Sunday 3 October 2010

One more response to Psalm 137

In the Selwyn gardens behind the chapel, the sounds of choir practice are again in the air, as they are preparing for the freshers service at 5:30. These two weeks were worth the wait just to hear Michael Tippet's Steal Away to Jesus sung by the Selwyn Choir. It's windy. I remember that the wind blows where it wills. It won't blow just so I can take a picture.

Reward her even as she rewarded you and repay her double for her deeds. (Revelation 18:6). Is this an allusion to Psalm 137? Also to Isaiah 40? Suddenly Babylon and Judah are juxtaposed.

The reception history in film that I saw in Lyons paper is anathema to me. The vengeance of Psalm 137 behind me, I cannot see in it a justification for ultra violence à la Clockwork Orange. This is not the righteousness of God. Just because it seems to be reception history, that does not mean it is right. So what is Revelation doing with this text from psalm 137? It is putting it in its only possible context, the sacrifice of the Lamb whose life is given for the life of the world.

If they strike you on the one cheek, offer them the other. Who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.

The one who said these words saves psalm 137 for his revelation to John. What shall I do with it in this context? I will not receive it as justifying a war of vengeance even though I might know and understand such thoughts. My thoughts would not attribute a blessing of happiness to one who fulfills them as vengeance. There is no joy set before him with respect to vengeance. God takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner. It is too easy to allegorize as do Origen and Lewis - of course we can be in a place of confusion, but Babylon is destroyed. God has remembered her iniquities. (Revelation 18:5).

Remember is the keyword linking this passage in Revelation to psalms 70 and 38 with inscription 'to remember' and those that use the frame of remember like psalm 137. The poet asks God to remember Edom and Babylon. (strophe 3) The poet wishes a curse on himself if he should fail to remember Jerusalem. (strophe 2)
If Revelation can use the fall of Babylon in this way, then I can say that to remember Zion (strophe 1) is to remember where the price was paid for sin in the self-giving of the Lamb of God. The anointed servant offered himself there for the people and for the life of the world. The elect servant and son, Israel, is the one to whom this love is entrusted and this finest gold is justified in remembering Zion and Jerusalem in this way - as the place of self-giving, even of our own selves.

And each of us, chosen, whether we are Jerusalem, or Edom or Babylon, as we acknowledge our role as destroyer, and allow ourselves to be destroyed in the Lamb, we each will be blessed with that happiness that is written of in the psalm because we will know the resurrection that is equivalent to the restoration of Zion. Even the foxes are redeemed.

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