Psalm 126 - Holy Tears Soften the Ground for New Growth

“You reap what you sow.” It’s conventional wisdom, even Biblical (in other places), but this psalm tells us otherwise. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. 

Much later, in a life themed around reversal, Jesus will say something similar. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. But when? And how? What does it mean?

A dear friend recently sent me a modern sung rendition of Psalm 126, composed by a collective called Bifrost Arts.

The chorus goes like this:

Although we are weeping, Lord, help us keep sowing

The seeds of your Kingdom for the day you will reap them.

Your sheaves we will carry; Lord, please do not tarry.

All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy.

Perhaps the psalms, as with all poetry, ask us to be less concerned with what they mean than with what they do.

How do they speak to our condition? How do they encompass reality and promise? How do these ancient songs, the songs of the people of God, continue to resonate?

Psalm 126 speaks mysteries that we cannot fully comprehend:

That transformation often goes hand in hand with grief.

That what God reaps will be so much more than what we sow.

That in order for a harvest to occur at all, the seeds must die

That the tears themselves are holy.

We see how the tense shifts in the psalm: from remembrance of past deliverance to faith in future deliverance, even as the present seems to contain only distress. 

J. Clinton McCann writes that “the people of God in all places and times live by both memory and hope.”

The harvest is far from ready, but the people of God are here, carrying the seeds out into the fields. We sow anyway, remembering how God has been faithful. We sing anyway, with hope rooted in mystery and promise. Life is suffering and glory side by side, entwined.

Can joy exist without sorrow? Can hope exist without lament?

Can our tears themselves, which we try so desperately to avoid for fear of weakness – our tears for the ones we love, for the world, for the church, for ourselves – possibly be the holy work to which God calls us today?

Can they soften the ground beneath our feet to make way for the growth of new and unimaginable things?

All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy.

The Rev. Ginny Griggs Tincher is an Associate Pastor of Memorial Drive UMC in Houston, Texas. If you are ever in the area, Ginny and the and the rest of the congregation would love to have you come worship with them.

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