They go out, they go out, full of tears,
carrying seed for the sowing:
they come back, they come back, full of song,
carrying their sheaves.
- Psalm 126:6, Grail Psalter
I was first introduced to the practice of regularly praying the psalms many years ago at Glastonbury Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Hingham, MA. In the psalter they used (the Grail Psalter), this verse of this psalm became one of my favorite bible verses. Our own prayer book translation expresses the same thing, but in a much less lyrical way:
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.
I always feel like something is missing when we pray the Episcopal version of the psalm. There’s something I love about the repetition in the Grail translation that has often moved me: they go out, they go out; they come in, they come in. It seems to expand the meaning to something larger than just one specific point in history when the Israelites were longing for their lives to improve. To me, the simple use of repetition somehow reflects the cycles and seasons of our whole lives. I hear in this just one verse the way a farmer plants fields year in and year out, how we rise up each day and go to bed each night, how the seasons come and the seasons go and how our lives continually move through cycles of loss and rebirth, loss and rebirth.
Maybe today is a day of tears for you. What ordinary tasks are you carrying on with in spite of your sadness? What heavy bags of seed are you lugging out to your field to sow? Or maybe today you are full of song and feeling a sense of abundance - having the ability to bear good news or sustenance for others. This verse will remind those who are crying today that there are others that are strong today, and able to help you shoulder your burdens and able to offer God’s comfort to you. And if you are full of song, this verse reminds you not to forget that others are weeping and in need of your love and joy. And if you are somewhere in between the verse reminds you that there is no such thing as stasis. You’re always swinging back and forth in one direction or another all the time. Change is the only constant we come in, we come in; we go out, we go out.
I love the promise of this little verse - that the seeds sown like tears in the times of sorrow are watering the fruit of the future, and that our tears will one day turn into songs. In the midst of difficulty or pain, it can sometimes seem that we will never be relieved of the burden of tedious work, heavy seed sacks and tears of sorrow. But in retrospect, we can look back and see that good fruits were borne of those difficult times, giving us love and compassion to share with others.
I see this verse as a wonderful and descriptive metaphor about what faith is. Faith is being willing to trust, even in the midst of suffering and hardship, that songs and feasts and new life are always around the corner.
Our readings for this Sunday are HERE. Note that in Ordinary time we are using “Track 2”