1 When Zion’s fortunes God restored, it was a dream come true. 2 Our mouths were then with laughter filled, our tongues with songs anew.
The nations said, “The LORD has done great things for Israel.” 3 The LORD did mighty things for us, and joy our hearts knew well.
4 Restore our fortunes, gracious LORD, like streams in desert soil. 5 A joyful harvest will reward the weeping sower’s toil.
6 The man who, bearing seed to sow, goes out with tears of grief, Will come again with songs of joy, bearing his harvest sheaf.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this to the lovely tune Brother James’ Air here or the tune Abbey here.
I cannot read this Psalm (post-Greenbelt, challenged afresh in my desire to be a true follower of the Way of Jesus) outside the context of our current global environmental emergency.
If we pray ‘restore our fortunes, gracious LORD, like streams in the desert soil’ it has to be for ALL our fortunes, especially the poor, vulnerable and needy (rather than ‘wanty’). Restoration for the whole planet, as well as human community.
How we live NOW is sowing the seeds of the future (just as we are reaping the harvest of how we and others have lived over-consuming lives up to this point). It is not my generation that will reap the full harvest, but those born after me and those yet to be born. We have so little time to literally repent: to turn around, to radically reorientate.
So we must sow in tears of repentance: make changes to how we eat, shop, travel, use energy and all the other materials we rely on. We must replace ‘personal convenience’ with ‘whole planet impact’ as our method of valuing and evaluating all our choices – and accept the relative ‘pain’ this might cause us. Above all we have to actively choose how we sow rather than passively continue with business as usual.
I am humbled by those willing to protest, to be sufficiently obstructive to risk arrest and imprisonment, or worse in other parts of the world where confronting authorities with uncomfortable truths is ‘treason’. I weep with them, but lack the courage to do more than stand with them in prayer, and I am ashamed.
If I claim to love God and my neighbour, I owe it to the young adults, young people, children, infants, and generations yet to be born to be willing to lay down my life, or at the very least my comfort and convenience, in love for them. After all, God so loved the world….
Restore our fortunes, gracious LORD Like streams in desert soil.
Move our hearts to grief and repentance; Give us kingdom seed to sow.
May we hear the laughter, songs and joy Of the generations after us.
May we bless the world you have blessed us with. Amen
Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe Community, Oxford
Sing Psalms! (C) The Psalmody Committee, the Free Church of Scotland
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