GPS and Psalm 126 - Working Your Way
Through Life Detours (October 3)
by Rev. Lee Johnson
october 3, 2021
In the Old Testament book called Psalms, Psalm 126 is grouped together with 15 other Psalms, Psalm 120 to 134. These Psalms are called Psalms of Ascent, ascent meaning journey. They were recited and remembered as the people of Israel journeyed from place to place, often into worship, maybe as they traveled to Jerusalem for yearly festival weekends. You might say they were used as a compass, to guide the way. Long before something like Global Positioning Satellite was invented to help us find our way, these Psalms served as a sort of “faith roadmap.” Old Testament scholars like Walter Brueggemann say the Psalms of Ascent were composed “on the other side of things,” meaning after Israel had come through some life detour, like a national disaster, or after time spent in exile. Now, they lived life on the other side of the detour. To make it safely through that which blocked the path, the Israelites wrote songs, called Psalms, which are words and music that reminded, re-directed, and re-invested their faith in the God who led the way. The words and music were both bold and comforting. Have you ever encountered a life detour - a moment when what you had planned for didn’t happen the way you expected? How did you react? How did you work your way through the detour? Did you have a Plan B?
It’s safe to say that no one gets through life without life detours. Things don’t always happen in the manner we expect. So the question becomes, how do we best navigate our way through those life detours that are certain to happen? For nearly 20 months now, our entire world has been through a detour. We’ve called it COVID. The symptoms of this world pandemic are more than just physical. COVID has left some psychological and emotional detours, too. I stopped to shop at Macy's in Town Center Plaza on Wednesday. I was surprised at the number of people I encountered without masks. My inclination was to look at “them” with distrust. See what I mean? I don’t think I’ve ever looked at anyone in Macy's with distrust! So, how have you worked your way through the life detour called COVID? Has your faith served as a GPS roadmap? Interestingly, I read the other day that churches were one of six places to avoid during the pandemic. Thankfully, the study didn’t say anything about online worship or Sunday afternoon football at Arrowhead Stadium. What have you done to help navigate the detour called COVID? How has your faith played a role? Have the experiences of COVID strengthened your faith?
They say, whoever “they” might be, we are closing in on “the other side” of the Covid pandemic. Won’t that be a great day? This detour has been long and hard. In Psalm 126, the Israelites are finally returning home from not one, but two, detours – which both re-routed the Israelites to foreign lands. The exiles were a reminder that things don’t always go as you plan. In reading Psalm 126, God is seen both as a source of strength while in exile and as the provider for their return. “The Lord has done great things for us,” says the Psalm. “Those who go out weeping shall come home with shouts of joy.” The Psalm gives us hope – when things don’t turn out the way we plan, God is still doing great things in our lives so that our coming home might be a reason for joy. The Israelites did their share of complaining and grumbling while in exile, even laying blame upon God. We’ve done some, if not all of that, during COVID. But, one of these days, the COVID Detour will be over. May Psalm 126 help guide us to that day. Read Psalm 126. What might it mean for you on the other side of COVID?
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Restore our fortunes, O Lord.