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                            Psalm 139: 1-14




Vulnerable God

Dare we call you that
for we need to you be that,
for you to know our vulnerability

Vulnerable God

Dare we recognise you like that
that you are next to the last and least of us

Vulnerable God

May we know you like that
in our own crises, suffering, anxiety

Even as it is so counter intuitive in our society
for among all the words of power and greatness
these last days
right at the heart of project optimism
rallying calls and motivating visions
may we know you
in the real life we all live

and to accept we rely on a different kind of power
than greatness
but found in compassion

and in such a place
that caring place
that place we can bring ourselves as we are
we meet you
a God
who understands

This is the love we seek
and follow
and wish to shape in our world

and we lay down now
those times when we have pursued
that other power
of might
of lauding ourselves over others
and today
touch our vulnerability
with yours
and know the greater place we are in
where we can share the depth of life

There are two opposite psalms almost next door to each other: Psalm 137 by the Babylonian rivers, made famous by Boney M and 139 which we read this morning. One is a lament questioning where God could be in the midst of suffering, the other the trust that there is nowhere God cannot be found and as such they speak into each other. Here’s a dialogue between paraphrases of the two psalms.

Along Babylon’s riverbanks

    we sat and wept, face to the waters, we cried:

    “O Zion, O Zion and the good old days!”

I am an open book to you;
   you know my mind: closed or open
      my presence: my leaving, my arrival.
Nowhere I find myself is beyond you finding me.

Among the aspens

    we piled our silent harps
that had forgotten how to play.
Yet that’s where our captors,
with their sarcasm, mocked us:

    “Sing us a happy Zion song!”
Before I take breath,
      you know what I am going to say;
   before I feel it,
      you know my pain;
   before I start the first sentence,
      you know how it will end.

How can we ever hear God’s song again

    in this bad-land of our captivity?

Behind me, I see you there,
      ahead of me, I sense your waiting presence.
No matter the road,
   be it the path through trial or a journey of hurt
      in my travelling you share your companionship.

Yet, if my voice ever forgets Jerusalem’s words,

    may my fingers wither and my tongue swell
O Jerusalem, the greatest!

Is there a place, anywhere,
    far enough to be unknown,
    dark enough to be lost,
    that I can go to break free of you?

What if I grow wings and fly?
    No, you are the eagle beside me
What if I burrow underground?
    No you are the earth around me.
What if I soar towards the western dawn?
    No, you are the sun, rising to greet me.
There is no place, anywhere
    that is far enough away
    to be lost to you.

You, Babylonians!

    May there be a special reward
to whoever gets back at you

    for all you’ve done to us;
clutching your baby infants

    and shatters their heads on Babylon’s river rocks!

So it is true,
   there is no shadow long enough
   to hide your presence,
no hurt or thought too dark
   that your light cannot reveal your presence.
Light and dark mean little to you.

By the Babylonian rivers
we sat down and cried and wept
Zion, O Zion, what has become of you?

I look to my back and you’re there,
   up ahead there you are too—

      your presence, dispelling my fear.
Nowhere I find myself is beyond you finding me.

Hymn 94    By the Babylonian rivers

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