March 31: Are we there yet?
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I have to confess that Lent has seemed really long to me this year. I feel like the child in the backseat asking, “Are we there yet?” Haven’t we repented and fasted enough? Aren’t we good now?
Out of exile in Babylon, the people of God returned to Palestine full of hope. Having passed through judgment and learned their lessons, surely now they could be the covenant people they were called to be: people who worshiped only the Lord God and who established justice for the vulnerable in community. The first part of Isaiah 65 suggests this was not what happened (65:1-16). Nevertheless, in Isaiah 65:17-25, the prophet offers hope to his people: God continues to act and is again about to do something so good that they will no longer wish for better times of their ancestors (65:17; Hag 2:3). The people in Jerusalem will receive joy from the Lord (65:18); they will live long lives and will dwell in the land for a long time, and their children and grandchildren will enjoy the fruit of their labor (65:20-22). All violence will cease among them (65:25).
During Holy Week, we wait and watch as Judas hands Jesus over to be crucified; we see Peter deny his friend and teacher. We watch, unsettled, knowing we would not have done better. But still God has not stopped working. God will triumph over all of sin and death, and God will make all things new, on Easter Sunday and beyond.
God, we let go of thinking that we have arrived and hold on to the hope of newness that you continue to offer us. Teach us to forgive as you forgive us, for in you lies our livelihood. Amen.
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 65:17-25 (NRSV)
For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labour in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord —
and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent — its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.