Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Peace be with you!
The main road outside my neighborhood is under construction and the two entrances are a bit difficult to turn onto. The road with the straight shot to my house has an awkward approach – it seems like an on and off ramp to a highway. I cannot tell you how many times my significant other has missed that first entrance and had to use the second entrance.
And just when we became used to the awkwardness, the construction guys have now changed the route and how we enter our neighborhood in so that they can work on the other side of the road. It is great to see the progress, but many of us will thoroughly rejoice when this phrase of the roadwork is done.
We are not fully sure why work on our road was needed, but the rumor is that a Wal-Mart and a YMCA are going in on the corner, and the widened road will accommodate more traffic. A Wal-Mart and a YMCA will be welcome additions to our small town, but in the meantime we wearily watch the rebuilding of our main fairway. Although it is exciting to see the preparations for the future take place, all of our neighbors are anxiously awaiting the completion of the roadwork.
In our reading this week, God is preparing Isaiah for his second commission to rebuild Israel’s relationship with God. It is like a construction project to open a road that God can travel to reach his people. The Israelites have failed to keep their part of the covenant (their roadwork) with God. Luckily for them, God understands it is impossible for the Israelites to be perfect in his eyes in order to keep their relationship whole. God has a plan to rebuild his relationship with the Israelites, and his plan starts with Isaiah who will comfort God’s people. Can you imagine the conversation God and Isaiah have regarding this new commission?
Isaiah asks God, “Why bother? You know the Israelites will not be able to hold up their end of the bargain. They’ve always been terrible at roadwork.”
God chuckles and says, “Isaiah, you think I do not know that. I am recreating their covenant, so they can be in a relationship with me. See, I am going send another prophet called the Messiah to gather my people to come back to me through forgiveness. But your job is to prepare the Israelites by telling them the good news of grace and love that I will give them. In doing so, I will give them forgiveness of all of their sins. Now some of the Israelites have repented. These Israelites need to comfort the afflicted instead of afflicting the comfortable. The afflicted Israelites need to hear the comforting word of forgiveness. Therefore, you must tell the Israelites the good news of forgiveness that will rebuild their relationship with me.”
God has a plan (When doesn’t he?), and even if Isaiah does not understand God’s complete plan, he is being asked to set events in motion. As God commissions him, Isaiah has the responsibility to share this strange good news with the Israelites. God will provide a way for his people to be in a relationship with him again. Even if the Israelites feel unworthy or abandoned, God knows that his people are broken and could not be blameless under any circumstance. By doing so, God is starting to rebuild his relationship with his people, including us.
Then we come to the Gospel of Mark. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Well, we know it is not really the “beginning.” With a trained ear, we know the messenger in Mark 1:2 refers to Isaiah, which the readers of Mark would recall from the Book of Isaiah. The readers of the Gospel of Mark would also see John the Baptist as Elijah as the one who is thought to be coming back to redeem God’s people (Jacobson, et al.).
We also know the story never truly ends, and the beginning is still happening through the way we live out the good news. We continue to prepare the way for the Lord (Mark 1:3) by living out the good news in a way that draws other people to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The beginning happens with us as we spread the good news of God’s forgiveness for sinners.
Like the Israelites and Isaiah, we may still feel unworthy of God’s grace. We may also feel as though we have been abandoned – maybe by a significant other, a parent, a friend, a sibling, an aunt or an uncle – or even by God. We still have these feelings, even when we believe in the good news. We try to fight the feelings of unworthiness or abandonment, but because we are human we cannot escape these feelings. They are a part of the human condition.
Part of the point of the season of Advent is about working through our feelings of unworthiness or abandonment and experiencing God’s forgiveness and grace. How we let these feelings define our lives determines how we accept the good news and therefore God the Father. Take time this week to experience the feelings of the unworthiness or abandonment in your lives and allow Jesus to love you even in that dark place. Then hear his message of forgiveness, given freely to you through his death and resurrection. This is one way we can prepare the road of our hearts for the big thing that is coming: Jesus!
Come, O Lord, come.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for good news you share with Isaiah and the Israelites. Help us to be honest about our feelings of unworthiness or abandonment this Advent season in order that we can welcome the good news into our lives. Thank you for rebuilding your relationship with us through Jesus. Amen.
Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis, David Lose, and Matt Skinner. “Brainwave 207: Lectionary Texts for Dec. 04, 2011.” Brainwave. St Paul, November 27, 2011.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How has God commissioned you to share the good news?
2. How and when has God rebuilt his relationship with you?
3. How do you fight or accept your feelings of unworthiness or abandonment? Have you ever let Jesus love you in the midst of those feelings?