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. - Psalm 126:1-2 (NRSV)
In 2005, the southwestern United States was in the tenth year of a devastating drought. The pinon trees that covered the hills throughout northern New Mexico were among the casualties of the dry times. Stressed by drought and susceptible to bark beetles, they died by the thousands. Once green landscapes turned brown and grey with dead trees. For longtime residents, it felt like a death in the family.
But that August, it started to rain. Within days, fields of wildflowers sprang up. We couldn’t believe our eyes. Yellow cowpen daises, purple asters, and rare flowers not seen in a century covered the land. Scientists observed that it wasn’t only the rain that produced the riot of color. The needles of the dead pinons had provided the mulch and nutrients needed by long-dormant seeds. The trees would never be restored, but their death gave birth to a new beauty as far as the eye could see.
“May those who sow with tears, reap with shouts of joy,” proclaimed the composer of Psalm 126. “Those who go out weeping shall come home with shouts of joy.” The psalmist reminded the people of God’s power to call forth new life—and joy—in even the driest and deadest of times. The psalmist also called them, and us, to be “like those who dream”: to trust God’s possibilities, whether the dream be a return from exile or acres of cowpen daisies and purple asters.
God of power and possibility, give us the courage to be like those who dream. Amen.