We sat down, yea, we wept…we hung our harps upon the willows.@Psalm 137:1-2

Carolyn W. Gillette, 2003.

Leoni Hebrew melody, Sacred Harmony, 1780 (🔊 pdf nwc).

portrait
Carolyn W. Gillette (1961-)

This hymn is dedicated to the memory of Shaul Lahav, grandson of Paul and Helen Loeb, who was killed on November 18, 2003 on the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Early one Tuesday morning, we got the phone call from two grandparents in our church that their grandson had been killed in Israel. Shaul had been staffing a checkpoint on the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem with another Israeli soldier. A Palestinian had come toward them with a prayer rug. Hidden within it was an automatic weapon. He killed Shaul and the other soldier while the latter was talking on a cell phone to his mother. My husband and co-pastor Bruce went over to the Loeb’s house as soon as we got the phone call and prayed with them. Later that day, Bruce took them to the airport so they could attend their grandson’s funeral in Israel. The following Sunday, this hymn was sung in our church, and shared with Shaul’s family in Israel.

Because of Bruce’s work in the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly related to the Middle East, we are very much aware that there are tragic killings and suffering experienced by all sides, including many of our fellow Christians who are Palestinians. Loved ones on all sides of conflicts get those terrible phone calls. As people of faith, we pray for peace, for a time when weapons of war will be transformed into farming tools and gardening implements, when national budgets will be used not to kill but to feed and care for people.

Carolyn Gillette, Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor (Upper Room Books, 2009)

Another son is killed,
Another daughter dies,
And loving, waiting homes are filled
With loved ones’ cries.
As rivers never sleep,
So wars flow on and on.
Hang up your harps, sit down and weep
For those now gone!

We grieve for children lost,
For hearts too sad to pray;
We mourn, O Lord, the growing cost
Of hatred’s way.
And sure as threats increase
And anger turns to war,
We pray that we may find a peace
Worth struggling for.

We know your way, O Lord,
For all your people here:
A plowshare from a fighting sword,
A transformed spear!
Now comfort those who grieve,
Be in each saddened home,
And by your grace may we believe—
And seek Shalom.