Devotions for November 28-December 4, 2016
Monday, November 28, 2016
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Isaiah 61:1a).
In this passage of Isaiah, the servant is talking. Who the servant is has been a hotly debated topic. The Church has appropriated this passage and applied it to Jesus. The writer of Isaiah probably didn’t have Jesus in mind when he penned these words in the sixth century B.C.E. Today most Biblical scholars think that the servant was Israel—the people of God. The Spirit of God has come upon God’s people in order to empower them so that they can accomplish the Herculean task before them.
To live out our lives as followers of Jesus may seem like a daunting task. Seeking justice, striving for peace and sharing God’s love and grace with the people around us may appear to be impossible challenges. The Spirit of God is upon us, however. The Spirit is our strength when we are weak and our guide when we are perplexed. It is the Spirit who moves within us to transform us, and through us to change the world.
Come Holy Spirit come and move in and through the lives of your people. Amen.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
“He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1b).
The Spirit would descend upon the Old Testament prophets when they were to speak a word of the Lord and call the people back into a relationship with God. The Spirit landed upon Jesus in the form of a dove when he was baptized and about to begin his ministry. On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came upon the waiting disciples like a mighty wind.
It is true that the Holy Spirit has a multitude of tasks. The Spirit is God’s presence within us. It is because of the gift of the Spirit that Jesus can say, “I will be with you always.” It is also the Spirit that moves within us to shape us into the image of God. The purpose of the Spirit’s work, though, is always to prepare for service. Each of us as individuals and the entire church has been filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can preach good news to the oppressed and bind up the broken hearted. Where and to whom is the Spirit empowering us for service today?
Holy God, open our eyes that we may see the needs of others and understand why the Holy Spirit has come upon us. Amen.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
“To give them a garland instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:3a).
Our lives are filled with bad news. We turn on the news in the morning and listen to a recitation of all of the robberies, accidents and shootings that occurred while we were asleep. During the day we listen to people complaining that their favorite team lost, the government isn’t doing what it should be doing, the weather isn’t cooperating and they’re just having a bad day. (We may even add to the complaints.) At night, we turn on the news again and listen to the reports of wars, wild fires and terrorist threats. In Old Testament terms, we are wallowing in ashes.
As followers of Jesus, we are not called to add to the bad news by condemning others and pronouncing God’s judgment upon them. Instead we are called to proclaim the good news—and we have a lot of it! The garland that we have to give to others is the steadfast love of God, along with God’s overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness. We can assure others of God’s presence—even in their disappointments, failures and grief. The world longs for good news and we have what the world needs.
Holy Spirit, make us bold so that we do not keep the good news to ourselves but generously share it with others. Amen.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
“They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory” (Isaiah 61:3b).
Emily lived in a verbally abusive home. For all of her fourteen years she had heard that she was stupid, ugly and an unplanned mistake. When one of her teachers complimented Emily on her work, she was surprised and a seed was planted that she might be a person of worth. Emilio had experienced a string of failures. His inner voice began to condemn him as a failure and Emilio began to believe it. His perspective changed when a friend told Emilio how he admired him because Emilio didn’t let setbacks get him down. Emilio would pick himself up and try again.
The people to whom the servant spoke were the exiles. They had been beaten down and had lost everything. The exiles had lost their land and their homes. They were living with few possessions as aliens in a foreign land. The words and actions of the servant began to have an effect upon the People of Israel. They started to see themselves as more than exiles, aliens and needy. The People of Israel began to understand that they would be oaks of righteousness and the planting of the Lord.
As followers of Jesus, we share the good news with others and by the power of the Holy Spirit our words and actions can have a transforming effect upon them. Looking around, we can easily see who needs to hear the good news that we have to share.
Holy Spirit, empower our words and actions so that the lives of those around us are transformed. Amen.
Friday, December 2, 2016
“They shall build up ancient ruins” (Isaiah 61:4).
Several popular programs on HGTV show the remodeling of old homes. Taking structures with serious flaws or major repairs, handymen and women with hard work and ingenuity achieve amazing results. Nightmares are turned into dreams and eyesores are transformed into masterpieces.
In the passage, Isaiah tells the exiles that they will return to their land and rebuild what was destroyed in war. What the prophet sees happening is how the Spirit of God often works in our lives and in our world. The Spirit takes us and shapes us into God’s image. The process takes time and is sometimes quite painful, but the end results are changed lives. The Spirit moves in the world and brings peace to areas that were once at war, reworks unjust systems and brings justice, and plants acceptance and love where there was previously only judgment and hate.
Creator God, we thank you for your movement in our lives and in our world. We wait with anticipation to see your finished work. Amen.
Saturday, December 3, 2016
“For I the Lord love justice” (Isaiah 61:8).
When Babylon attacked Judah, both sides thought that God (or gods) was on their side. The people of Judah thought that God would defeat Babylon. The prophets, though, proclaimed that God was using Babylon in order to punish the nation for its idolatry. During the United States Civil War, both sides believed that God was on their side. In sporting events devoted fans pray and hope that God is on the side of their teams. In conflict and contests, it is often difficult to determine which side God is on.
This is not true when justice is at stake. God is always on the side of those who have been treated unjustly. In the 60’s, many churches supported segregation and fought the civil rights movement. God wasn’t with those congregations and denominations, though. The Spirit was striving for justice with those who had been oppressed and abused.
If we wonder where God, is all we need to do is to go to those in need and those who are suffering from injustice. If we ever wonder what we are to do, it is to strive for justice because the Lord loves justice.
Holy Lord, move within us that we may love and seek justice as much as you do. Amen.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
“For as the earth brings forth its shoots” (Isaiah 61:11).
The wildfire burned thousands of acres of land. Wherever a person looked there was death and destruction. Everything was black and there was no sign of life. As the months passed by, though, there were signs of life in the once dead landscape. Pine seedlings began to take root and grasses began to grow again. What once looked hopeless now had signs of hope appearing.
Many times in life, situations look hopeless. Where God is, however, there is always hope. God’s Spirit moves with new life and hope. Light pierces the darkness, and out of our charred visions and dreams great shoots sprout.
Spirit of God, breathe new life and hope into those areas of our lives where there is hopelessness and death. Amen.