by Dianne Eckermann
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Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy (Psalm 126:5).
We are now in the third year of a pandemic, which has left no community untouched in any place in the world. It is hard to comprehend that our modern world, which can send satellites into space or send information through the World Wide Web at the click of a button, can be so severely impacted by a virus – something so small we cannot see it with the naked eye. Although we have greater medical knowledge than any previous generation, many ways of preventing the spread of disease echo earlier pandemics (for example, the 1918 influenza outbreak or the Black Death in the 17th century).
This brings to mind the small village of Eyam in England that deliberately isolated itself from the rest of the local area when the plague arrived in 1665 as they had observed that people who travelled spread the plague. The death toll in the village was immense, but for over a year, they did not breach the boundary of their town and potentially saved thousands of others at a cost to themselves. The entire village community, led by the local priests, agreed that they would maintain a plan to keep others in neighbouring towns and villages safe. The plague village as it is known today continues to be remembered for its sacrifice of self in the interests of community.
Psalm 126 is also a psalm about community. It is a psalm that recognises there are times of sorrow and tears, as well as times of great joy. It is the community that sows in tears and the community that laughs and shouts with joy when fortunes are restored by the Lord. In other words, the community supports all of its members in both sorrow and rejoicing. Today community is rapidly being overtaken by the rise of the individual and a focus on self. If the village of Eyam had been self-focused, an even greater disaster would have occurred. However, they were community-focused and prepared to undergo greater hardship than we have endured for the sake of their community.
Our identities are forged in and by our community. Reading the Bible together in a community brings believers together with each other and also with God. As we move through the Lenten season to the sorrow of Good Friday, we also move toward the joy of Easter because Christ died for all. Indeed, he accepts each of us as individuals, as unique children of God, but together, we are a stronger community in Christ.
Lord God, you understand that we can be self-centred and interested only in our benefit. You also understand our suffering as you endured suffering and death for us. Draw us together as your community, so we can be filled with the joy and laughter of being your people. Amen.