Weeping in Babylon and Remembering Zion

Weeping by the River

A sermon idea based on Psalm 137.

Psalm 137:1-9 NRSV

[1] By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. [2] On the willows there we hung up our harps. [3] For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

[4] How could we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land? [5] If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! [6] 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.

[7] 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!” [8] O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! [9] Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!


The relevant topic I would be addressing, based on this text…

When you feel overwhelmed by the weight of the world’s suffering and heartache, call to memory the markers in your life’s story that reaffirm God’s goodness.


Information about the text that matters to the message…

Babylon was, for the writer of this solemn hymn, a literal and historical setting. And Babylon is also representative in scripture of a culture surrounding us that is often hostile to the ideals and values of God as embodied in Jesus Christ.

We see it in the early chapters of Genesis (Babel) and the final chapters in the New Testament (Revelation). Babylon represents a culture in which the lives of all are severely undervalued, where power is fully corrupt, and where consumption and conquering are the highest virtues.

We live in such a world, still, and we even reflect that in our own lives to one degree or another, whether we’re willing to see it or not. And in such a world, people suffer, often innocently.

Our hearts wind up being broken on behalf of ourselves and those who are undervalued, oppressed, and marginalized.

I love the picture the psalmist paints. We sat down by the river, seeing Babylon all around us, but remembering Zion.

Zion was the capital, the home of the temple, and the center of worship for the people of Israel. Its very stones were memorials to what once was for them.

I’ve found that in everyone’s story are such markers – memorials that point to the intervention and activity of an invisible but very real and present God. We have to learn to weep, because weeping is essential. But we also have to learn to remember and to redirect our thoughts once again to what we know of the goodness of God.


The big call-to-action in the message…

This week, practice both the weeping and the remembering. Feel your feelings, name them, and own them. Then remind yourself of what is empirically and eternally true beyond your present stress and suffering. What’s your Zion?


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About the Cover Art: Photo by Oliver Hotakainen on Unsplash.

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