THE WORD Psalm 126
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.
COMMUNION MESSAGE “Restoration” Rev. James Renfrew
I’m not a regular viewer, but there’s this TV program I see from time to time called “This Old House”. Each episode of the show features an old house that needs a variety of improvements. And as we watch the crew put in new plumbing, or a new kitchen or new windows we are not only seeing an old house get restored, but each viewer is also beginning to dare to think about the difficult projects they could take on to restore their own homes, plumbing, electrical and all of that difficult stuff.
Some years ago our youth group went to New Jersey to restore homes that had been badly damaged by flooding from Super Storm Sandy. We were deployed to the town of Little Ferry, New Jersey, where my Mom told me that my great-grandmother had once lived. It was like being on our own “This Old House” TV show, as we learned how to operate table saws and drills, put studs in place, hang and smooth out dry wall, and bring a damaged home back to life.
One thing I’ll always remember from that mission trip is that the contractor leading us taught Jordan how to drive heavy bolts into a concrete floor with what looked a nuclear-powered nail gun. Ka-pow! It involved a gas cartridge and a big spark. Ka-pow! You should have seen Jordan grinning from ear to ear with all of that power in his hands. That kind of power could do a lot of harm, but in Jordan’s hands that power was restorative, making damaged things better again, instead of making them worse.
That same youth group demonstrated its restorative powers when they brought our church dining room back to life, with new wainscoting, freshly painted walls and ceiling, and some beautiful window treatments. Instead of being dark and dreary, our dining room is now bright and full of life.
In fact, in the last year we could have put on our own TV program, “This Old Church”, with all of the remarkable restorative work done by our Trustees: a new roof, new front doors, a new parking lot, the floor leveled in the sanctuary with new carpeting, new ceilings in the Fellowship Hall, some new electrical, removing the crumbling chimney and probably some things I am forgetting to mention. Like Jordan smiling with his nuclear-powered nail gun all of our Trustees have had a lot of smiles, too, seeing all of the different building projects bringing our nearly 200 year old building to life for new generations to enjoy.
Our text for today, Psalm 126, the final reading in our stewardship series, is all about restoration. 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”. But in this psalm you won’t find much practical advice about restoring buildings, because the heart of the psalm is about restoring a people, the people of Israel whose hopes and aspirations had been crushed again and again throughout their history. Their history of being invaded and conquered, being exiled and enslaved, of being persecuted and massacred in genocide, brought into terrible focus last weekend with the massacre in the Pittsburgh synagogue, will not dissuade God from this incredible plan for restoration.
If you ask any of our Trustees they will tell you with a smile about the work they have accomplished to restore the old building in our 200th year, but every one of them will also tell you that the purpose of a restored building is to have a place within which our main mission and ministry takes place: to restore people, which means finding the lost, comforting the grieving, empowering the weak, and building a new kind of community that does not focus on division but on unity. Our restored building, itself, restored, is a sign of the New Song we sing. An old building made new, an old song made new, and, at the heart of it, people made new.
Psalm 126 describes restoration as something like streams of righteousness flowing through the bone-dry Negev desert, aspirations we lift up in hope as this morning we hear the choir sing “Down to the River”, and Sydney, David and Larry playing “Take Me to the Water”, signaling our readiness and eagerness to experience that restorative power of God in Jesus Christ!
Looking to be restored? In the Psalm we find just the encouragement we need to put our toe in the water to feel the possibilities.
After only 200 years it’s new spiritual restoration that we seek in this restored old church; in our prayers, in our teaching, in our singing, in the ways we serve others, in our stewardship, and in the way we gather at the table.
Lord, restore us this very day! We pray it, we play it, we sing it, we whisper it, we shout it, in Jesus’ name, Amen!