“When the Lord gave the riches back to Jerusalem,
it seemed as if we were dreaming.
Then we were filled with laughter,
and we sang happy songs.
Then the other nations said
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are very glad.”
“Then…, then…, then…,” The people are reflecting. God, you were with us -- then.
These last few months have been a time of wondering God, where are you? Is God only in our church? Was God only with us then? Is God with us here? Is God with us now?
Psalm 126 shifts from remembering God in the past, to weeping about the struggle in the present.
“Those who cry as they plant crops…”
“Those who cry and carry out the seeds…”
They weep as they sow a garden.
It’s strange asking people how they’re doing. You no longer hear the response, “Good, how are you?”
If you listen closely enough, when we ask one another, “How are you?” we hear the weeping.
Weeping of small business owners not knowing how they will financially recover.
Weeping of exhausted parents trying to work from home and be with their children without any break.
Weeping of elders who are separated from their loved ones.
Weeping of families of people who work in law enforcement worrying about their safety.
Weeping of people whose income is insecure as they watch their bills pile and wonder if they will be evicted.
Weeping of teachers who poured out so much work last semester and frustratingly wondering how they will teach this semester.
Weeping of Black and brown people wondering if their names would be memorialized as a hashtag like Breonna Taylor, Dresjon Reed, Elijah McClain, Tamir Rice?
Weeping of people sitting behind screens while they argue with their relatives, friends, and coworkers on social media.
Weeping of people who are single or widowed feeling the weight of isolation
Weeping of students missing milestones -- graduations, proms, competitions, tournaments.
I wonder what has caused your weeping?
I wept at the seemingly acceptance of 120,000 Americans dying.
I wept thinking about George Floyd’s last moments on the concrete as he was desperately searching for help in a crowd of people, but only seeing cell phones recording his death.
I wept last Friday night after volunteering in a tent city in Indy. A little girl I’d been playing with asked, “Are you sleeping here tonight too?” That night I slept in my bed, in my house, while her and her mom were on that park bench.
I am not a person who cries, but my eyes have begun welcoming kleenexes as their new friend.
A lot of people have been shouting, “The apocalypse is near!” And they’re kind of right. Actually, very wrong, but unintentionally right. In Biblical studies, the word apocalypse means “to unmask” and “reveal hidden truths.” In a way, 2020 is a kind of apocalypse. No, it’s not the end of the world. But it is the year that everything is being unmasked and the hidden truths of our broken and oppressive systems are being revealed.
Psalm 126 shifts from remembering God in the past, to weeping about the struggle in the present, to doing the work for a different future -- planting a garden.
“Those who cry as they plant crops
will sing at harvest time.
Those who cry
as they carry out the seeds
will return singing and carrying bundles of grain.”
I read this passage and think, “Oh, God. I love gardening, but I am tired, my eyes are burning, and my face is puffy. Did you miss the last part where we’re all weeping?”
Our weeping about systemic racism, bankrupting health care, and fractured housing? Our weeping for the values and idols that have been placed on pedestals, but that we don’t see the reflection of Jesus in?
God is with us in our weeping. God doesn’t avoid our cries. God doesn’t ask us to quiet down. No, the tears of our weeping are the seeds for God’s restorative creation -- and we help by carrying seeds, planting crops, and imagining a new garden.
And if 2020 is a garden, it’s one that has recently been tilled. It’s a garden where the weeds can no longer hide, and the soil is raw and exposed. 2020 is a garden ready for some seeds.
Even with our stuffed up noses, pockets full of used kleenexes, and a good after-crying-headache, let us keep sowing the seeds of God’s kingdom.
Dig a hole for love, peace, compassion and empathy. Bury deeply the seeds of self-control, gentleness, critical thinking and contemplation. Nourish the seeds of joy, and play, and kindness. Plant seeds of dialogue instead of debate. Scatter seeds that grow conversations centered around listening and understanding rather than winning and diminishing opponents.
Thomas King, an indigenious author, said this about listening to the stories of others: “It’s yours now. Do with it what you will. Tell it to friends. Turn it into a television movie. Forget it. But don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.”
We sow this garden by listening to our weeping community. We rip up the weeds that may not be hurting us, but are crushing our neighbors. We replace weeds with crops that will nourish our neighborhoods. We grow a garden that is not overrun with ugliness but is blooming with beauty. We sow this garden by listening to our weeping community.
There are gardeners ready to dig their hands in some soil sitting in these pews and worshipping at home.
God was with us then last year at VBS weekend. God is with us now in our time of weeping. And God is ready to get on their hands and knees and dig into some soil alongside us.