June 13, 2015

 Isaiah - 55-57
“Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway—buy and eat!  Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.  Buy without money—everything’s free!  Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?  Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest.

Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you, the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love.  I set him up as a witness to the nations,  made him a prince and leader of the nations, and now I’m doing it to you:...

Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand.  Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking.  Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.  For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.  Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.  So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life....

God’s Message:  “Guard my common good: Do what’s right and do it in the right way, for salvation is just around the corner, my setting-things-right is about to go into action. How blessed are you who enter into these things, you men and women who embrace them, who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it, who watch your step and don’t do anything evil!  Make sure no outsider who now follows God ever has occasion to say, ‘God put me in second-class. I don’t really belong.’ And make sure no physically mutilated person is ever made to think, ‘I’m damaged goods. I don’t really belong.’”

For God says: “To the mutilated who keep my Sabbaths and choose what delights me and keep a firm grip on my covenant, I’ll provide them an honored place in my family and within my city, even more honored than that of sons and daughters. I’ll confer permanent honors on them  that will never be revoked.  And as for the outsiders who now follow me, working for me, loving my name, and wanting to be my servants—All who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it, holding fast to my covenant—I’ll bring them to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. They’ll be welcome to worship the same as the ‘insiders,‘ to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar.  Oh yes, my house of worship will be known as a house of prayer for all people.” The Decree of the Master, God himself, who gathers in the exiles of Israel: “I will gather others also, gather them in with those already gathered.”...

For Israel’s watchmen are blind, the whole lot of them. They have no idea what’s going on. They’re dogs without sense enough to bark, lazy dogs, dreaming in the sun— But hungry dogs, they do know how to eat,voracious dogs, with never enough.  And these are Israel’s shepherds!  They know nothing, understand nothing. They all look after themselves, grabbing whatever’s not nailed down. “Come,” they say, “let’s have a party.  Let’s go out and get drunk!” And tomorrow, more of the same: “Let’s live it up!”

 Meanwhile, right-living people die and no one gives them a thought.  God-fearing people are carted off and no one even notices.  The right-living people are out of their misery, they’re finally at rest.  They lived well and with dignity and now they’re finally at peace.

“But you, children of a witch, come here! Sons of a slut, daughters of a whore.  What business do you have taunting, sneering, and sticking out your tongue?....Deserting me, you’ve gone all out, stripped down and made your bed your place of worship.... You send scouts to search out the latest in religion, send them all the way to hell and back. You wear yourselves out trying the new and the different, and never see what a waste it all is. You’ve always found strength for the latest fad, never got tired of trying new religions.

“Who talked you into the pursuit of this nonsense, leaving me high and dry, forgetting you ever knew me? Because I don’t yell and make a scene do you think I don’t exist?  I’ll go over, detail by detail, all your ‘righteous’ attempts at religion, and expose the absurdity of it all....“But anyone who runs to me for help will inherit the land, will end up owning my holy mountain!”...

A Message from the high and towering God,... “I live in the high and holy places, but also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed, and what I do is put new spirit in them, get them up and on their feet again.  For I’m not going to haul people into court endlessly,  I’m not going to be angry forever.  Otherwise, people would lose heart. These souls I created would tire out and give up.  I was angry, good and angry, because of Israel’s sins.  I struck him hard and turned away in anger, while he kept at his stubborn, willful ways.  When I looked again and saw what he was doing,  I decided to heal him, lead him, and comfort him,  creating a new language of praise for the mourners.  Peace to the far-off, peace to the near-at-hand,” says God— “and yes, I will heal them.
But the wicked are storm-battered seas that can’t quiet down. The waves stir up garbage and mud.  There’s no peace,” God says, “for the wicked.”

Luke 19:1-19:27
Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho.  There was a man there, his name, Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich.  He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd in his way-he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd.  So he ran ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.  When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down.  Today is my day to be a guest in your house.”  Zacchaeus scrambled down the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him.  Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped.  “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”  Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned.  He stammered apologetically...Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home.  Here he is: Zacchaeus, Son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”  

While Jesus had their attention, and because they were getting close to Jerusalem by this time and expectation was building that God’s kingdom would appear any minute, he told this story about a man descended from a royal house who needed to make a long trip back to the headquarters to get authorization of his rule and then return.  But first he called ten servants together, gave them each a sum of money, and instructed them.  “Operate with this until I return.”  But the citizens there hated him.  So they sent a commission with a signed petition to oppose his rule...When he came back bringing the authorization of his rule, he called these ten servants to whom he had given the money to find out how they had done...the third servant reported “I kept it hidden in the cellar.  To tell you the truth.  I was a little afraid.  I know you have high standards and hate sloppiness, and don’t suffer fools gladly.  Then the master said after telling this servant to give the money he had to the servant who used his well, “Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of.  Play it safe and end up holding the bag.  As for these enemies of mine who petitioned against my rule, clear them out of here.  I don’t want to see their faces around here again.’”