Before today’s reading was ours to ponder, it was offered to a people who had watched their nation be ripped apart; first from within, and then oppressed from without. “One nation under God,” became divisible. We know what that looks like, don’t we? We witnessed it right here – 160 years ago – North and South divided – at odds, and at war with one another. Recent days have freshened our collective memory.
“One nation – under God – indivisible – with liberty and justice for all.” The words roll right off of our tongues. We’ve recited them since we were children. Hebrew children learned another pledge of allegiance: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Isaiah invites his people to cease their complaining and remember the call to listen; to hear a word from God.
Isaiah declares that the people will see a great light. This light will be like none other. It will break through the darkness and shine across the land. It will bring freedom from their oppressors, and it will come just in the nick of time. As the weary peoples’ whining subsides, Isaiah interjects a word on behalf of God – practices to lay down, and practices to take up.
get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims,Isaiah 58:9-10 (Message)
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
Listen! Do you hear the gurgling springs of grace whispering hope in your desert place? Where do you see God’s abundant light and full life breaking into our world, even in places that previously seemed empty?
O GOD of LIFE and LIGHT, show us where to go. Grant us strength to lay aside that which causes us to stumble in darkness, and grace to receive the LIFE and LIGHT of your great love, in Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Jon Strother is the Sound District Superintendent