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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, July 11, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Isaiah 55:10–13

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 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 succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 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. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. (NRSV)

More than thirty-five years ago, Gretchen and I chose these prophetic verses for our wedding. We were forming a new covenant, blending our three daughters and the two of us in a new household. What powerful words of promise: “For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace.” What a metaphorical way to express the joy we experienced and continue to experience: the mountains and hills bursting into song, accompanied by the applause of the trees of the field.

We were, of course, appropriating words of hope and promise addressed by the second of the prophets Isaiah to the Israelites in exile in Babylon. Soon they would be going home into an Eden-like land which would welcome them joyously. Even though these words far outshone the reality the Israelites came to experience when they did arrive home, in the moment these images inspired their waiting.

As I reflect during a time of physical distancing and our own more modest sense of exile, how might these joyful and promising words sustain us? Consider the simple gifts of everyday if we stop and look and listen: the colorful sight of blooms bursting forth; the common grace of breezes rustling the leaves of the trees, cheering us on. These sights and sounds speak of God’s continuing presence with us, just as the Holy One upheld God’s people in exile and offered them images of joy for their upcoming journey home.

God of joy and promise, give me, give us a fresh sense of the light of your word which breaks through the clouds that too often overshadow us. Open our eyes and ears to your natural presence with us, we pray, sustaining and renewing us. Amen.

Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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