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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, June 21, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 65:1–9

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
   to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
   to a nation that did not call on my name.
I held out my hands all day long
   to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
   following their own devices;
a people who provoke me
   to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
   and offering incense on bricks;
who sit inside tombs,
   and spend the night in secret places;
who eat swine’s flesh,
   with broth of abominable things in their vessels;
who say, “Keep to yourself,
   do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”
These are a smoke in my nostrils,
   a fire that burns all day long.
See, it is written before me:
   I will not keep silent, but I will repay;
I will indeed repay into their laps
   their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together, says the Lord;
because they offered incense on the mountains
   and reviled me on the hills,
I will measure into their laps
   full payment for their actions.
Thus says the Lord:
As the wine is found in the cluster,
   and they say, “Do not destroy it,
   for there is a blessing in it,”
so I will do for my servants’ sake,
   and not destroy them all.
I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,
   and from Judah inheritors of my mountains;
my chosen shall inherit it,
   and my servants shall settle there. (NRSV)

Whether it’s our commute, daily shopping, work, hospital visits, or encounters with our neighbors on street corners, how often in our daily lives do we go about our days without any notion of God’s faithful, loving, and just presence? It is sometimes difficult to see the logic of God’s grace and justice permeating our decisions and choices. It is easy to go about life relegating God’s presence and way to distant corners.

In this passage from Isaiah, we have a glimpse of a community that has distanced itself from care for the ways of God. They have found a way to carry on with life according to their own preferences. They trust in their own assortment of religious, spiritual, and practical rituals to rightly guide their decisions and avoid problems. All the while, God is still there. God is waiting with longing and dismay, as God’s people refuse to recognize the way of divine justice and sacred love.

Consider the ways we have gotten used to following our own way. There are our careless approaches to environmental stewardship, our neglect of neighbors in need of nourishing food and comfortable housing, our assumption that discrimination against any of God’s people is simply the expected way of human beings. I wonder if God simply waits for us and asks why? There God is holding out those outstretched divine hands for us all to do the right thing. While there are consequences for our inaction and mistreatment, God, ever generous, is still saying in the words of Isaiah, “There is a blessing in it”—there is a blessing in us. Do we believe it? And will we act on God’s patient love?

Holy God, we know there is holiness in us. Draw us back toward your way of love, grace, and justice. Help us, in the way we attend to your people and your creation, to be the faithful ones you call us to be. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

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