“Comfort, O comfort my of us, says your God.”
On this Second Sunday of Creation, inside the 12 months of our Lord 2020, it is an apt proclamation. Public properly being specialists are warning us that we’re in a position to anticipate a tricky winter ahead, with a pandemic largely uncontrolled in america, and surging in a lot of totally different parts of the world. As a result of heroic efforts of scientists, there are environment friendly vaccines inside the works, nonetheless it will be a lot of months sooner than they’re broadly accessible. And people are affected by fatigue, fear, and loneliness.
The state of affairs bears some resemblance to that of the viewers of the distinctive prophecy of Isaiah 40. The divine command comes inside the midst of a state of affairs of exile and despair. The oldsters of Judah are in a wierd land, faraway from dwelling. There could also be hope, possibly dimly seen, on the horizon—the ability of Babylon is fading—nonetheless the current state of affairs continues to be one among displacement, nervousness, and struggling.
If there was ever a time for comfort, it is now.
So, this Sunday, Working Preacher, your of us wish to hearken to a phrase of comfort and of hope, significantly as they sit up for (or dread) a Christmas not like one other, the place the identical outdated family gatherings are unwise to hold, the place there could also be possibly little money for Christmas presents, or the place a favored one’s chair is eternally empty.
Nonetheless how will you preach comfort and hope in such a state of affairs?
How are you going to not? That is your calling, costly preacher. Similar to the exilic prophet of Isaiah 40, you’ve got the extreme privilege and obligation of proclaiming a imaginative and prescient of God’s kingdom breaking forth proper right into a world that contradicts that imaginative and prescient:
“Get you as a lot as a extreme mountain, O Zion, herald of fantastic tidings; increase up your voice with energy … increase it up, don’t be concerned; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Proper right here is your God!’” (Isaiah 40:9).
That is the prophetic exercise, the truth is, to interpret the cases theologically—not politically or economically or sociologically, nonetheless theologically—to degree out how God is full of life on the earth, to say to those who have trouble seeing, “Proper right here is your God!”
Now to be clear, normally the prophetic exercise has to do with calling of us to repentance, as John the Baptist (who appears heaps like an Outdated Testament prophet) does in our Gospel learning for in the intervening time, out inside the wilderness “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” That type of identify to repentance and phrases of judgment are what we usually anticipate of a prophet.
Perhaps that’s why the agnostic good pal of a preacher good pal of mine requested her earlier this 12 months, “Why is your God so indignant?” He was looking for an proof for all the harmful points which have occurred this 12 months: pandemic, monetary recession, fires, hurricanes, racial injustice.
And there could also be undoubtedly normally a necessity for a phrase of judgment. To take just one occasion, the pandemic has not loads precipitated as revealed horrible inequities and injustices in American society. It has solely accelerated a course of that started prolonged sooner than this 12 months of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. 1000’s of automobiles lined up at meals banks throughout the nation inside the days fundamental as a lot as Thanksgiving. Higher than 25 million Individuals reported not having enough meals to eat inside the ultimate week on this, the richest nation on the earth.1 People who have the prospect to work from home (along with me) keep in relative security whereas those who must work specifically individual hazard illness to earn a paycheck, within the occasion that they even nonetheless have a job.
Inside the face of such inequity, a phrase of judgment and a reputation to repentance are solely relevant prophetic responses. A prophet is delicate to evil in a strategy that the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants is not. It is all too easy to show into complacent inside the face of injustice—that’s merely one of the simplest ways points are, we’re saying. Nonetheless a prophet calls evil what it is and speaks truth to vitality. We seen such a prophetic spirit this ultimate summer season season inside the enormous peaceful demonstrations for racial justice; not inside the sporadic looting that accompanied a couple of of them, nonetheless inside the demonstrations themselves.
A prophet calls evil what it is, speaks truth to vitality, and as well as dares to produce a radically completely totally different imaginative and prescient of what might be, God’s imaginative and prescient of shalom—wholeness, properly being, peace—for every specific individual and every nation.
It is this imaginative and prescient of shalom that the prophet Isaiah lifts up in our learning for this Sunday. “Proper right here is your God!” says the prophet to a of us in exile. And how much God does the prophet proclaim? “See, the Lord GOD comes with may, and his arm pointers for him … He’ll feed his flock like a shepherd; he’ll accumulate the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” This God we proclaim, the God everyone knows most completely in Jesus Christ, fights in direction of all that is death-dealing in us and spherical us. And this God like a shepherd cares tenderly for his flock, carrying them once they’re weary, fundamental them as soon as they’ve misplaced their strategy.
It is that exact same imaginative and prescient of shalom that you simply’re known as to proclaim this uncommon Creation season, costly preacher. You are not a prophet, you are a pastor (or lay preacher), nonetheless your exercise of proclamation is rather like that of the prophet in in the intervening time’s learning from Isaiah. With the equivalent boldness required to speak truth to vitality, you are known as to proclaim comfort inside the midst of heavy grief. You are known as to proclaim hope inside the face of crippling fear.
Remember, however, that this hope, this Creation hope, is not passive; it is not quietist. The prophets are one thing nonetheless quietists. This hope is full of life and daring. Creation hope is not the equivalent issue as optimism, which relies on constructive contemplating and rose-colored glasses. Creation hope truly acknowledges the ache of present actuality, however it moreover dares to see God’s presence inside the midst of that ache. Creation hope, the hope of which Isaiah speaks, is grounded not in one thing we’re in a position to see, not in politicians or monetary establishment accounts or the market. This hope is grounded in God’s faithfulness, and for that trigger, it is true, and precise, and secure, one factor to flooring you, too, inside the weeks and months ahead.
Inside the midst of darkness, delicate breaks in. Inside the midst of despair, hope erupts. After prolonged prepared, a division will sprout. The entire success of God’s ensures has not however occurred, nonetheless it is coming. Such is Creation faith, and Creation hope. God grant you, costly preacher, the braveness and the boldness to proclaim it.