November 30, 2011

Nov. 30: See no future, speak no future, have no future

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By Paul Keim, professor of Bible and religion
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 40:1-11 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL:
A command resounds throughout the divine assembly, addressing the attendant beings gathered before Yahweh. The heavens have been burdened with the sufferings of a people. The sheer gravity of their loss, the trauma of their fate, the numbness that has settled upon a once thriving community, now dislocated and disheartened – hangs like a shroud upon heaven and earth. Comfort them!

All chronic suffering seems endless, a potent cocktail of pain and shame. Conditioned neural firings debilitate the body. Social stigma robs us of esteem, even in our own eyes. Over time we make peace with the pain, we placate ourselves into a stupor that seems our only defense. We wear the ignominy of our crippledness like a raggedy coat, embracing the stasis of our diminished condition as a kind of refuge. Will it never end?

Cry out, you priests and prophets, teachers and leaders! Revive the spirits of your people.

Not with false hopes and self-aggrandizing proclamations. Don’t puff them up with saber-rattling triumphalism or mesmerize them with pie-in-the-sky consolations. Though you, too, ache with the wounds of your people, declare to them the truth that no one can yet see: Your God is here with you! The opening strains of the New Exodus Symphony begin lilting on the breeze.

The voice of the herald cries out (in beautifully balanced verse):
(A) In the wilderness (B) prepare (C) the way (D) of YHWH.
(B’) Make straight (A’) in the desert (C’) a highway (D’) for our God.

It’s time.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 40:1-11 (NRSV)
1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. 3A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 6A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” 9You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

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Comments (8)

  1. Thanks, Paul for a challenging and thoughtful devotional that keeps the focus on Advent waiting rather than Christmas shopping!!!

    Chris Wood November 30, 2011 |
  2. Your word craft is refreshing and inspiring. Thank you for a journey into the unknown. Have a good and meaningful Christmas season. God bless.

    John M Lederach November 30, 2011 |
  3. How I wish you could send this to every member of Congress! Thank you and blessings to you.

    Patricia November 30, 2011 |
  4. I am giving an Advent message this evening on Isaiah 40. You have given me a fresh perspective. Thank you and may God continue to use you to God’s glory!

    John M Blanchard,Jr. November 30, 2011 |
  5. Having experience personally with it, I appreciated the connection to suffering from chronic pain.

    Gary Olsen-Hasek November 30, 2011 |
  6. Your wonderfully expressed reflection guided our conversation during our President’s Council meeting this morning. “Proclaim the presence!” “Revive the spirits of your people” were inspired challenge to us.

    Jim Brenneman, GC President November 30, 2011 |
  7. Thanks Paul for your words. It’s so obvious and moving how much you love the Hebrew scriptures and the OT history of the Jewish people. It’s a good thing for us to hear the anguish and lostness they felt. We too need to be comforted.

    Anne Birky November 30, 2011 |
  8. This is a keeper, Paul, in all the ways. Thanks for the word of comfort for all who suffer chronic pain, at whatever level.

    Joan December 2, 2011 |