What I love about scripture is how multi-layered it is. Sometimes it’s so easy to miss things because of this, but it’s also why re-reading a passage over and over is never a wasted activity. There’s always something new to find and new light to be shone by the Holy Spirit. These verses particularly have new light when you know what’s about to happen. The focus on Sarah’s laughing is important. Here she’s laughing about God being able to grant her a son at her age. But she does get her son and not only that, he’s named Isaac which means ‘he laughs’. That’s definitely God having the last laugh.
Think back to times in your life when something great has happened, when you’ve been so overjoyed, relieved, pleased, excited! I can think of a few occasions where all I wanted to do was tell people, to share my joy and excitement. I’ve done that on occasion: picked up the phone or sent a few texts to say, ‘Guess what!’ It’s a natural response when we’re overjoyed to share our news with others. The writer of this Psalm wants to do just that. They want to lift up the cup so all can see what God has done. Not only do they feel what God has done, they tell others about that joy: guess what God has done! When we see the light of God working in our lives, tell others about it. It is good news!
The Psalmist writes not just of a joy found in something going right, but a real release from the bonds of injustice, from oppression. This is the God we praise: the God who released captives from Egypt; the God who liberates us from our own faults and death and raises us to new life with Christ; the God who still liberates today, using us, as Christ’s body, as Christ’s hands and voices, to set people free. Where is God calling us to go to be part of God’s mission to ‘let my people go?’
Do you know anyone who boasts in their sufferings? What do we call that again? Martyr complex perhaps. Some people have misunderstood the words here and thought they’ve had to make themselves suffer to follow Jesus. But that’s not what it’s about: there are people throughout history who have suffered and lost their lives for belief in Christ. Moreover, there are people today who suffer and lose their lives for following Christ. It’s not easy for us to relate to that. The most many of us can do is complain we have one meeting too many. However, sometimes when you stand up for what is right, stand up for those considered least, people get angry. What Paul wishes to convey here is that in that suffering, God is with you; but greater than that, God suffers with you, upon the cross and through every life that is lost.
There is so much need, so many people to be released from all that holds them back from being fully human. Yet, we can feel so few, so helpless. What does Jesus say? He doesn’t tell us to get busy; he tells us to ask God for the labourers. Why? Because it is God who is responsible, we are merely called to join in with the mission and do our part.
Proclaim the good news. Not just salvation from sins, but the good news that the kingdom of God has come near. And what do the people of the reign of God do? Real tangible things that make a difference for people.