This Sunday our text is Isaiah 61:1-11. Take some time today to read it on your own. Read it through once and just notice what words or phrases jump out at you. What is God saying to you in those words or images? Where is there comfort or challenge? Where do you feel hope? Sit with this thought for a few minutes. Then read the passage through one more time.
A dear friend of mine texted me verses 1-3 (below) of this passage last week and said, “read this – isn’t it striking? Comfort for mourners, garlands instead of ashes, oil instead of mourning, praise instead of a faint spirit. Doesn’t it sound like what we all need right about now?” Indeed. This friend and I had been sharing the ups and downs of life and, frankly, the downs were getting to us. She and her husband were both struggling with work issues, I was struggling to help my daughter navigate distance learning and the challenges of isolation that go along with it. We both felt a little bit like we were sitting in ashes. As we talked about the passage we both really connected with the image of garlands instead of ashes as a sign of hope, a sign of good news. This friend is also my daughter’s baptismal sponsor, so when flowers for my daughter arrived at our door later that day I knew exactly who they were from. Her message, along with the flowers, proclaimed that “it gets better.”
It does. Even in the midst of hardships we have been given garlands instead of ashes through the good news of the one who comes to be God with us. God comes, and continues to be with us through the hardest times because that is who God is. God is about the work of binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, and comfort for those who mourn. Isn’t this what we all need right now? Indeed. As you read this scripture for Sunday, notice where you hear good news and what lifts you up, and then join us for worship as we hear the good news once again of God’s great love for us.
In Peace, Pastor Ruth
1-3 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; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to 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.
Community Prayer: (From the Center for Action and Contemplation)
O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.