“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept” – these words from Ps 137 keep coming to mind (I am desperately trying to resist the tune from Boney M!). It speaks to me of profound sadness that I feel at the moment with the way things are, just as the people of God experienced an even deeper sadness going into exile.
There are other experiences that we have in common with the exiles. In the overthrow of Judah and Jerusalem many would have died, so we too are lamenting those we have lost to Covid. They had lost their temple, so we too have lost our ‘normal’ worship. They had lost their culture, to a large extent so have we. They had lost their leaders; our national leaders are struggling. Materially they had lost everything, many in our communities are losing their jobs. They were disorientated and discombobulated – and so are many of us.
<span style="font-size: 1rem;">And so, lament we should and we shouldn’t rush that. But the Exiles then did some deep theological reflection, going back to the scriptures as they were then, leading to spiritual renewal. How will our own theological reflection and spiritual renewal echo that of the exiles? </span>
I have recently heard some drawing on Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles (Jer 29). For me, I will be turning to the Psalms. The fifth book of the Psalms from Ps 107 seems to be put together for those in exile. I won’t give it all away, but to give you a taster - Psalms 120-134 are the songs of ascent – sung by the pilgrim people of God as they approach Jerusalem to worship at the temple, culminating with the two hallelujah psalms 135 & 136. And then crisis – Ps 137.
But Psalms 138 resolves the crisis by going back to David and we are reminded that the temple was for his Name but he dwells in the heavens, and he is sovereign over all the nations, not least Babylon. Psalm 139 reminds us that Temple or no Temple, there is no place we can go where God is not present and he watches over us.
What rich truths came out of the exile! (For more on this, see http://bit.ly/exilicpsalms)
<span style="font-size: 1rem;">My prayer is that in this crisis, in all the demands laid upon us, we might carve out the time to turn to God, to really spend time with him, to lament and do the deep theological reflection that in time, we might know spiritual renewal. </span>