statue of dog attack
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lalunablanca/1045612155/">Dave Barger</a>

Isaiah 50:4-9

God gave me the smarts to know
How to motivate the exasperated.
And God helps me every day
To listen to what people are really saying.
God opened my ears,
And I didn’t bolt. I didn’t run away.
I didn’t cover my face when they spat at me,
But I gave myself over to their attacks
And let them rip out my beard.

God help me,
They’re not worthy to be considered insults.
They may as well be striking flint,
Because they’re the ones who are shameful.
God will soon prove me right.

You wanna mess with me?
Bring it!
Who’s gonna get in my face?
Bring it!
God’s on my side.
Who are you to say I’m wrong?
They’re all washed up,
Nothing but moth-eaten rags.

Today is not just “holy Wednesday.” It’s also the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

Jesus and Dr. King both knew the truth of Isaiah’s words. It’s not the one being abused who has anything to be ashamed of, but the abusers. It’s not the abuser’s insults and cruelty, painful as they are in the moment, that count for anything in the grand scheme of things. Those who watch the old news reels of police turning dogs and fire hoses on unresisting protestors feel shame not for the protestors being attacked, but for the illegitimacy of their attackers.

Nobody (well, nobody worth listening to) remembers Pilate or Jim Clark with respect or admiration.

God’s Global Assignment

The UN building
Photo via <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_United_Nations_Building.jpg">Wikipedia</a>

Isaiah 49:6

God says, “Promoting Jacob’s tribes and restoring Israel isn’t your only job if you’re going to serve me. If you’re going to do my work, you’ll have to be a beacon for everyone, not a nationalist, an internationalist.”

If what Isaiah says is true, religion (at least Jewish and Christian religion) should never be reduced to parochialism.

If what Isaiah says is true, there is no such thing as a national religion.

If what Isaiah says is true, then you can only say, “God bless the USA,” or “God save the Queen” (or whatever your national slogan is), if you add, “and God bless everyone else.”

God bless the Iraqis, the Russians, the Chinese, the Afghans, the Somalis, the Rwandans, the Uzbeks, the French, the Inuits, the Guarani, the …. You get the picture.

If what you’re doing “for God” leaves out the interests of any of the people on God’s green earth, no matter how small, you’re not really working for God.

Here’s God’s Vision. What’s Yours?

table setting
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tracyhunter/133891501/">Tracy Hunter</a>

Isaiah 25:6-9

On the mountaintop, God will prepare a huge feast, with the finest wines and the best delicacies – the best of everything. And everyone is invited.

On the mountaintop, God will lift the pall that is over us all. God will forever banish death. God will wipe all the tears away. God will remove everyone’s shame.

Then people will say:

Look! This is our God. We relied on God, and God rescued us.
This is the God we were waiting for.
Let’s celebrate and enjoy our release!

All because God will be with us on the mountain.

People have parties all the time. You can read about them on the society page. You can get the “exclusive coverage” from the nightly entertainment magazines on the TV. How many millions did Kim Kardashian make on her wedding feast from the exclusive coverage alone?

If this were just another VIP occasion this feast of God would be completely unremarkable. Even in Isaiah’s time. Everyone knew the kings and merchants – the 1% of their day – had these kinds of parties all the time.

But the difference with this party is that everyone is included.

Everyone. No exceptions. That’s the goal. That’s the vision. Everyone gets to sample the $250-a-bottle Cabernet. Everyone gets a place at the table where the fillet mignon is being carved. At God’s table, nobody goes hungry, and nobody goes home at the end of the night in tears.

It’s not just a nice sign on the front of a church lawn.

That’s God’s vision, as Isaiah tells it. What’s yours?

You Get One Shot

Bo Bolster
Photo Credit: Don Shuler

Isaiah 40:6-8

People are like grass,
They’re as flimsy as wildflowers.
The stalks dry up and the flowers wilt
When the wind of God blows on them.
Surely, people are grass.
The stalks dry up and the flowers wilt,
But what God says is permanent.

We got news yesterday afternoon of the sudden (unexpected) death of an old friend. Aneurism. Fine one day, gone the next.

He was living proof that you don’t have to be rich or famous to make a difference. You just have to show up. Every day. And make coffee.

You get one shot at showing up, standing up, speaking up. You get one chance to be encouraging, inspiring, loving, and gracious.

Take it.