Notes from the pastor
Psalm 126 voices Israel’s thirst for God to redeem their circumstances in the way that the rains refresh and nourish the great watercourses of their native Negev Desert. The people of Israel remember how God rescued them from exile and returned them to the land. They confess, “When the LORD changed Zion’s circumstances for the better, it was like we had been dreaming.” In other words, we had forgotten who we were, what our story was, and who God is. But suddenly God broke into our sorrow and loved us by leading us home. God showed up as sure and surprising as the rains that bring water and life to the desert. Life requires radical trust, though often our reactions betray our uncertainty that God will actually flood the droughts we suffer.
Philip Britts was a British poet and horticulturalist during the early twentieth century. He once wrote about the difficulty of trusting God in all seasons of life: “We are so distracted by many things. Our spiritual awareness waxes and wanes in intensity. … We may get lifted up in moments of tenderness but will be cast down in hours of dryness.” Like the desert, human life, as diverse as our experiences are, rarely settles into equilibrium. Dry seasons leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled. Rainy seasons fill us until we’re spilling over with joy and thanksgiving. Being a human being is hard. If only we had the ability to trust God to intervene and transform things!
In their moment Israel decidedly remembers the intimacy of God. They remember how God restored their circumstances in the past, a history that tells them to expect and recognize God’s faithfulness now. God will come just like the waters come rushing down the mountains and into the dried watercourses of the Negev in due season. The intimacy they have shared with God prepares them to face an uncertain present with rejoicing hearts.
We don’t always emphasize how the longing and anticipation of Advent is meant to expose the parched places of our personal and communal lives, spaces that need the nourishment of God’s healing presence. Psalm 126 sings of joyful relief because the people know what to expect from the God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt and who restored them from exile. They trust the Lord to be as faithful and timely as God has always been.
Psalm 126 doesn’t say that God will act from heaven to remove all our tears and sorrow so that joy may come. No, it says, “those who plant tears will reap the harvest with joyful shouts! … Those who go out, crying and carrying their seed, will come home with joyful shouts, carrying bails of grain.” When suffering comes, God gives the one thing we need, the one thing we cannot produce ourselves: grace and divine presence. And so in due time, God’s son is born into the world, not because the world is ready and willing, but because it’s parched, cracked, and pitiable; because nothing can stop the roaring waters of joy from bringing justice to a world still divided and hurting; because nothing can keep Jesus from seeing us, loving us, and wanting to heal us from everything that has wounded and parched our souls.
May the waters of God’s grace course through our lives and the lives of all who long for the nourishment of God with us. 
- Pastor Patrick                                                                  
Last Published: December 11, 2018 11:59 AM
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