On the Willows We Hung Our Harps: Preaching the Lament and Hope of Psalm 137

A genre that poses particular difficulty for preachers is
imprecatory lament. Psalms that call for vengeance are often a
mystery as we plan and prepare to preach. Yet if we are
committed to preaching the whole of the canon we must be
willing and able to preach these hard and sad texts to our
listeners. This paper will explore imprecatory lament for
preaching, first considering different lenses for their
interpretation and adoption in worship, and then working
through one of the most violent, Psalm 137, in a covenantal
context as an image of how we might engage these texts for
proclamation. We can faithfully preach the terrible beauty of
Psalm 137, and other imprecations, by aligning with the
psalmist’s pain and anger within the context of God’s indelible
faithfulness. This is timely as we are inundated with news of
tragedy, injustice, and pain in areas such as pandemic deaths,
racial division and violence, mass shootings, and war. The
lament and hope of Psalm 137 gives the preacher something to
say in the midst of tragedy as he or she seeks to bring hope to the