Wednesday May 5 2021

Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-4

Key verse: (1) 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 broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.

Reflection: This is great news! Good news to the oppressed. Binding up the brokenhearted. Liberty for captives. Prisoners set free. Wait a minute. Whoa Nellie! If the oppressed hear good news, won’t they march for justice? If the brokenhearted are pieced back together, won’t they demand equality? If the captives and the imprisoned are set free, how will they integrate into our society? This news may seem great but it’s pretty scary for the status quo. This great news rocks the boat and shifts all of the world’s dynamics.

That’s exactly what Isaiah was hoping for. The prophet was casting a vision of hope for the downtrodden and the persecuted people around him. When he wrote “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,” who was he talking about? Himself? Another person that God would use to work in the world? A future savior? Maybe all of these. Maybe in these verses the prophet is telling us God’s agenda for future community and God will use various people to carry out this agenda in the world.

According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth and was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. When he unrolled the scroll, he read the portion in today’s key verse. When he finished reading, he rolled up the scroll and said “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” At first the crowd was amazed and praised his eloquence but then, as they realized the implications of what he said, they filled with rage.

May we hear the good news of God today, upsetting the status quo and rocking the world, as good news for all of us. May we let go of the way things are so that we can welcome God’s way into our lives. May we discover abundant life in the kingdom of God.

Prayer: Almighty God, anoint me with your spirit so that I may do your work in the world. Give me courage to proclaim good news to those who need to hear it. Give me mercy to care for the brokenhearted. Give me a hunger for justice to set others free. Shake up my world so that I can live in your way. Through Christ I pray. Amen.

Author: Millie Snyder

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Tuesday May 4 2021

Scripture: Isaiah 58-60

Key verses: (58:6, 11) to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke … satisfy your needs in parched places

Reflection: I have had several moments when I have been so thirsty I didn’t think I could get enough water. In El Salvador working on a Habitat House, after tamping down a dirt floor all day. Running the “Rocky” steps in Philadelphia with the middle school youth after hiking from the liberty bell, I was a bit dry. In a season of doubt and conflict in my church, I was in a parched place. After a loss that hurt deep in my heart, I needed someone to offer me just a glass of cold water.

“The Lord will satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you should be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58).  Isaiah as a prophet touches the most barren and dry places of the people’s lives, hearts and souls and offers them nourishment. The Lord will satisfy your needs.  The Lord knows your parched places, the places that feel like nothing can grow. It is a place that usually we abandon but it is in that place that the Lord will make our bones strong. It is in that place that that Lord will give us such life that we will become a spring of water.

In the parched places of my life, I could not have seen anything other than abandonment in the moment. It is not in my nature to just sit in those parched places and yet I do it. I sit there and feel all the feelings and notice whatever the moment unfolds. Sitting there long enough, I begin to feel stronger. In those parched places there was not an instant change and water flowed down in the form of unwavering faith, resolved relationships or loved ones returning from the grave but my needs were strangely or should I say mysteriously satisfied. God never promises that life will be easy but God promises to satisfy our needs in the parched places of our lives.  Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Take a deep breath. Really deep. God offers us a drink of water with each breath we take. Throughout the day today, pause for a moment and take three deep breaths. Give thanks to God for the refreshment to whatever is parched in your life. Amen.

Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Monday May 3 2021

Scripture: Isaiah 55-57

Key verse: (12) “For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

Reflection: What a glorious spring it’s been in Charlotte!  Last spring, Jennifer and I planted six peonies.  We’ve never planted peonies, but have always loved the flowers.  Through the summer, they grew fairly rapidly. Come fall, they began to whither, and by November it looked like our efforts had failed.  But as spring began, suddenly shoots of green began leaping forth, and within a matter of weeks, some of them had buds.  This week, the first of those buds have become glorious flowers. Of course, we’re rookies, and so are our peonies, but they embody the energy and beauty of the season. 

Isaiah 55 concludes what scholars call “Deutero-Isaiah.”  It was written at the end of Israel’s long exile in Babylon. For the Israelites, emergence from that long exile felt like the new life of spring shooting forth.  All creation joined in celebrating the new life Israel found on the other side of exile. The mountains burst into song, the trees clapped their hands, and I would imagine the peonies glowed in all their glory. 

As the percentage of people vaccinated continues to increase and new life emerges from this pandemic, these verses have never been more poignant for me.  As we near graduation season, the end of the most bizarre school year most have ever known, the beginning of summer vacations and the return to the new normal we are all striving toward, may the joy of Isaiah 55 fill our hearts that we might join creation in the celebration of new life! 

Prayer: Thank you for the peonies, O God, for their beauty and boldness, for the way they praise the wonder of your creation.  May we learn from them and join the clapping trees and the singing hills to give you praise and thanksgiving for the new life that is ours in Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Author: Joe Clifford

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].