Keith Farrin reflected on that verse from Ps 137 in the light of our experiences now of Covid-19 and our exile into isolation.
“How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
A Reflection in the time of Covid-19.
When I look at the news now, this nation does appear as a foreign land. Nothing we have experienced before; nothing we could have expected.
While for most people this disease results in mild symptoms from which they will recover, for a few it will require specialist care, for a few of those it will result in death.
We cannot go to church, receive ‘by faith with thanksgiving’ the sacrament of bread and wine, we cannot ‘kneel in prayer together’.
We cannot meet for coffee, shake hands, or hold to comfort each other in our confusion, grief or joy.
What are we to do?
The people of the southern kingdom of Israel faced the loss of their temple when Nebuchadnezzar, in 597 BC. carried off the royal family and leading citizens to exile in Babylon. (1 Kings 24.10 -17) For them it was catastrophic, their faith was based in their land, centred around the Temple.
By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. (Psalm 137 vs. 1.)
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? (vs. 4.)
Jeremiah chose to stay with the people left behind.
Ezekiel went to Babylon, bringing God’s word to the exiles.
Yet that period of exile was formative for Judaism. They added to and edited their sacred scriptures, they learnt to pray where they were, to their surprise they found that God was there with them. “Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me;” (Jeremiah 29. 12 – 13)
The question was posed, “Can these dry bones live?” (Ez. 37. 3)
The answer was a resounding Yes! (Ez.37.1 – 14)
Much later, long after they had returned, when in AD70 the Temple was destroyed, they had a system of prayer to fall back on, to sustain them.
They had Synagogues in their main villages as we have our churches, but they also had their prayers, not dependent upon the Temple.
We do have our prayers, but we have in many cases lost the habit of them, relying on the “ministers” to always lead them in Church. We can reclaim that heritage. We can pray for health workers, for all who continue at risk to provide for our needs, and to pray for the families of all who die.
As “Resurrection people” we can have confidence, whatever happens.
Jesus prayed, ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’ (John 17. 25 – 26)
By the grace of God, we can emerge more resilient from this.
Keep in touch via telephone, Facebook or website, we remain one body, though scattered as grain.
AKF. April 2020