“Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”1
Special days of the year are complicated for many people, and Easter Sunday is no different. It might be worth noting that on the first Easter Sunday, God had always known how things would turn out, but Jesus’ friends and followers didn’t. Even that morning, once Jesus had risen, there was a delay between the fact of hope and his disciples’ experience of it. It’s not that they weren’t interested in hope. Mary Magdalene went down to the tomb while it was still dark that morning, and even when Jesus stood right in front of her it took her time to recognise him. For poor Thomas, who, (we see in the Lazarus story), had been willing to die with him,2 it was a week before he shifted from despair to reality.
So here in Psalm 126, this psalmist can recall better times, and honestly, not all of us have even that capacity, but right now it sounds like they are much more present with weeping.
Those who go out weeping
There is a common enough myth in the Christian church, and I am so thankful for those who know it to be false, that sadness, depression, anxiety, grief, and mental illness, are all signs of lack of faith somehow. Others who falsely believe and perhaps even teach that victims of abuse share in the blame for the evil done by the perpetrator. One reality is that abusers, particularly narcissistic, entitled abusers, love to find victims who are good people. Because good people – kind, generous, loving – treat people well. Who doesn’t love to be treated well? What’s evil is when abusers return that goodness with harm.
This poet saw it and wrote about it. “Those who sow in tears.” People whom, despite their burdens, despite having every excuse to not sow, whom no one could blame for behaving badly, continue to hold fast to the kinds of choices that are so reminiscent of the character of Jesus. They continue to be kind, to give what they can, to be safe people to be around. They sow and cooperate with God in enriching life. At a cost: they sow in tears while they sweat.
Why on earth would God’s people of thousands of years ago settle on a song like this as part of a pilgrimage?
These psalms talk about leaving a place of danger, on a difficult journey to a place of sanctuary. Hope and yearning drive them – a hope that is not yet actualised.
Easter Sunday can be a stark reminder for many of the parts of their lives that are not thriving. Like any special day of the year, it can be triggering. This psalmist is well aware of the gap between life now and life hoped for and pleads with God for that thriving life to come.
And so the pilgrims would also pray
Will you pray for victims you may know, or not know? And if you are suffering yourself, here in this psalm is complete permission to beg God for help.
When Yahweh 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,
“Yahweh has done great things for them.”
Yahweh has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Yahweh,
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.3
Steve WadeThe Songs of Ascents talk about leaving a place of danger, on a difficult journey to a place of sanctuary. Hope and yearning drives them – a hope that is not yet actualised. Click To Tweet