Rejoicing and Hope, Lamenting and Loss
There is a treatment update at the end of this message.
Today's WORSHIP QUOTE is another from Lutheran theologian Marva Dawn. She writes boldly about how to embrace and apply Resurrection Hope and Joy in lives that are surrounded by sorrow and grief. This is one of those books where the title itself is worth the cost of the book: BEING WELL WHEN WE'RE ILL: WHOLENESS AND HOPE IN SPITE OF INFIRMITY. This excerpt deals with Psalm 126, one of the Psalms of Ascent.
REJOICING AND HOPE, LAMENTING AND LOSS
Psalm 126 is one of the "Songs of Ascents" (Psalms 120-134), which were sung by pilgrims as they journeyed up to the Temple in Jerusalem for high festivals. The poem includes the same mixture of rejoicing with hope and lamenting with loss that this book emphasizes.
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. (Psalm 126:1-3)
These first three verses display the great delight of the people who came back to Jerusalem from the Babylonian Captivity. They laughed and shouted ecstatically, for the LORD had kept His covenant and returned them to their land. . . .
As is my usual custom, I capitalize the word JOY so that you will remember that it does not mean a simple exuberance, happiness, or excitement caused by circumstances. I use the word only when I want to signify that deep, abiding confidence, gratitude, and trust that are ours when our lives are transformed by the truths of the Christian meta-narrative, especially the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just as the returning Israelites shouted with Joy because the LORD had "restored [their] fortunes" and brought them home, so may we find moments of Joy when we come home to the Triune God, whose grace embraces us and enables us to surmount our sorrows.
However, things were not easy for the returning Israelites. They encountered opposition from all sides as they sought to rebuild the Temple and the city walls of Jerusalem (see the prophets Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai especially). Consequently, the pilgrim song Psalm 126 also contains verses in which the people return again to their covenant God for help. (These verses would have been especially poignant in Jesus' time to festival pilgrims who sang on their way to the Temple under Roman oppression.)
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. (Psalm 126:4-6)
When we turn to the LORD again and again in our times of sorrow and suffering, as we will in this book, we will find that the Trinity continually meets us at our point of need and sends us away carrying a harvest of comfort. Though we will grieve in our anguish, may we increasingly know that eternal Joy is our present possession. Our call is to be faithful in the sowing and reaping.
— Marva Dawn, BEING WELL WHEN WE'RE ILL: WHOLENESS AND HOPE IN SPITE OF INFIRMITY. Minneapolis: Augsburg Books, 2008, pp. 10-12. ISBN 978-0-8066-8038-5. Highly recommended.
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Ministries
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
TOPICAL INDEX FOR FORTY-THREE
HEALTH UPDATE & PRAYER REQUEST
FOR CHIP STAM, CANCER PATIENT
January 18 Treatment Update
Dear friends and family (and some strangers),
Thanks for praying for me. Keep it up, please! My cancer journey continues.
PET SCAN RESULTS—DECEMBER 29
If you missed Doris's note from December 29, please go to
The PET scan on December 29 showed the return of some lymphoma spots in various areas of my body. Well, one of my doctors came back from vacation and looked at the same scans and said, "I want someone to prove to me that those spots are cancer and just not infections." So, they scheduled a liver biopsy. That procedure took place on Monday, January 17, and was uneventful in terms of pain or complications—except that later that day, my blood pressure was supper low such that they almost had to toss me in the hospital overnight. They gave me IV fluids so that finally my blood pressure came up to an acceptable level, and they let me go home (Thank you, LORD). We will find out the results of the liver biopsy very soon. In the meantime, I am a bit more wobbly than before—light-headed, often short of breath, and REALLY weak when it comes to standing and walking.
The doctors continue to monitor and adjust my medications on a daily basis. The drugs that were suppressing my immune system have been reduced or eliminated so that my new blood system can be "let loose" to fight cancer and infection in my body. Pray that my blood will be strong to do just that.
Don't forget to care for and pray for the cancer patients in your sphere of activity and influence. They are there.
Resting in Him!
Clinging to the Rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:1-2)!
Come, Lord Jesus!