Circumstances will change. It will get better and it will get worse. God’s love is steadfast.
Psalm 126 reminds us that there are ebbs and flows in our lived experience and that the Psalms can provide language and liturgy for all moments we need to articulate our emotions before God.
Psalms for joy and celebration.
Psalms for sorrow and grief.
Psalms for love and peace.
Psalms for despair.
Psalms for hope.
Psalms for when everything is falling apart.
Psalms for holy anger and screams for justice.
Psalms for communal worship and for personal prayer.
Psalms for God’s mysteriousness that we cannot quite put into words.
Psalms for holy wonder at the sacredness of everyday moments.
Circumstances will change. It will get better and it will get worse. God’s love is steadfast.
The Lord’s Prayer:
If you are new to breath prayer, I’ve recorded some examples:
Here are some simple breath prayers to accompany this psalm:
Meditate on joy
A simple prayer with one word on exhalation and one on inhalation: God fill me with your Holy Spirit. I receive your joy and release my tears.
Or you can split a longer phrase between inhalation and exhalation or put a phrase on both. Here is an example: Circumstances will change. God’s love is steadfast.
Do what is most comfortable to you. Breath prayer is a practice not something we do perfectly. Some days will be easier than others.
Ok, everyone, take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
I began writing Psalm reflections during Lent of 2020 shortly after we decided to close the church building, work from home, and worship via zoom. It is a practice I have continued since. Many churches use the Revised Common Lectionary (RLC) that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C). Starting in Advent 2019, Third Church decided to worship with the texts from Year D, which is still not circulated as are years A, B, and C. Year D was created with the goal of including scriptures that were left out or not used as frequently as others. While we were using Psalms in year D, most other lectionary followers were using Year A. In Advent of 2020 we rejoined those who use the lectionary in year B. Advent of 2021 follows year C of lectionary pattern with Psalms in year C.
I use the Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s resource for lectionary readings to make text selections.
Other Year C Psalm blog posts:
Psalm the lectionary gives Luke 1:68-79, 3rd Sunday in Advent instead of a Psalm the lectionary gives Isaiah 12:2-6, 4th Sunday in Advent Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 80, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Psalm 96, Psalm 97, Psalm 98, 1st Sunday after Christmas, Psalm 148, New Year’s Day Psalm 8, 2nd Sunday after Christmas Psalm 147, Epiphany Psalm 72, 1st Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 29, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 35, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 19, 4th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 71, 5th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 138, 6th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 1, 7th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 37, Transfiguration Sunday (Sunday before Lent) Psalm 99
Lent: Ash Wednesday Psalm 51, 1st Sunday in Lent Psalm 91, 2nd Sunday in Lent Psalm 27, 3rd Sunday in Lent Psalm 63, 4th Sunday in Lent Psalm 32, 5th Sunday in Lent Psalm 126, 6th Sunday in Lent (Palm or Passion Sunday) Psalm 118 or 31
Holy Week: Monday Psalm 36, Tuesday Psalm 71, Wednesday Psalm 70, Maundy Thursday Psalm 116, Good Friday Psalm 22, Holy Saturday Psalm 31
Easter: Easter Psalm 118 or Psalm 114, 2nd Sunday of Easter Psalm 118 or Psalm 150, 3rdSunday of Easter Psalm 30, 4th Sunday of Easter Psalm 23, 5th Sunday of Easter Psalm 148, 6thSunday of Easter Psalm 67, Ascension Psalm 47 or Psalm 93, 7th Sunday of Easter Psalm 97, Day of Pentecost Psalm 104
Season After Pentecost (Ordinary Time): 1st Sunday after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) Psalm 8, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 or Psalm 22, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 77 or Psalm 16, 4th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 30 or Psalm 66, 5th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 82 or Psalm 25, 6th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 52 or Psalm 15, 7th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 85 or Psalm 138, 8th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 107 or Psalm 49, 9thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 50 or Psalm 33, 10th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 80 or Psalm 82, 11th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 71 or Psalm 103, 12th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 81 or Psalm 112, 13th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 139 or Psalm 1, 14th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 14 or Psalm 51, 15th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 91 or Psalm 113, 16th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 91 or Psalm 146, 17th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 137 or Psalm 37, 18th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 66 or Psalm 111, 19th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 119 or Psalm 121, 20thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 65 or Psalm 84, 21st Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 119 or Psalm 32, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 145 or Psalm 98 or Psalm 17, 23rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 98, 24th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 46.
