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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, October 8, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 137

By the rivers of Babylon—
   there we sat down and there we wept
   when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
   we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
   asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
   “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song
   in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
   let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
   if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
   above my highest joy.

Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
   the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
   Down to its foundations!”
O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
   Happy shall they be who pay you back
   what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
   and dash them against the rock! (NRSV)

“Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me around . . .”

These are lyrics from a Talking Heads song, “This Must Be the Place.” The song itself was written as a love song and it is meant to capture the euphoria and confusion of its author about this new feeling of love he has experienced. So the song itself has little to do with the context of Psalm 137. I know that.

The context of Psalm 137 is a despairing people who have been exiled. Their temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed. They have been exiled to a strange land by their captors, the Babylonians. Everything familiar to them has been left behind. So I can imagine them saying “Home is where I want to be. Pick me up and turn me around.”

These people who had been ripped away from their homes were trying to figure out how to sing the Lord’s song, how to keep singing, even in this foreign land where nothing was the same. Language was different. Diet was unusual. How would they keep singing in a land that was so strange to them, and if they were to keep singing, how would they be sure they wouldn’t forget the best of what once was?

I can’t help thinking of the refugees all over the world who have been torn from their homelands and the yearning they must feel. But I also am reminded that if we choose to follow Jesus in our living, there are times when we can’t feel at home. Following a way of faith puts us at odds with so many of the cultural norms that surround us, with government agenda, with corporate ladder-climbing, and more. And so we yearn for a feeling of home, but we also try to figure out how to keep singing the Lord’s song. The question the exiled were asking was the right question. It should be our question too.

Gracious Lord, help me keep singing your song even when I feel far from any sense of home. Help me to know what that song is. And even though home is where I want to be, remind me that my true home is the journey you have chosen for me. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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