Rev Katherine Rainger reflects on the ancient and contemporary desire for peace.
The God who comes to comfort
Steff Fenton reminds us that in our weakness and isolation, God will endure forever. We will never be alone.
Daily Reading Isaiah 40:1-10
Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
A voice says, ‘Cry out!’
And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand for ever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
There are few things better than the presence of a loved one when life gets hard.
When I came out as gay, I lost a lot of my community and friends in the church. Many of the people I cared for treated me differently. For years I tried to change my orientation and slowly became isolated and ashamed. I heard messages of judgement and retreated into myself. However, it was also during this time that many people comforted me. I soon found unexpected family in the church I now attend. It was one of the first times my sexuality didn’t define me. They advocated on my behalf and sustained me. In the presence of these people I breathed out the judgement, isolation and shame I had held onto for so long. I was transformed by their love. In our passage today we see the healing presence of a God who comes to comfort.
After 160 years of silence and isolation, the people of Judah hear God speak to them: ‘be comforted, my people, I am coming to you’. They don’t need to feel alone, oppressed or ashamed anymore, God has forgiven and comes with healing. God moves towards the people who are coming from the wilderness. The valleys are raised high and the mountains brought low. Do you notice that? When God’s presence moves towards the people, the ground becomes level. With the presence of the Lord there is a sense of equality.
This passage gives us a beautiful picture of God making a way back to Judah, to bring them out of their isolation and shame, to comfort, heal and level the ground. It is a vision quoted in all of the gospels to announce the coming of a new kingdom.
In Jesus, the presence of God comes to us. In Jesus, we receive God’s forgiveness and freedom. In Jesus, the valleys are raised high and the mountains brought low, the first become last and the last become first. When God’s presence comes we encounter a world being made right. In Jesus, the ultimate work of justice endures. A new kingdom is being established and during the times we feel weak in the building and tired in the waiting, God endures.
God sustains the work of justice among those who feel tired, ignored and alone. For the campaigner, advocate, mentor or mother, we can easily become exhausted and wither. As a gay Christian in ministry I often get tired, feeling weak like flowers and grass. Thankfully, God is the one who creates change and redemption. God is the sustainer of comfort and healing, the one who endures justice and righteousness. I realise in my weakness and isolation that I can never be alone: God will endure forever.
Be comforted, my people. God has come to you.
Share this post?