This passage represents another assurance: that no matter how many times we turn away from God as individuals or nations, we always will be God’s beloved children, and God will welcome back repentant hearts. As powerful king and gentle shepherd, God will guide and protect us—not just one generation or group but all of us. As promised, all people shall see God’s glory together. Though this passage speaks of the renewal of a nation, we often witness examples of God’s joyous welcome home in individual lives. If you or anyone you love has ever been released from imprisonment of any kind, whether virtual imprisonment in addiction or behind the locked bars of a building, this passage offers hope.

A few years ago Jim,* a friend’s teenaged son, stole $1,500 from the fast-food restaurant where he worked. In his state, theft of that amount is a felony. A frightened teenager was sentenced to a year of incarceration in a juvenile detention center. Hope for a “normal” life of high school sports, prom, graduation, and college were gone—at least in our eyes—because reports of the results of adolescent detention are dismal. Yet by the grace of God, who sent one of God’s messengers to care for and encourage Jim, he earned his GED and was awarded a scholarship to a state university. Because he hadn’t reached the age of eighteen, his prison record was expunged. He emerged from prison free from the bondage of a lifelong record and went straight to his college dorm. Four years later he walked triumphantly down the walkway to receive his diploma, and our hearts were filled with awe and joy. This is the glory of God manifested in the salvation of one of God’s beloved children.

*Name changed

God of the imprisoned and the free, help us be your messengers to bring hope to those imprisoned by addiction or shame or by state institutions. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Mark 1:1-8

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Lectionary Week
November 30—December 6, 2020
Scripture Overview

Prepare the way of the Lord! This is the theme for the second week of Advent. Isaiah cries out from the wilderness that the people should prepare for the arrival of the Lord. This will be met with shouts of praise and rejoicing. The psalmist tells his audience to prepare the way of the Lord by living rightly, namely by showing love and faithfulness to each other. Second Peter restates that we do not know the day of the Lord’s ultimate return, but we know that the delay is a result of God’s patience and desire for all to come to repentance. Matthew opens his Gospel with a quotation from this week’s Isaiah passage. Here John the Baptist is presented as the one preparing the way of the Lord.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 40:1-11. When have you profoundly experienced God’s guidance or protection? How did this experience change you?
Read Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13. Consider the author’s questions. How can you and your faith community return to God to “dwell in God’s land”?
Read 2 Peter 3:8-15a. How might considering God’s time alter your perspective on your daily rush and prompt you toward a greater experience of peace?
Read Mark 1:1-8. When have you reached a spiritual dead end? How did the working of the Holy Spirit help you turn around or move forward in a new way?

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.” 

View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.