Sources and notes:
“Psalm 126 is the seventh in the collection of songs of ascents (see Psalms 120 – 134). It is the voice of pilgrims to Jerusalem who have come to remember the restoration of Zion and seek the renewal of the people of the LORD.” Mays p. 399
“The song is about joy remembered and joy anticipated. In both cases the joy is the work of LORD, in the first through the restoration of Zion and in the second through the renewal of those who sing the song.” Mays p. 399
“”Restore the fortunes” is a translation of the Hebrew idiom that is difficult to replicate in English. It is a fixed expression found primarily in prophetic sayings, where it is used for the radical change for the conditions brought about by divine wrath to those which result from divine favor. It means restoration of an earlier situation between God and people (e.g., Amos 9:14; Joel 3:1; Jer. 29:14; Zeph. 2:7).” Mays p. 399
“The cycle of misfortune and deliverance celebrated in v 1 has half come round again. The community bring their prayer for restoration with the hope that Yahweh will repeat his saving activity (cf. 106:43-44; Judg 3:9, 15).” WBC p. 174
“What the pilgrims remember about the past they pray for in the present. The restoration of Zion needs completion in the restoration of the people; the memory of its restoration gives hope for their own renewal.” Mays p. 400
“…Psalm 126 reminds us that we live in the hope of God’s help, always remembering what God has done in the past … and always anticipating what God will do in the further…” NIB p. 664
“Traditionally, sowing had overtones of sorrow as a sign of death (cf. John 12:24; 1 For 15:36). But the toil and tears of frustration would eventually give way to a harvest of blessing for the community (cf. 30:6 ).” WBC p. 174
This psalm pops up in the lectionary in Lent and Advent maybe indicating that “only those who move toward Christmas and Eater with the “tears” of repentance and need may enter into the joy of “the great thing God does for us”.” Mays p. 400
“Psalm 126 is also appropriately associated with the seasons of Advent and Lent, because it communicates the reality that the people of God always live by both memory and hope. During Advent and Lent, we remember the humble and humbling circumstances of Jesus’ birth and death; yet we do so in the joyful hope represented by his resurrection and the promise of the renewal of all things. The hopeful, joyful tone of Psalm 126 points to the possibility that dreaming in v. 1 involves not simply the incredulous response to a divine act of deliverance but the suggestion that every divine act of deliverance evokes a joyous vision of the future out of which the people of God live (see Joel 2:28 and its use in Acts 2:17).” NIB p. 665
“The memory of restoration in the past was, according to most biblical commentators who adhere to the storyline of the Psalter, about the return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. The singers of Psalm 126, who have arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate a sacred festival, find themselves in a situation of despair and seek God’s help. In doing so they recall the restoration to Zion, something the people in exile hoped for but never dreamed would happen. Psalm 126 presents what LeAnn Snow Flesher calls “life’s ebbs and flows.” She maintains that our ancestors in the faith understood the ebbs and flows described in the book of Psalms and that the psalms provide the “liturgical tools” to make sense of and deal with them, in the form of laments and words of praise.” W p. 201
WBC Allen, Leslie C. 1983. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 101-150. Vol. 21. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1974. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. 8th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press.
Brueggemann, Walter. 2007. Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit. 2nd ed. Eugene, OR: Cascade.
Brueggemann Brueggemann, Walter. 2014. From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms. Edited by Brent A. Strawn. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
Chittister Chittister, Joan. (2011). Songs of the heart: reflections on the psalms. John Garratt Publishing.
WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.
Creach Creach, Jerome Frederick Davis. 1998. Psalms: Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
DAFLER, J. (2021). PSOBRIETY: A journey of recovery through the psalms. Louisville, KY: WESTMINSTER JOHN KNOX.
W de Claisse-Walford, Nancy L. WISDOM COMMENTARY: Psalms Bks. 4-5. Edited by Barbara E. Reid. Vol. 22. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2020.
W Hopkins, Denise Dombkowski. WISDOM COMMENTARY: Psalms Bks. 2-3. Edited by Barbara E. Reid. Vol. 21. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2016.
NIB Keck, Leander E. 2015. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary. Vol. 3. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Lewis, C. S. (2017). Reflections on the Psalms. Harper One, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.
Mays Mays, James Luther. 1994. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.
McCann McCann, J. C. (1993). A theological introduction to the book of Psalms: The Psalms as Torah. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
McCann, J. C., & Howell, J. C. 2001. Preaching the Psalms. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Merrill, N. C. (2020). Psalms for praying an invitation to wholeness (10th Anniversary Edition ed.). London, England: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Miller Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.
Schlimm Schlimm, Matthew Richard. 2018. 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know.Nashville, TN: Abington Press.
Spong Spong, M. (Ed.). (2020). The words of her mouth: Psalms for the struggle. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press.
WBC Tate, Marvin E. 1990. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100. Edited by David Allan. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Vol. 20. Waco, TX: Word.
OTL Weiser, Artur. 1998. Old Testament Library: Psalms. Translated by Herbert Hartwell. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Manchester University Press.