When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs 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 are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them. [Psalm 126, NIV]
The psalm appointed for today (25 July) is a poignant one, full of the remembrance of past blessings, and the hope of God’s future to come.
This month has witnessed great excitement for many in Wellington with the arrival of the first southern right whale in the harbour for many decades. Some scientists are optimistic that the arrival of the whale (appropriately for the new season dubbed ‘Matariki’) is a sign of the return of this species to a habitat in which it was once common. Like the Israelites remembering past joys, journalists reminded us this month that the first settlers to Wellington noted not being able to sleep because of the noise of all the whales in the harbour. This must have made for some interesting dreams…
When we get a sense of the hope of God out of places of barrenness, our excitement rises, and momentum begins. We pull our cars over to the side of the road to stop, get out, and see what all the fuss is about. Others too, follow the lead, hopeful of a glimpse of something beautiful. We are late for work, we drag our friends and families along, we get out of our houses and cause traffic jams. Chaos ensues!
Up in the north of Aotearoa, almost 200 years ago, CMS missionary Richard Davis was experiencing a similar dilemma. Tasked with setting up agricultural ventures to both support the Bay of Islands mission and teach European farming practices, he found himself regularly apologising in his letters back to the London CMS headquarters for having failed to make advances on the farm because so many people have been keen to talk faith. His ‘farm diary’ kept in those years has regular entries like this:
Sept 19 1834: ‘This was a day I had set apart for gardening but Broughton came in the morning with 80 people with him for religious conversations, so that it took me the whole day to converse with them. In the evening I met another party so that in all I have conversed with 99 natives on the subject of religion today. Horses working in the large brake harrow, preparing for maize; work very heavy.’
What we learn from the life of Richard Davis and others like him is that renewal often comes in unexpected forms, led by people who have set out at great cost, obedient to God’s call and prepared to set the expectations of others, and their own routines aside in order to be faithful to where they discerned God’s Spirit moving and the momentum they could see developing.
As we think about our own calling to be people who share the Good News of Christ with the last, the lost and the least, as we prepared to lay our expectations aside in order that we might return with others in the songs of joy the psalmist writes of? Are we living the kind of lives that people want to stop, take notice, ask questions, and follow? And as we move into spring, can we encourage you to spend some time in prayer, asking God to direct all of our hearts to where signs of hope and new life are emerging, so that we can all be faithful to where God’s Spirit is moving.
+Justin and +Eleanor