By Alex Macias
Lectionary reading for 4/1/2022: Psalm 126; Isaiah 43:8-15; Philippians 2:25-3:1
Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 126
A Harvest of Joy. A Song of Ascents.
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
5 May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves
One of the things I miss most about living in Tucson, Arizona, my hometown, is the monsoon season. Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert where life seems to be hanging by a thread for the majority of the year—the heat is oppressive, the air dry. A gust of wind feels like someone directed a massive blow-dryer in your face. The landscape is arid and brown and the animals that live there are consequently thin and resourceful.
When the monsoons hit, the change is dramatic. There is no drizzle, no trickle of rain to warn you. Just a growing humidity and the smell of the creosote plants, and then suddenly the heavens open up and downpour. Lightning electrifies the sky and thunder cracks overhead reverberating through the mountains that encircle the city. Dry and dusty riverbeds are suddenly coursing with water catching people (and drivers) off guard by flash floods.
Psalm 126 is a song of ascents, a song for the climb, the journey to worship. Like the return of water to the barren waterways of the Negev desert, the psalmist remembers the return of the Israelite captives after the Babylonian exile. Their return was like treasure restored. The surge of joy so full and so powerful it felt more like a dream than reality. Where they had been left empty, God filled to overflowing. Their elation after such communal grief and loss was evidence of God’s presence and action not only to their own community but to those of surrounding communities as well. It is this memory that the psalmist holds on to with hope as the community pleads with God to restore once again. “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.”
Lent is a time in which we ponder our humanity with its shortcomings and limitations—our mortality. It is also a time of reevaluating how to live into the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. The psalm depicts a community that can teach us how to hope. Though they experience hardship again, this is a people who takes comfort in God’s deeds in their past. They may weep as they gather seed and plant in a dry land, but to sow at all is an act of hope. They have seen the waters of restoration flow and trust that they will flow again.
After a monsoon, the dark storm clouds soon clear to reveal that burning sun once again, and if you’re lucky, a rainbow stretches across the striking blue sky. The landscape is for a moment sparkling with the last drops of water before they evaporate in the rising heat, and the creosote, which to me is the smell of home, is fully awake and perfuming the air until the scent too is burnt off by the sun. The desert is briefly a different place before it returns to its typical arid state. Though it’s hard to believe, desert dwellers must trust that the rains will come again.
On the Lenten journey to the death and resurrection of Christ, you may be “sowing in tears.” Perhaps you are burdened by your personal circumstances. Or perhaps you are overwhelmed by all that is not right in our world—violence, hunger, fear. Take a moment to breathe deeply and call to mind a time of God’s restoration in your personal life, in history, or in nature.
God of abundance, we praise you for all that you have restored and continue to restore. Help us to hope even when all seems hopeless. Fill us to overflowing so that our joy spills over to those around us.
About the Author
Alex Hofmann Macias serves as Director of Academic Programming at North Park Theological Seminary. A native of Tucson, Arizona, she now lives just outside of Chicago with her husband and two children. Alex is a lover of foreign films, good food, novels, laughing, and singing really loud in the car.