We are offered Psalm 137 on this Lenten Sunday. “By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept.” Beautiful and poignant words! However, the psalm contains some of the most vengeful language in the psalms. Verse 9 isn’t included in our reading today, for obvious reasons. “Happy shall be he who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!”
The context for Psalm 137 is the Babylonian Captivity. The Babylonian exile is the period in Jewish history during which a number of people from the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon, the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The psalmist has returned from exile and prays for vengeance on Israel’s enemies.
We often suffer and seek God as individuals, but we worship together as a community of individuals who have been marked by an event. For instance, we witness many people gathering to mourn and be in vigil after a mass shooting or some other tragedy. We do not usually want to be alone in our grief.