There is much to like about a barbeque restaurant. The smell of meat smoking, special sauce, the music. My mouth waters just thinking about it. More often than not, in my mind at least, the music of choice is the blues. Whether or not that is true – when I hear the blues, I think of barbeque.
Apparently, barbeque distracts me (I am thinking about brisket right now). Because I am trying to think about an old psalm. The psalms are set naturally to music and Psalm 137 is no exception. But if the psalms were a series of concerts, Psalm 137 is the place where the concert tour gets hi-jacked. There we find ourselves struggling to sing our songs. How are we expected to sing in a foreign wasteland?
Just listen… “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept… Upon the willows… We hung our harps.” Then “how can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” Keep listening… “May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you.”
Instead of song, we get tears. The singers have literally hung up their instruments. Their tongues are sticking to the roof of their mouths. The point is, if this is a song, it is the blues. When we hear it we hear the heartache and disappointment and tears. We hear the blues. It is unclear who wrote this psalm. I propose it was someone with a name like Fat Matt, One Eyed Willie, or Skeeter.
But if we listen again, we might hear something more. We might hear the faint sound of tenacity. We might hear the desire to remember. We might hear the undercurrent of hope to sing again. We might hear a concerted effort to not forget.
I can’t help but find myself in a place where I wonder what will happen next. And then I hear the clanging of silverware. I am pretty sure I smell smoked brisket and my mouth begins to water when Skeeter walks out with the special sauce and sets it on the table. Did I mention that I get distracted by barbeque? My apologies, we are talking about Psalm 137. We are talking about the blues. But we sing this song with the recognition that things are not ok as they are. We sing this song with the expectancy that things will be different one day. We sing this song so we will not forget. It is time to reach into the branches and take down our instruments. It is time to sing.