If I believed, as some social scientists do, that people are nothing more than what their past experiences have conditioned them to be, I would have to give up on efforts to get my social work students at Eastern University to commit to trying to change people. If societal influences and the psychological experiences of persons’ yesterdays predetermine who they will become, then hopes to redirect their lives into what God calls them to be are minimized. Instead, I tell my students that persons determine their lives more by the future they choose than by their past experiences.
The young woman hurt by molestation at the hands of adults she trusted is not necessarily doomed to a life of anger and hurt. The teenage boy whose father abandoned him is not predestined to being resentful forever. Everyone can be free because the future is open. We can become what we will to be, and God wants to participate in that decision.
Despite their many hardships, the ancient Jews maintain a sense of joy because they have a vision from their prophets of a bright and wonderful future. The words of today’s scripture from Isaiah 35 keep them going even when they have reason to despair. In their dark times in Babylon, the people of Israel are assured by prophets that a glorious future is coming. We too can be future oriented.
In the midst of personal tragedy and injustice, we can still hope. When life is hard, we believe that someday and somehow all will be good.
From a societal standpoint, Isaiah 35 offers joyful assurance that a glorious future lies ahead for the whole world.
God, make us hopefully aware that whatever pain and troubles mark the present, you will lead us into a glorious future that we work together to create. Amen.
Isaiah anticipates a future time of total restoration. The desert will bloom, the blind will see, the lame will walk, and the people will return to Jerusalem with joy. Since ancient times, some have understood this as a description of the age of the Messiah. Luke records the song of Mary. After Elizabeth blesses her and her unborn child, Mary praises God for God’s strength, mercy, and generosity. In the epistle, James encourages his audience to be patient as they await the second coming of the Lord. In the same way, we wait for the birth of the Messiah during Advent. An uncertain John the Baptist sends a message to Jesus to ask if he is the promised Messiah. Jesus responds by affirming that he fulfills the messianic expectations in the prophets.
Read Isaiah 35:1-10. When has scripture strengthened you through personal or societal crises?
Read Luke 1:47-55. Those with power interpret scripture differently than those who are oppressed. How can you make room for perspectives other than your own as you interpret scripture?
Read James 5:7-10. When have you had to endure frustration with patience? How have you been strengthened by these experiences?
Read Matthew 11:2-11. What does it mean to you to be greater than John the Baptist?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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