Lectionary Passage: Isaiah 61: 1-4, (8-11)
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;to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;to 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. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations.
Something has to change. We have to try something different. We cannot live like this anymore. How many times have you heard that in the last few months? And how many presidential candidates will rise to grace and fall to failure before we actually even elect the change agent we want for the next four years? Truthfully, I think I’m getting a case of political whiplash. And I’m trying hard to keep up. But it’s a little like trying to read a playbill in a dark theater for a REALLY slow-moving play. How many scenes were there in this act? How close are we to intermission? Look, all we want is for someone to fix things. Is that so hard?
Really, we’re not that different from these former exiles who were trying desperately to reshape their community. But it’s gone on awhile. It’s time for something to happen. Someone needs to fix things. So standing in the midst of the ruins of what was once a thriving Jerusalem, the prophetic witness depicts the perfect reign of God, the time when all of Creation will be renewed and fulfilled. This is the hope for the future. The prophet here affirms a specific and individual call from God, a call to bring good news, to bind up, to proclaim liberty, to witness, and to comfort. But then, in verse 3, the pronoun changes. No longer is the prophet affirming an individual’s call. The calling is now to the plural “they”. It’s not just the “me” that is the prophet; it is the “they” that is everyone. The prophet is not called to “fix” things; the prophet is called to proclaim that all are called to this work.
All of us are part of what the Lord has planted and nourished and grown to bloom. All of us are “they”. We are the ones that are called to become the new shoots sprouting to life. We are the ones that are called to bring good news, to bind up, to proclaim liberty, to bring justice, to witness, and to comfort. This Scripture may sound vaguely familiar to us for another reason. In the fourth chapter of the Gospel According to the writer known as Luke, Jesus stands in the synagogue in his home temple in the midst of a world smarting with Roman occupation and cites these same words. He acknowledges his own calling, he is commissioned to this work. And he sets forth an agenda using the words of this prophet. So, here we are reminded once again. We are reminded what we as the people of Christ are called to do–to bring good news, to bind up, to proclaim liberty, to bring justice, to witness, to comfort, and to build the Kingdom of God.
In this Season of Advent, we look for the coming of God into this world. We look toward the fullness of God’s Kingdom. But when we start beginning to look for someone to fix what is wrong in the meantime, we are reminded that we are they. We are the ones for which we’ve been waiting. We are the ones that while waiting with hopeful anticipation, we spend our time bringing good news, binding up, proclaiming liberty, bringing justice, witnessing, comforting, and building the Kingdom of God. So put down the playbill and get busy.
Grace and Peace,