Singing the Lord’s song as strangers in the land
Psalm 137:1-4: For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked us for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
Luke 23:27-31: Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.
The lament of the psalmist originates in the exile of Judah in Babylon, however, the pain of exile is one that reverberates across time and culture. Perhaps this poem emerged with a shrug of indifference that can only come from living within injustice and feeling powerless to effect any meaningful change. However, the words were brought forth; the heartache of this passage finds resonance in the hearts of those who are treated as strangers in other lands or in their own lands.
In this psalm, generations of the oppressed are given their voice. We sing because we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. The ancestors and saints inspire us. They encourage us to sing songs of hope, songs of freedom, songs of liberation, songs of a homeland where a people is restored.
Luke’s Gospel records that people, many of them women, follow Jesus even as he carries his cross to Calvary. Jesus recognizes their struggles and the suffering that they will have to endure in faithfully carrying their own crosses. Thanks to the ecumenical movement, Christians today share hymns, prayers, reflections and insights across traditions. We receive them from one another as gifts borne of the faith and loving discipleship, often enduring struggles, of Christians from different communities than our own.
God of the oppressed, open our eyes to the harm that continues to be inflicted on our sisters and brothers in Christ. May your Spirit give us the courage to sing in unison, and raise our voices with those whose suffering is unheard. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.