When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream. In the Name of the One who Creates, Redeems, and Sanctifies us. Amen.
Psalm 126 is a lament. A lament of a people who know God to be faithful. Who know what it is to bask in the sunlight of God’s favor. Laments like this – they’re like wrestling with God. There’s a push-pull sort of thing to it. God pulling us into something new perhaps – And us – wanting to push back a bit. Because we need help. Or time. Or clarity. A lament is a cry – for help – for justice – for life – And in this case – it is a faithful prayer - Made by a people who want to dream again. Who are tired of sowing seeds with tears – And want instead to come again in joy.
We light a pink candle today on our Advent wreath that reminds us of joy – That actually bids us – in the midst of this advent season – to rejoice. In a world where so much is not finished – Where there is violence – And racism – And hatred – and fear – How can we rejoice? In our own lives – especially at the holidays – When we worry about the people we love – Or struggle with broken relationships –
Loss – and uncertainty about what is to come – How can we rejoice?
We know – here in Meriden – and around the world – what it is to sow seeds with tears. Where in your life – have you sown these seeds? Bending – and perhaps breaking – and hoping that God would bring peace – and joy? Are you finding it hard to rejoice – because of all that surrounds you?
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses of the Negev. We’re doing two special things today. After the 10:00 service we’re gathering to ask God to restore our watercourses. We will talk about numbers – some data – some figures. Some facts about this parish family as it stands right now. Some of these numbers may worry you. Some of you might wonder though – why we’re doing this? Why, in church, we’re talking about things that seem so desperately common. Don’t be fooled.
Because it is our God who renders the common holy. Who breaks through the mundane of our earthy life – and brings joy – and holiness. And in these numbers – and figures – in this common data – Is the stuff of dreams. So that we can dream.
And we do this – so that we can take these next steps together as a community – dreaming together about what is to come. What fortunes God has in store for us. So that there will be no secrets between us. Only the mystery surrounding us – as God leads us somewhere new. And in our faithfulness – and our desire to dream of this future – and to prepare a future for this place –
God will restore our watercourses. So that the seeds planted in preparation – and perhaps even some seeds planted with the tears of sincerity – and hope – and perhaps even fear – will grow. And bear the fruits of joy and righteousness. In doing this – we invite God in again to use us – and make something of us – to grow the harvest of righteousness.
We do something else important today, too. After the Peace, after our children return to us from Church School – We are going to pray together as a community, for three of our own who face important operations this week. One by one – we will lay hands upon these three children of God.
And pray – as they are anointed. Over – and around them – we will invoke this same – sanctifying – anointing Spirit that Isaiah is talking about. The Spirit that restores the fortunes of Zion. The Spirit that gives us life abundant in Jesus Christ. The Spirit that comforts and strengthens us – and lifts us up. As children of God – we will wrap them in prayer – and anoint them – and know that the Spirit we invoke is faithful. And like the people of Israel crying out in our Psalm for today – We will call on the One who is faithful. The One who cares for us – and restores our fortunes – and makes promises of wholeness – and abundance - The One who always keeps promises.
And even in the midst of what feels uncertain – we will find that God’s faithfulness is reason enough to rejoice. In the midst of this season – And all the things around us that are broken – or simply unfinished – Unclear – or uninviting – We will find that God’s goodness is reason to rejoice.
Last week we talked a bit about John. And about what it means for us to continue to share the good news of John. Today – in all that we do – we testify to the light. We testify to the light when we gather to pray. And especially when we pray for each other. We testify to the light – by caring for the this place. By ensuring its future. By participating in its life and mission – now. We testify to the light by gathering here. By gathering around this table. By kneeling at this rail.
And we do this – not only because we’re called to do it – But because we know that there is reason to rejoice. We know that the prophecy in Isaiah has been fulfilled. That Jesus Christ has come into the world. And that even at the end of this season of darkness – that the light will always break through.
That the darkness that surrounds us will never overcome the light of Christ. So rejoice. Rejoice no matter what surrounds you. Pray – and wait – but rejoice. And believe that just as God has restored the fortunes of Zion – so that it was possible for Israel to dream of a new future –
That so, too, does God always – always – Faithfully – restore our watercourses, our fortunes, too. Ours – individually – in our own lives. With the promise of life abundant – and eternal. And ours – as a community – as this parish family of St. Andrew’s in Meriden. And the seeds of our lives – that might have been sown with tears – If tended – and cared for – If lamented over – If loved and prayed for – Will, like Zion, be restored. And will allow us to reap with joy and to come again singing songs of praise.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream. May the Lord restore your fortunes. May you rejoice – no matter what it is that surrounds you. And tend to those seeds in your life – even the ones sown with tears – So that you – and we – may reap the harvest of joy and righteousness.