By the waters 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
demanded our songs,
and our tormentors requested mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of those songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing this Divine song
in a strange land?
This morning, at the dawn of Presidential results, I faced a harsh truth: Babylon is here. Honestly, outside the Psalm, language seems hard to grasp, making my understanding of the writer’s seemingly incapability for song more palpable. As a person of faith , the sinew of my spirit stretches toward a Zion, that pinnacle of aspiration where all receive abundant welcome and care. I see this in our own congregation as our doors and our lives have been open to people of color, people with differing abilities, the LGBTQIA community, Buddhist, Hindus, Jewish people, Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, agnostics, atheists, laborers, the undocumented, the refugees, women, men, and children. Our communion at Pullen, as witnessed this past Sunday, is rich, and it provides a glimpse into the Divine Community. But what happens when a strange land is oppressive and our persecution is at the merriment of our captors? How do you grasp for a land of milk and honey when the earth is crumbling? How do you shoulder one more move for the kin_ship of God in the dawn of imminent threat?
This morning, as most mornings, I opened the Hebrew Bible. This morning, I suspended my reading of Ezekiel or Job for the Psalms looking for a hope to answer the questions that are coming and unknown. My eyes lingered on the last line, “’Êḵ, nā·šîr ’eṯ- šîr- Yaweh ‘al, ’aḏ·maṯ nê·ḵār.?” The verb tense grasped my attention: a simple future modality. Simple future modality. Most often translated, the NRSV uses the conditional verb tense rendering “How Could we sing?” The conditional tense implies a futility where the song ceases and the melody can not be voiced. This is not accurate because the better rendition is “How shall we sing this Divine Song is a strange land?” This future simple modality is a continuum and implies, despite their captivity, the Hebrews could not not sing out their hope. This modality may not contain the subjugation desired by their tormentors, but the tune refuses to cease. The Divine Song has always been sung, is being sung, and will be sung again and again. The dream of freedom, the longing for that first Garden, the aching for Canaan, the yearning for the Kin_ship of God must be sung, even when the song is wordless and the melody is unknown. This is the Divine Memory that is woven in our spiritual DNA that draws us to remember a Holy Communion where all shall be truly embraced. These circumstances tonight call us to weep, but, first and foremost, this memory will always require us to sing.