Summary: An encouragement to trust God for big things for His kingdom work on earth.
The Second Sunday in Advent
December 6, 2009
St. Andrew’s Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
In Winnie the Pooh, one evening Pooh and Piglet are quietly walking together. Piglet breaks the silence with this question:
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh, what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” answers Pooh. “And what do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what exciting thing is going to happen today.”
[Robert Dale, To Dream Again, p. 12]
I like Piglet’s approach to life. There is no same-old same-old vision in Piglet’s mind.
What exciting thing is going to happen today?”
When I was growing up my family watched The Ed Sullivan Show. I never saw The Man of LaMancha on Broadway, but I did see the Don Quixote character sing “The Impossible Dream” on The Ed Sullivan Show.
I read Don Quixote later in life and I learned from it about chivalrous ideals and tilting at windmills. Noble ideals and impossible dreams are far more energizing than wondering what’s for breakfast. Was Quixote insane for pursuing impossible dreams or was he in his right mind to be energized by his dreams?
In today’s psalm we have the fulfillment of prophetic utterances that must have sounded like impossible dreams to the Jews who were held captive in Babylon. The Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 597 B.C. and began deporting the Jews who lived there. By 586 B.C. the Babylonians had conquered all of Judah, the southern portion of divided Israel. In 538 B.C. the Persians defeat the Babylonians and the Persians allow the Jewish people in Babylon to return to their homeland.
v. 1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, then we were like those who dream.
It seemed like a dream. It seemed like an impossible dream. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos had spoken of Judah’s return to the Promised Land, but after so many years, who remembered the prophet’s words. Who believed them? It happened so fast it was shocking.
Cyrus, King of Persia, defeated the Babylonians and he encouraged the Jews to return to their own land.
v. 2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.
The Jews were exuberant with laughter. “Happy days are here again!” “Shouts of joy” were sung out in response to the new beginning that awaited them back home.
v. 3 Then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."
Even the nations notice the good fortune that God has bestowed on Judah.
v. 4 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.
Judah gives thanks to God for the deliverance they have received.
v. 5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses of the Negev.
Then another dimension of reality sets in.
Life in Judah is not as good as it appeared to be back in Babylon. Starting over is hard work.
The writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 11 verse 1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
When Moses led Israel into the Promised Land after the exodus they were energized by one dream. When Judah reentered their portion of the Promised Land after their exile in Babylon they were energized by a new dream.
And then reality set in. The land of milk and honey needed some cultivation.
In December of 2007 we left our buildings and properties on Mirador Road. On Mirador Road we had good worship space, good education space, a good parish hall and good office space. Two years later those buildings have been largely unused and they have deteriorated. The Town of Vestal has blocked their use by Candlehouse ministries and the future use of those buildings is now in question.
When the Diocese of Central New York sold the buildings and grounds to Candlehouse they had a stipulation put in the contract that prevents us from repurchasing those properties. God is calling us to a new dream.
vv. 6-7 Those who sowed with tears will reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed for sowing, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.
Judah shed tears when God restored them to their land. Those were tears from hard labor and harsh conditions.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Judah was back in the Promised Land and they looked forward, even while they were engaged in the hard work of restoring the land. They looked forward to the day when they would reap with songs of joy.” They believed that “those who go out weeping, carrying the seed for sowing, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. “