Rev Katherine Rainger reflects on the ancient and contemporary desire for peace.
A new path that reconciles
Andy Mitchell reflects on the task of the privileged as we await God’s new creation.
Daily Reading Isaiah 35:1-10
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people;
no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
One of the most beautiful parts of Scripture, Isaiah 35 speaks to a vision of redeemed creation.
It describes a new Exodus of God’s people as they enter the kingdom at the end of this age. We’re reminded of Psalm 96 as all creation exalts the coming king and his people, and pointed toward Hebrews 12 as the author encourages believers to persevere in faith.
To be honest, I struggle to read myself into this procession of “the redeemed… And the ransomed.” Not because I expect to be at the receiving end of God’s “vengeance (and) terrible recompense,” nor because I expect to be found to be one of the “unclean” not fit for the road. Rather, it’s because I don’t experience the kind of oppression that these travellers clearly do. Biblical scholar Alec Motyer writes, “The pilgrims themselves…are under oppression, just as the exodus people were, but they are summoned to fortitude in full confidence of divine salvation.”
I experience abundant privilege in this country, but I have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends, and friends who came to this country seeking asylum, who do not. The recent shooting of Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu shocked many in this nation. I, myself, recently learnt that there are churches in my own denomination that receive an income by charging rent to refugee and asylum seeker churches. Institutional racism, or ignorance, is a lived reality for many Australians.
In referring to Isaiah 35, Aunty Reverend Denise Champion in her book Yarta Wandatha says “We are being presented, both First and Second Peoples, with the opportunity to follow a new path that reconciles and heals. To do that we need to be able to sing together, dance together, sit down together, eat together, learn to live together in peace, and tell stories, allowing this land to speak to us and through us.”
While all humanity - indeed all creation - is longing for Christ’s return and a time when “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away,” those of us who benefit from the dominant society can always learn to listen better to those who do not; we can always try to understand more fully, we can always act with greater compassion. All of us are called into the ministry of reconciliation and empowered by the Holy Spirit for this work. How might you play your part in this vision of the kingdom today?
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