Yr C ~ Lent 5 ~ Psalm 126 Communion
On one level, our text today, Psalm 126, is simple to interpret. The psalmist is clearly in one of those in-between places in life, remembering when life used to be great, and how it felt like God did all sorts of wonderful things for them, but currently things aren’t so great and they need God to do it again, but they still have faith and trust that even though today they have tears they know that in time God will bring joy.
Things used to be great, they’re not now, I want them great again, I trust God will help.
Simple. Of course, we’re going to dig a little deeper than just that.
As we’ve seen with many psalms there’s a major turn in the middle of Psalm 126. The first three verses are teeming with joyful memories of God’s Presence and blessings. Then, out of nowhere verse 4 pleads, “Restore us!” Clearly, the joy is gone! The remaining three verses are all about tears, and hope, and not knowing, but trusting.
Where does trust come from?
What makes you likely to trust that God will again feel Present and bring joyfulness?
The psalmist starts with remembering how God moved before. That’s intriguing. It means that the psalmist was aware of God’s Presence before, “noticed” it, identified it as being God, embraced it as being God, and expressed gratitude for that Presence.
You can’t ask God to “do it again” if you’ve never had an inkling that God did it before!
And according to the psalmist God really did it before! It’s impossible to say if the psalm is about a specific incident but it’s likely referring to the return of the exiles from captivity. Israel was invaded and all their leaders and movers and shakers were marched away into exile, captivity, leaving only the poor behind as essentially slave labour. Eventually those exiles were returned – and the people of Israel thanked God for moving!
Now, I doubt any of us have ever been exiled or held in captivity!
Or have we? Maybe not politically, or physically, but we’ve all certainly be held captive by prejudice, or inexperience, and certainly by bad theology!
So this all begins with a sense of awareness that once we were captives, and it was unpleasant, and then somehow God moved in our lives and we were no longer held captive by whatever and it was joyful! Our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy! (v.2)
Sounds great! But what do we mean by “God moved in our lives?”
Some folks are really comfortable with that language and if you hear them talk you’d think God was actively responsible for every single thing in their life. “God gave us a beautiful day today. God blessed me with good health today. God helped me find my car keys!” – every aspect of life is infused with God’s movement for them.
Others among us are pretty skeptical about that kind of language. They’d probably never ascribe actual actions to God but would name God’s Presence in situations and be grateful for it – a more metaphysical approach.
I’m not taking sides – and there’s a whole spectrum of ways you might think of God moving between those extremes. But on some level, as people of faith, we need to find a way to acknowledge that God has moved and is moving in our lives.
What really intrigues me about this is that verse 2 suggests that God’s movement was so powerful, and so obvious, that even “the nations,” meaning others, outsiders, could see it and would exclaim that God moved there. It would certainly be noticeable if all of a sudden all those powerful people who had been exiled came strolling back into town!
But what about less dramatic things? Is God’s movement visible to outsiders? read on