I was at a meeting on Thursday, discussing social media. I happened to say to someone there how hard it was to express our negative thoughts together to God. And then came along a third major atrocity in France within 18 months.
Back at home, I heard that 84 people, including 10 children, had been killed by a man repeatedly driving a lorry into a crowd watching a Bastille Day firework display in Nice. At the time of writing, 54 children lie in hospital fighting for their lives. And so-called ISIS gloat over one of their "soldiers" committing an act of such deluded barbarity. How can we tell God how awful it is? How dreadful and demonic? How much we hate it? Are we allowed to? Can we find words that match the moment? Well, I think we may, we should and we can.
In the days when psalms were a regular part of daily Anglican worship, I've never once heard the most difficult one sung or said in its entirety. It's Psalm 137. It's one of several laments which come in the book of Psalms - the Jewish hymn book. It expresses the most raw pain and anger of any worship song I know.
|Photo: Huffington Post twitter|
Here it is:By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord's song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick 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,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!”
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!
It seems so unChristian, doesn't it? Especially those last lines. And yet... and yet, to be candid, that is the way that we feel in our inner, secret depths. "Give them exactly what they dealt out to us and our loved ones." That's natural justice. It's a cry of utmost pain. It's how much it hurts - or it should be. It's appropriate. For a time anyway. And if it is what we feel, then pretending to God that we don't is pretty pointless. Perhaps it would be good at times like this to share this psalm, even say it together, and then listen to familiar words of Jesus in Matthew 5:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…"
And then be quiet for a very long time.