Words about fasting and a reassurance in the midst of economic turmoil: these characterise chapters 7 and 8 of Zechariah. Again, reading these chapters in their context is crucial to how we engage with them. The closing verses of chapter 8 present a vision of the city as being at the heart of the hopes of all nations. Jerusalem’s universal appeal, of course, resonates powerfully and profoundly with that city today as the focus of so much tension, yet still a sign of great hope. Sometimes the prophets can leave us overwhelmed with the impossibility of our role in proclaiming the Scriptures. How can we understand and make sense of where we are? Yet, we are reminded, too, of the importance of attending to glimmers of light and hope where we find them, often in unexpected places.
Psalm 137, well-known to many, is an expression of lament, of the impossibility of keeping faith in the midst of great unrest. How can a people in exile sing praises to God? How to remember not only who we are but whose we are is crucial. And then of course, verse 9—often this verse is skipped, but how might it be read? How should it be read? When interpreting the psalm, it is important to take into account that the author uses different genres or styles of writing in order to create certain effects. Verse 9 is therefore deeply ironic in its context.
The journey to the cross reaches a climax in Mark 15 where the ultimate irony and tragedy is the shame of the Christ crucified. How can this be? Jesus is buried, but as we know, this is not the end of the story.
How do you read Psalm 137?
In Mark 15, where are you in the narrative? Mark’s Greek here is again in the present tense. Read the chapter aloud in the present tense. What difference does this make to our understanding?
Loving God, be with us in the words of Scripture that are tough and challenging. Help us to read and interpret with great care. Amen.