Then Were We Like Those Who Dream
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C, RCL
I’ve mentioned before my love of the Psalms. The beauty of its poetry, the challenge of its lessons. It never fails to be impactful to me. It’s no exception with today’s Psalm 126. This Psalm was likely written out of joy and gratitude to God upon the return of the Israelites from Babylonian captivity. “Then were we like those who dream.” Interesting choice of words there. THEN were we like those who dream. Then being the word that raises the question, do we only get to dream when we are free of captivity? I hope not. For some, dreams of freedom, dreams of a brighter future, might be the one thing keeping them going during tough times. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” This was certainly a time for Dr. King and so many when the dreams for all were yet to be achieved. Yet, his dreams were so well expressed and so powerful to hear. I am in no way comparing myself to Dr. King, but I too dream about the future and where God may be found in the days ahead. My favorite time to dream is on Saturday mornings. It’s the one day that I usually have all to myself. I often find myself dreaming about what the future may hold for me. The day may even include prayers like… “God, what shall I do? What are you to make of me? How can I continue to grow toward you? What can I do today to prepare me for the days ahead? Will it be revealed to me? To us?
Let’s turn to the text of Psalm 126. The first three verses in this Psalm look back to the past. For the Israelites, it was a time of looking back and remembering their freedom. Boy, those were the days. We were filled with laughter and joy. We have been so blessed. The fourth verse changes course a bit. “The Lord has done great things for us.” There is a slight shift from remembering the past, where we previously experienced great joy. With verse four, the shift is to the present. An acknowledgement that the Lord has done great things for us…for you and me. Let’s not forget that God remains active in our lives. It’s important to read the text and the stories from our past, but we also must remember that God is working in our lives right now. Can we be joyful in our lives today and can we give thanks to God in the moment? Even when times are tough, can we say to God, “Thank you for giving me the energy to mourn, to feel the sadness that comes with loss. I need to feel every bit of it. Thank you for letting me cry and express myself. Also, thank you for giving me the ability to find joy now. To know that I live in complicated times but can find joy in the simplest of things.” Just drive around and look at the budding of the trees. I love to see the green come back through the trees in my neighborhood.
The remaining verses turn once again. This time toward the future. “Restore our fortunes, O Lord. Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.” There is much work to be done in this world. For too many, the church no longer inspires them to find joy in their lives. How can we turn to them and share the gifts of God? Will, as Dr. King said, the glory of the Lord be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” Is that our dream? It is our work as a church community to help make the glory of the Lord revealed and give space where all flesh shall see it together. There was a time in my life when church community was an afterthought to me. It was just a byproduct of the congregation being together to worship God. That worship of God was the thing I was there to do. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still here to worship God, but I also now realize how important it is for us to be together in community. Maybe it was my seminary experience that made that point for me. I couldn’t wait to drive up the Mountain and get there just in time to share in Morning Prayer with my classmates and teachers. My singing was mediocre at best, but it sure sounded better in community. My struggles were everyone’s struggles. My joys were everyone’s joys. At times we all struggled with our studies. Steve, I never shared in the direct anxiety of Dean Turrell’s liturgy class, but I heard all about it and shared in that pain with you!
“Restore our fortunes, O Lord.” May we be hopeful in what lies ahead for us and know that God will be with us, will restore us, and give us hope. What do you dream about? Where is God in that dream? Are we prepared to go into our future? I look around this place and I dream of a full church on Sundays. I dream of lots of children learning about God. I dream of a Sunday Forum class filled with adults asking questions about their faith. I can see it! What part do I play in this dream? We all have to be asking ourselves that question. What part do I play and how can I help others have that dream, too?
One final point as we head toward Palm Sunday next week and Holy Week. Let us be sure to take time that week to experience all the richness of the week. Let us look back and share in the joy of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Let us be mindful of the temptations and struggles we may experience during Holy Week as we come to terms with the sorrows in our lives amid the growing darkness all around us. Let us stay awake with Jesus in the Garden and fully experience our fears and insecurities. Let us go to the empty tomb and know that our pain isn’t the end of our stories. As Jesus has overcome the sting of death, so shall we. The resurrection of Jesus isn’t just a story we hear in the church, it is a time of clarity for us. It’s a symbol of hope. It is a call to action. Death has no hold on us. I ask you to be aware of all these experiences during Holy Week – a time to look back, a time to fully recognize where we are in the present and where are dreams are held in the promise of life ahead. Let our Psalm today be a guide in that experience. The Lord has done great things for them, has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed. Amen