Sunday, November 14, 2010

thinking about the Word - week 2

I have always loved the prophet Isaiah. The words are comforting at times and totally discomforting at times. There is a hopeful, rabble-rousing quality. Make it better! God will help!! You've got a long way to go, but you will do it!! There is poetry here to soothe and inspire. These words are set apart from others in the sacred text for me, somehow.

When I read these familiar words this morning, I was inspired and comforted. I was blown off course and set to rights. What I heard was, "Trust. Trust. Be quiet and listen. God is making and doing more than you could have possibly hoped, more than you could imagine." I have come to expect this from the prophet Isaiah.

What I didn't expect was what jumped off the page at me, straight away. The latter part of verse seventeen - "the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind." Oh. Okay. That is a challenging word for me today.

For, though I love to hear these prophetic words, though I seek to follow and to trust, I do not let go of the past so easily. I'm kind of a keeper of memories and stories. I remember the times when I suffered and the times when I was filled with joy. I understand my life because I have kept these stories written on my heart. Now, I don't think the prophet is asking the people to wipe their memories clean - although I'd have to do some serious research to find out (and I'm pretty committed to my temporary retirement in this area). I believe the spirit of the prophet's message (as I hear it) is to start fresh. Give God a chance. Live in freedom and let go of those weighty grudges, fears, disappointments and misconceptions that keep us from living the gift that this life is.

To be clearer (maybe), if I apply this idea to my life, what I let go of are the things which hold me back. Say, for example, I am lonely and I meet someone who could be a friend. If I open my heart to this person, really let myself be known and know them in return, despite past hurts and disappointments then I am letting go of the former things. If, on the other hand, I close myself off because I have been hurt in the past - well, then you see I am letting the "former things" direct my life rather than letting what God has prepared for me come into it.

I have learned about vulnerability - you might say I've learned the hard way, just like everybody else. I don't want that to sound bitter, it is merely a statement of fact. I got hurt because I made myself vulnerable, more than once. Remembering these former things, these aches and pains is part of what makes me human. What I hear from the prophet today is that it is safe to let go of these former things because what is being created for me is so good, so beyond my imagining. No need to hold onto that old baggage, folks, you will be safe, whole and protected from harm. I know you can't imagine it, says the prophet. Just give it a chance. You might even take it a step further and say that, if we do not let go of these former things, we won't really get to this promised place, at least not in its fullness. But that might be a topic for another time.

Isaiah 65:17-25
17 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19 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. 20 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. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 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. 23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD-- and their descendants as well. 24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but t
he serpent--its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.

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