June 11, 2016

Isaiah 49-51
Listen, far-flung islands, pay attention, faraway people: God put me to work from the day I was born.  The moment I entered the world he named me.  He gave me speech that would cut and penetrate. He kept his hand on me to protect me. He made me his straight arrow and hid me in his quiver. He said to me, “You’re my dear servant, Israel, through whom I’ll shine.”

But I said, “I’ve worked for nothing. I’ve nothing to show for a life of hard work. Nevertheless, I’ll let God have the last word.  I’ll let him pronounce his verdict.” “And now,” God says,...  “But that’s not a big enough job for my servant— just to recover the tribes of Jacob, merely to round up the strays of Israel. I’m setting you up as a light for the nations  so that my salvation becomes global!”... 

God also says: “When the time’s ripe, I answer you. When victory’s due, I help you.  I form you and use you to reconnect the people with me,  To put the land in order,  to resettle families on the ruined properties. I tell prisoners, ‘Come on out. You’re free!‘,  and those huddled in fear, ‘It’s all right. It’s safe now.’  There’ll be foodstands along all the roads,  picnics on all the hills—Nobody hungry, nobody thirsty,  shade from the sun, shelter from the wind,
For the Compassionate One guides them,  takes them to the best springs. I’ll make all my mountains into roads, turn them into a superhighway.  Look: These coming from far countries, and those, out of the north, these streaming in from the west, and those from all the way down the Nile!”... God has comforted his people.  He has tenderly nursed his beaten-up, beaten-down people.
But Zion said, “I don’t get it. God has left me. My Master has forgotten I even exist.” “Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget,  I’d never forget you—never.  Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.... Look up, look around, look well!  See them all gathering, coming to you? As sure as I am the living God”—God’s Decree— “you’re going to put them on like so much jewelry,  you’re going to use them to dress up like a bride....The children born in your exile will be saying, ‘It’s getting too crowded here. I need more room.’ And you’ll say to yourself, ‘Where on earth did these children come from? I lost everything, had nothing, was exiled and penniless...
The Master, God, says:
“Look! I signal to the nations, I raise my flag to summon the people. Here they’ll come:...You’ll know then that I am God. No one who hopes in me ever regrets it.”...I’m the one who’s on your side, defending your cause, rescuing your children... Then everyone will know that I, God, have saved you—I, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

 God says:...  It’s your sins that put you here, your wrongs that got you shipped out. So why didn’t anyone come when I knocked?  Why didn’t anyone answer when I called?  Do you think I’ve forgotten how to help? Am I so decrepit that I can’t deliver?  I’m as powerful as ever, and can reverse what I once did... 

The Master, God, has given me a well-taught tongue, so I know how to encourage tired people.  He wakes me up in the morning, wakes me up, opens my ears to listen as one ready to take orders. The Master, God, opened my ears, and I didn’t go back to sleep, didn’t pull the covers back over my head.  I followed orders,  stood there and took it while they beat me, held steady while they pulled out my beard, didn’t dodge their insults,  faced them as they spit in my face.  And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,  so I’m not disgraced. Therefore I set my face like flint, confident that I’ll never regret this.  My champion is right here.  Let’s take our stand together!... Who out there fears God, actually listens to the voice of his servant?  For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, here’s what: Trust in God.  Lean on your God!  But if all you’re after is making trouble, playing with fire, go ahead and see where it gets you. Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames,  But don’t expect me to just stand there and watch. I’ll hold your feet to those flames.

“Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living and committed to seeking God.  Ponder the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were dug.  Yes, ponder Abraham, your father, and Sarah, who bore you. Think of it! One solitary man when I called him, but once I blessed him, he multiplied....
“Pay attention, my people. Listen to me, nations.  Revelation flows from me.  My decisions light up the world.  My deliverance arrives on the run, my salvation right on time. I’ll bring justice to the peoples...my salvation will last forever, my setting-things-right will never be obsolete.

“Listen now, you who know right from wrong, you who hold my teaching inside you: Pay no attention to insults, and when mocked don’t let it get you down.  Those insults and mockeries are moth-eaten, from brains that are termite-ridden, but my setting-things-right lasts, my salvation goes on and on and on.”...

“I, I’m the One comforting you.  What are you afraid of—or who?  Some man or woman who’ll soon be dead?  Some poor wretch destined for dust?  You’ve forgotten me, God, who made you, who unfurled the skies, who founded the earth.... For I am God, your very own God, who stirs up the sea and whips up the waves, named God-of-the-Angel-Armies. I teach you how to talk, word by word, and personally watch over you, even while I’m unfurling the skies, setting earth on solid foundations,  and greeting Zion: ‘Welcome, my people!’”....

Therefore listen, please, you with your splitting headaches, you who are nursing the hangovers that didn’t come from drinking wine. Your Master, your God, has something to say, your God has taken up his people’s case: “Look, I’ve taken back the drink that sent you reeling. No more drinking from that jug of my anger!  I’ve passed it over to your abusers to drink, those who ordered you,  ‘Down on the ground so we can walk all over you!’ And you had to do it. Flat on the ground, you were the dirt under their feet.”

Luke 17 - 
Jesus said to his disciples, “Hard trials and temptations are bound to come, but too bad for whoever brings them on!...Be alert.  If you see your friend going wrong, correct him.  If he responds, forgive him.  Even if it is personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says’I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.”  

The apostles came up and said to the Master, Give us more faith.”  But the Master said,” You don’t need more faith.  There is no more or less faith.  If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake’ and it would do it.”....When you have done everything expected of you, be matter-of-fact and say, “The work is done.  What we were told to do we did.”

When Jesus continued making his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee.  As he entered the village, 10 men, all lepers, met him.  They kept their distance but raised their voices calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Taking a good look at them, he said, Go show yourselves to the priests.”  They went and while still on their way, became clean.  One of them when he realized he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God.  He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful.  He couldn’t thank him enough---and he was a Samaritan.....Jesus questioned where the other nine had gone with only this outsider coming back to give God glory.  Then he told the man to “Get up.  On your way.  Your faith has healed and saved you.”

Jesus grilled the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come then informed them that God’s kingdom doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar...because God’s kingdom is already among you.”  The arrival of the Son of Man is not something you go out to see.  He simply comes...The time of the Son of Man will be just like the time of Noah---everyone carrying on as usual have a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ship.  They suspected nothing until the flood hit and swept everything away.  It was the same in the time of Lot-- the people carried on, having a good time, business as usual right up to the day Lot walked out of Sodom and a firestorm swept down and burned everything to a crisp.....If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms.