Today's Scripture Reading
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
What a vision of hope this is we find in Isaiah 55! It brings to mind Fred Craddock’s Sunday sermon a couple of days ago at one of the Nashville congregations during General Assembly this week. He reminded us how important it is that we share words of hope in the world. We’ve got amazing images of hope in the Bible, but sometimes they get argued down as unrealistic or imaginary so we stop sharing them.
Think about the early church sharing all things in common (Acts 4:32), and that command of Jesus’ to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Images of hope. Jubilee, Dr. Craddock reminded us, is the year in which God’s people were commanded to return land back to the original owner. Even if someone lost their land because of financial troubles, their land was returned in the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-12). And then Jesus came proclaiming jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favor, in Luke 4:19. Maybe the ancients never lived this way, but what an image of hope. Like a watered earth, bread, joy, peace, purpose accomplished.
This is not a naïve hope; we know bad things happen to good people and there doesn’t seem to be a reason. We know that sometimes the rain and snow water the earth, and then flood it. Nashville experienced a major flood last year and many other communities around the world have suffered similar disasters since then.
But even in the midst of floods and suffering, pain and isolation, there is hope. We see it in these images in scripture. The glory of creation declares it. And in the stories of our experiences, we know hope. Stories of the volunteers and donors who demonstrated their compassion to Nashville last year in tangible ways; stories of listening ears, the kindness of strangers, the tabled shared.
Tell it! Tell the hope. We live in a world that needs hope. This hope is not founded in human structures or actions, but in the loving kindness, in the faithfulness, in the mercy of our God. There is hope, even in the face of recession and storm, fire and flood. There is hope, even in the face of hunger, pain, and oppression. Instead of the thorns shall come up the cypress. Instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle. Because our God first loved us, and nothing can separate us from that love.
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