegoat, need to create as "them and us" division in a dichotomy that fails to recognize the unity within diversity that God has made and continues to bring to life. Those damned "Edomites." Those damned "Babylonians." Or, be it today: those damned (fill in the blank) be it in the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, opposition to LGBTQ persons, ableism, stratification by wealth, ageism, and all the forms of exploitation and oppression. Our memory does not serve us well in forgetting the raw truth and facts of how injustice has been revived and reinvented by each new generation. Our memory is a blessing when we recall and claim once again the dream, vision, imagination of what could have been, but was not: what can be now and keeping the hope alive. There is a way in which our enemies, or adversaries, are of our own making. In a way of life where love is to be the core value of community, we must put love first and allow divisions to be reconciled in just peace. In Eucharist we remember. We do this in memory because memory makes the past present. Memory reaches from here and now into the what shall be. "Thy Kin-Dom come, thy will be done: on earth as it is in heaven." It is eschatological becoming more so the people God created us to be.
"blessing on those who will seize your infants and dash them against the rock. kill them. abolish them. wipe them out. not only the ones who are now, but the children of the age to come. destroy them in the most heart-wrenching way that we can express as an analogy. stone them. be they no more as if their life lays in minuscule pieces of flesh and bone and now broken promise at the foot of the rock upon which they were horrifically annihilated"
There is no short cut to resolution. The deep-seated anger, hatred, and apathy we have for others cannot be overcome unless we first admit it and own it. There is a vast difference between expressing our emotions in thought and word and acting upon them by carrying out the actual ill will in violence of any kind. In their prayer, seated there by riverside, harps dangling from tree, remembrance being surreal, and caught up in the rage of wanting a total slaughter, horrendous as it may be, of all who have harmed us there is an exit and an entrance. A threshold of moving from victim to survivor, from oppressor to equalizer, from bane to blessing, begins in expressing the deepest and most core negativity we can muster. In doing so we acknowledge, unmask, and undo the power that brings destruction and curse. The ending of this prayer as expressed in Psalm 137 is a coming to terms with the stuff that is there and real and needs resolution. Afterall, we trust that God is not the actor of harm or the obliterating people. We can trust God to hear our prayer and to accept it as what we feel without it coming to be. It is apocalyptic in revealing what must be before we can move on into the healing and reconciling that is God's realm of just peace.
In the movements, there is worship. In the worship there is a transformation. In the transformation we move evermore closer to being a people who loves and nurtures relationships...who find and live within the honor and respect of one another's God given dignity. In living we have the opportunity to make a difference. May it be so. May it be so.
O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: instill within us a passion for justice that is greater than all else, other than peace. May a spirit of goodwill and common good flow from our heart of hearts into the lives of all. Make of us the Kin-Dom where all are equal and all are in equity, unto the fruition of your purpose. For we long to be well and for all to be included in the life that you give us. Blessed are you and blessed is your Kin-dom, forevermore. Amen.