Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Today’s text

Isaiah 35:3-8

Strengthen all weary hands, steady all trembling knees and say to the faint-hearted, 'Be strong! Do not be afraid. Here is your God, vengeance is coming, divine retribution; he is coming to save you.' Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy; for water will gush in the desert and streams in the wastelands, the parched ground will become a marsh and the thirsty land springs of water; the lairs where the jackals used to live will become plots of reed and papyrus. And through it will run a road for them and a highway which will be called the Sacred Way; the unclean will not be allowed to use it; He will be the one to use this road, the fool will not stray along it.

The prophet speaks of the joy of returning home for a people long separated from the place they belong. This is one of the great stories of Hebrew Scripture, the deliverance return home of exiles.

I have seen the anguish of exile. As a journalist, I walked through refugee camps on more than one continent. The language, culture and skin color of the refugees were different in each case. But the single question on their lips was always the same: When can we go home?

Home may have been in shambles, ravaged by looting, bombs and fire. They may have known or suspected that their physical dwellings no longer existed. It didn’t matter. Their hearts’ desire was the same … home. I want to go home.

Every strange face of a journalist or aid worker was one more person to ask the sad question: When? Will it be soon?

I dreaded the question. I had no answer, and the answer I suspected might be accurate was depressing. I would shake my head, look at the ground and say, “No, not soon,” all the time wondering if the honest answer was, “not ever.”

Almost every person I met longed to return home. Their eyes said it without words, “I need to return to my place in the world, to the place I know, to the place that knows me. Until then, there is no peace.”

Such longing is the ground from which the prophet Isaiah’s joy springs. The land, the animals, all nature participates in the exiles’ joy as they walk the road home, a holy road that only the faithful could walk, only those who kept hope alive, only those who were not reduced to foolishness of despair by interminable waiting for a release they could never assume was coming.

When release comes all nature lights up with the joy of souls whose hearts’ delight is coming true. Such feeling is not unknown to us. We well know what happens in our hearts and in the entirety of our outlook when the sun comes out after a long or deep sadness.

The hopeful message is that God is the loving power of deliverance that seeks to bring us home to the joy for which we are intended, to the places we know and the places that know us, to our true home. Foolishness is failure to trust the good and gracious will of the One whose name is Deliverance.

I could speak of this as a physical coming home to a place we once knew or perhaps a place we never knew, until we stumbled into a somewhere that became a true home for us, after years of never really having a home.

Or we might speak of the home as the spiritual discovery that we have spent much of our lives wandering about, going places, doing work, living in ways that left our souls uneasy and dissatisfied.

There is a coming home, here, too, a return to the Love for which no name will do. When we begin to feel and know it’s stirring, our lame hearts leap in joy and streams of water flow in the wastelands of our hearts. And we know: This is the sacred way.

Pr. David L. Miller

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