A Song of Ascents
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts 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 rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
God’s people begin with gratitude because gratitude is a call to worship. Our Order for the Service of Baptism begins with an introduction to the sacrament ending, “…all this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.” The Service of Word and Table looks over the shoulder of Jesus saying, “on the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you….” The psalm recommended for Thanksgiving begins with the confidence gained by remembrance: ‘When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” Where does gratitude begin for you?
Psalm 126 is a prayer for national restoration that starts with a knowledge that God has been faithful before and this is the source of our return to prayer. God has been God of our forbearers and more. God’s wisdom is behind and in a well-ordered creation that provides for an interdependent good given that our sharing would make Christ known.
That is not to say this psalm is unaware of arid terrain. This prayer for restoration is paired with the image of freshets in the Negeb, the ghosts of streams that are renewed by regular cycles of rain and newness. Maybe Jesus has this psalm in mind when he says, “Blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be comforted.” There is so much to mourn as we continue to face the next wave of pandemic. Perhaps, we too, would benefit from prayer for national restoration. It is time to pray that neighborliness would be restored. We pray with the Bishops of the UMC who seek a restoration of creation that is well-ordered and without the harm of racism and white supremacy. It is time to note how the psalm centers creation itself with watercourses and sheaves that become symbols of a return to home. God’s people begin with gratitude because gratitude is a call to worship, and worship has the power to restore. As your bishop, I would encourage you to take time with gratitude and follow the rivers that lead to worship.
We have much to mourn as a world-community, and I lift to you my own prayer for all who grieve. I am praying with gratitude for your faithfulness, and I am also aware of the sufferings in these days for so many. Know that I am praying for you.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).