Saturday, August 10: Isaiah 59 – 63
In the 4th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus returns home and goes to the Temple as is his normal custom. Everyone is in awe as this young new prophet begins to speak. And what does he say? He quotes (for the most part) Isaiah . . .
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
The Spirit of the Lord is the breath of life that is visibly seen coming upon Jesus at his Baptism. It is the same Spirit that is poured out on the disciples/apostles at Pentecost. It is the same Spirit that calls us forth as the hands and feet of God. But what exactly does this Spirit call us towards? Isaiah helps us to understand that further . . . As we are all called to work toward justice and peace.
Think of life for those who live under the hand of oppression. For oppression comes in many forms because our our own definitions of who is in “entitled” based on their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, languages spoken, neighborhoods we live in, families that we come from, and many other social distinctions that you and I may put upon others. It is our human nature to want to place ourselves as better than someone one else. Can you sense that in Isaiah’s words? Can you place yourself in the shoes of someone that society has deemed as less than worthy? Even if we think we can, we really can’t. The best we can do is reflect on Isaiah’s words . . .
The way of peace they do not know,
and there is no justice in their paths.
Their roads they have made crooked;
no one who walks in them knows peace.
Therefore justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not reach us;
we wait for light, and lo! there is darkness;
and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
We grope like the blind along a wall,
groping like those who have no eyes;
we stumble at noon as in the twilight,
among the vigorous as though we were dead.
We all growl like bears;
like doves we moan mournfully.
We wait for justice, but there is none;
for salvation, but it is far from us.
While life for those on the fringe of society may be a struggle. While they are oppressed and peace and justice may seem far off . . . there is still hope. That hope comes through you and me, realizing what we are called to do on behalf of those in need. Just as the Spirit of the Lord filled Christ, it fills us. Therefore we should be agents of peace and justice for all. Yet I say that with caution and a challenge, because God’s justice is not like our justice. God’s justice treats all people the same, sinners made saints through the death and resurrection of Jesus. So our call, our challenge, filled with the the Spirit of God, we should be striving for the equality of all people. No matter why/how they have been defined as different, outcast, and oppressed, we are all the same in God. We are all loved by God. We are all welcomed by God.
While the world has a long way to go, let us set aside our differences from one another, take up our calling, and live in the words of Isaiah . . .
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
Readings for the next few days:
Sunday, August 11: Isaiah 64 – 66
Monday, August 12: Jeremiah 1 – 3
Tuesday, August 13: Jeremiah 4 – 6
Wednesday, August 14: Jeremiah 7 – 9
Our Churchwide Assembly came to a close on Saturday, with a festival worship service and the challenge to live in God’s peace and justice. A fitting challenge as we hear Isaiah’s words today!