A Harvest of Joy
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 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.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. Restore our fortunes, O lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb. May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, caring their sheaves. Psalm 126
As we begin this new year our world/country seems to be full of violence, fear, hate, name-calling, threats of nuclear destruction, bullying politicians, worry- among immigrants, the ill, the dreamer generation, and on goes the list of negative conditions. Is there really joy in the Lord? Do we have hope?
Perhaps it is time to recollect those times when we have been in the midst of difficulties and we have felt God’s presence giving us love, comfort, hope and even joy. God provided an inner strength to aid our survival, so that we too turned our tears and frustrations into shouts of joy.
Ruth Duck, a minister of the United Church of Christ, and former professor of worship and liturgy at Garrett Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, has written a hymn based on this psalm.
“When God Restored Our Common Life”
When God restored our common life, our hope, our liberty,
at first it seemed a passing dream, a waking fantasy.
A shock of joy swept over us, for we had wept so long;
the seeds we watered once with tears sprang up into a song.
We went forth weeping, sowing seeds in hard, unyielding soil;
with laughing hearts we carry home the fruit of all our toil
We praise the One who gave the growth, with voices full and strong.
The seeds we watered once with tears sprang up into a song.
Great liberating God, we pray for all who are oppressed.
May those who long for what is right with justice now be blest.
We pray for those who mourn this day, and all who suffer wrong;
may seeds they water now with tears spring up into a song.
This hymn is filled with hope, expressing the reality that even when life is difficult, full of sorrow and rough places, God surprises us with God’s presence, joy, and a new song for our tears. Stanza one and two recite the history of exile and hopelessness that the Hebrews experienced followed by God’s faithful restoration of their community. Stanza three is a prayer for all who are experiencing oppression or sorrow, that they too can have “tears spring up into a song.”
Weep when necessary, remembering that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” in the time of distress. May we too enjoy “A harvest of joy” as did the psalmist.
Joyce D. Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.