Fifth Wednesday of Lent – Wednesday, April 10, 2019

April 10, 2019  

Psalm 126

There’s always something to argue about.
I don’t know about you but, I have had arguments about some ridiculous things.
When I have those kind of arguments, they seem (in the moment) extremely important. Later on I look back on the argument and think “Really? Did we really argue about that?”

As I was studying in preparation for this sermon I happened upon a scholarly argument about how Psalm 126 was translated. If you look at the translation we have in our bulletin, you will see that the first three verses are written in past tense, describing what God has done for the people of Zion. Verses four through six in the psalm are translated in both present tense and future tense. “Restore our fortunes O Lord” is a present tense plea. The writer, speaking on behalf of a people, says “we need this now.” Then the writer imagines what shall happen when their fortunes have been restored: those who weep will “come home with shouts of joy” (The New Interpreter’s Bible volume 4, p. 1194).

Not all scholars agree that psalm 126 should be translated in tenses that aren’t consistent with one another. Some scholars translate the psalm all in past tense, some translate the psalm all in future tense (TNIB vol. 4 pp. 1194-1195).

Their arguments are not ridiculous because the tense of the translation changes the entire meaning of the psalm. If the psalm is all in past tense it is speaking to what God has done, making it a psalm of thanksgiving. If the psalm is translated all in future tense it is a plea for help. Translating the psalm in all three makes it a little bit of each: it is a words of thanks, a word of longing, and a word of trust all at the same time (TNIB vol. 4 pp. 1194).

The scholar re-capping the argument believed the best translation of the psalm was the one that combined tenses, allowing the psalm to have relevance for every generation, regardless of what circumstance people found themselves in (TNIB vol. 4, p. 1195).

As faithful people, we have a rich history of relationship with God that goes back generation after generation. The bible tells the stories of centuries. Reading scripture, we can see what God has done. And we give thanks.

As faithful people, we look at our relationship with God in our own lifetimes. We look back and give thanks for what God has done in our lives. We look at what God is doing in our lives and we rejoice or we wonder, or we hope for a future that is better than what the present is, praying.

As faithful people, we look at our relationship with God and we have hopes, hopes rooted in our confidence that God has been present– that God is present, and that God will always be present in our lives and in the world. We hope for our own futures and we hope for the future of next generations. We hope for the future of the world in all its totality—beyond just that of humankind.

The season of Lent is just such a journey from past to present to future.
We look at the needs of the world that brought God to believe God needed to give God’s only Son, that all who believe might perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). We look at the ministry of Jesus, at his words and deeds. We look at his death grieving his suffering while knowing his death would bring about his resurrection. And we give thanks.

In this moment, we see our own sinfulness, knowing how desperately we need the promise of forgiveness. We know our need even as we trust that grace is ours because God has said God loves us in spite of what we do.

Looking to tomorrow, or to the days after tomorrow, we believe in God’s promises. God promises to be with us, always. God promises to love us, always. God promises eternal life lived with God, forever.

Remembering, believing, and trusting—even in our worst moments we can hope that our fortunes will be restored.

We know, those who “sow in tears” WILL reap “with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:5).

We believe, those “who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing shall come home with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:6).

We remember.
We know.
We trust and we hope.

Because God “has done great things for us” we rejoice (Psalm 126:3).

Amen.