Rev. Sue Latourette serves as pastor with the good folk of the Congregational UCC in North Stonington, CT.
Scripture: Psalm 126 (NRSV)
A Harvest of Joy
A Song of Ascents.
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,
carrying their sheaves.
I’ve always been a fan of those TV shows where old houses become restoration projects.
When I was living in an old house, I dreamed (if I had the funds) of updating the wiring, fixing plaster, and restoring the old beehive oven. Some things had been repaired…but definitely not restored. The fireplace was built of good old brick and mortar but someone had decided to repair it with ugly firebrick. A true restoration would have used the rose-colored clay brick. Of course, it wouldn’t be original, but it would appear as it once was.
The question of Restoration has been on my mind since Lent began. Psalm 126 sparked the image of captives returning to Zion. Even amidst the gratitude of the psalm I sensed the underpinnings of great yearning. There is true gladness as well, yet it is not a careless glee. Restoration to the homeland was a dream come true. And yet… having been captives, or exiles, or refugees, they would never be the same people they were before the sojourn. Like you and I facing and living through Covid, returning to what "once was " offers some relief, and we know things will never be the same. We might have been able to restore worship in-person, daily life and all that goes with it. Things may appear as they once were. We are not.
What remains, what has never needed restoration, is the Divine message of accompaniment, of renewal, of healing, and hope. In Isaiah, Yahweh’s words urge us forward: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness . . ." (Is 43:18-19a). It is hard for us mere mortals to leave the past behind, as it brought us thus far – even made us what we are. But in these words, and those of the psalmist, we connect to whose we are and how our future is possible.
"Those who sow in tears will reap in joy… " (Ps 126:5) sings of the future than can be, that will be. It’s an image held before us so we can gird our loins, shield our hearts, and take one more step forward. Like the farmer sowing seeds in faith that the earth will provide, so our tears, our experiences are rooted in us and may grow into the sublime joy of the faithful - joy that ripens and is shared.
We need foundation of that joy now more than ever. This Lent seems darker and more grim than any I remember. We are watching the world, the heartbreak of war, the fleeing refugees, and so much that is broken. We could despair. Or we trust there is a way being made in the wilderness for us. Streams of the Spirit are bursting forth to renew in us the gifts of prayer, acts of compassion, words and presence so we can turn the world upside down. We can because we follow One who came to renew and restore our relationship with our Creator, who gives us the ability to act in faith. We can bring restoration to our lives and the lives of other, even only one act, one life, one brick at a time.
Guide us, oh God, into your peace, onto your paths, unto your will for our lives and times. Restore in us an abiding trust in you, and lead us with your love, as we make use of what we have been given to offer liberating hope and help to all we are able. In your Holy Name. Amen
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war
- For the family and friends of Rev. John Arens, UCC pastor who served in CT, who died on March 8
- For the family and friends of Rev. Dr. Stanley Possell, UCC pastor who served in MA and CT, who died on March 20
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For young people who remind us adults how important dreams of the future can be
This Week in History:
April 1, 2022 (4 days from now) A devotional editor for the SNE Conference, who recently experienced the shock of realizing his first born child was an adult, survived the revelation that he also had a 16 year-old daughter. Though millions of parents had survived similar moments in the past, this editor's vivid imagination had traumatized him for years as he contemplated all manner of horrors at having teenagers in the house. Fortunately, the daughter in question was a true April Fool's prank and turned out to be a wonderfully talented young lady with a caring heart. Happy Birthday Dani.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”