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A song of ascents.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs 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 are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
by Kate Kooyman
The people of Israel were experts in the art of hope. In this Psalm, we see it clearly: this picture of what it will be like when God redeems them. What it will feel like when they are delivered.
One morning this week, I was crying. I’m not really a crier. So I did it in a corner of my kitchen, because my kids were eating breakfast and I’m trying really hard not to scare them.
I was crying because a man who campaigned on a platform of xenophobia, who is an unapologetic sexist, who has proposed the enactment of war crimes, who has been celebrated by white supremacists, who has mocked and belittled the vulnerable, has become our next commander in chief. In the wake of that, countless of acts of hate and harassment have been committed all over the country. One happened to my neighbor. Another to the child of my friend.
I’m lucky to be part of a community who feels this with me. I look around and I see others whose eyes are red, whose thoughts are scattered, who are stunned and broken. It feels like the ground has shifted under our feet. It’s not just that we are grieving that our dreams won’t be realized; it’s also that we are afraid. The promises of what will come next are terrifying.
It’s hard for me to be a Christian right now. My colleagues and I have been sowing these seeds for a while, and we’ve been expecting to see fruit. We’ve been talking to Christians about immigration — busting those pervasive myths, explaining how the system is broken, remembering our xenophobic history, highlighting Scripture’s repeated calls to hospitality. And now, I’m mad at the church. I feel defeated, and I feel betrayed, and I feel scared. (And this is a fraction of what I would feel if I were Muslim, LGBTQ, an immigrant, or one of the many other groups who can quote the threats that have been made against them by our elected president.)
I’m tempted to put down the seeds. I’d rather quit sowing the seeds than keep dreaming that they’re ever going to grow.
After so many reminders from Christians that “God is in control!”, I’m tempted to make demands. The time is now. The seeds are good. The soil is ready. We are desperate. Do something. I’d rather demand that river of justice than sit around singing about it.
I’m grateful that the people of Israel could sing about “streams in the Negev” in the midst of their dry season. I’m grateful that they could proclaim, in advance, their conviction that “the Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” They were far from joy; they were sowing those seeds while weeping.
While I was crying in the corner of the kitchen, my kid was drawing this picture.
Friends, we’re going to keep sowing those seeds. We’re going to see each other soon, and our arms are going to be bursting with full-grown sheaves. And we’re going to say to each other, “Only God could have done this.”