The prophet Isaiah is writing in the time of the sixth century (BCE), a time when destruction and exile have left the community fractured and in chaos. The prophet seems to recognize something about the state of their lives. The people have forgotten or have doubts about who it is that created them. Isaiah reminds them (and us), “God makes dignitaries useless and the earth’s judges into nothing” (CEB). In other words, no one is God but God.
I recently attended our Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Oxford College where I work. The keynote speaker was an alumna of the school. A strengths coach herself, she told the students how crucial it is to understand our strengths. At the conclusion of her address, she offered us snippets from a letter she had written to the current Student Government Association president. The letter contained advice that the speaker felt would have been helpful to her during her SGA presidency, including this: “Perfection is actually a liability.” Isaiah might tell us that no one is God but God.
It is not helpful to compare our lives with Isaiah's community or any other in history, even when a story resonates with us. But we can allow previous experiences to inform what we may be going through now. These experiences can help us to shape new and creative responses as we live faithfully in our homes, places of worship, workplaces, schools, and communities. As we do this, we would be wise to heed the prophet’s words:
Look up at the sky and consider: Who created these?
The one who brings out their attendants one by one,
summoning each of them by name. Because of God’s
great strength and mighty power, not one is missing (CEB).
God, the Holy One who sits above the circle of the earth and to whom no one can be compared, help us to look up and pay attention. Help us to remember that there is room for everyone in your good creation. May it be so. Amen.
What is the ultimate source of our strength? All the authors for this week come to the same conclusion: True strength comes from the Lord. Isaiah asks: “Who is like God?” God never grows weary and provides unfailing strength to those who wait for God. The psalmist praises God as the one who lifts up those who are beaten down. It is not those with human strength who are truly mighty but those empowered by God. In First Corinthians, Paul states that he has laid down any form of his own strength so that the gospel may advance. In Mark, Jesus heals many as a demonstration of his power over the physical world. Thus, God’s power is not just a metaphor but a reality.
Read Isaiah 40:21-31. In what ways do you call on God’s unfailing strength? How is that strength sustaining you?
Read Psalm 147:1-11, 20. How do you experience God’s provision in your life? What is your response to God?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:16-23. How are you living out God’s call to you? How has your call evolved over time?
Read Mark 1:29-39. Where is your “deserted place” where you spend time alone with God? What helps you maintain a discipline of spending time alone with God each day?
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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