June 7, 2016

Isaiah 42-43
Take a good look at my servant. I’m backing him to the hilt. He’s the one I chose, and I couldn’t be more pleased with him. I’ve bathed him with my Spirit, my life. He’ll set everything right among the nations. He won’t call attention to what he does with loud speeches or gaudy parades. He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right. He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped until he’s finished his work—to set things right on earth. Far-flung ocean islands wait expectantly for his teaching.”

God’s Message, the God who created the cosmos, stretched out the skies, laid out the earth and all that grows from it, Who breathes life into earth’s people, makes them alive with his own life: “I am God. I have called you to live right and well. I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe. I have set you among my people to bind them to me, and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations, to make a start at bringing people into the open, into light: opening blind eyes, releasing prisoners from dungeons, emptying the dark prisons. I am God. That’s my name. I don’t franchise my glory, don’t endorse the no-god idols. Take note: The earlier predictions of judgment have been fulfilled. I’m announcing the new salvation work. Before it bursts on the scene, I’m telling you all about it.”

Sing to God a brand-new song, sing his praises all over the world!... Make God’s glory resound; echo his praises from coast to coast.
God steps out like he means business.  You can see he’s primed for action.  He shouts, announcing his arrival; he takes charge and his enemies fall into line: “I’ve been quiet long enough. I’ve held back, biting my tongue. But now I’m letting loose, letting go,... But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country.  I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them— sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.” But those who invested in the no-gods are bankrupt—dead broke.

Pay attention! Are you deaf? Open your eyes! Are you blind? You’re my servant, and you’re not looking! You’re my messenger, and you’re not listening! The very people I depended upon, servants of God, blind as a bat—willfully blind! You’ve seen a lot, but looked at nothing. You’ve heard everything, but listened to nothing....But is anyone out there listening?  Is anyone paying attention to what’s coming?...
But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.  When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior....
“So don’t be afraid: I’m with you. I’ll round up all your scattered children, pull them in from east and west. I’ll send orders north and south: ‘Send them back. Return my sons from distant lands, my daughters from faraway places. I want them back, every last one who bears my name, every man, woman, and child whom I created for my glory, yes, personally formed and made each one.’”...

“But you are my witnesses.” God’s Decree. “You’re my handpicked servant so that you’ll come to know and trust me, understand both that I am and who I am.  Previous to me there was no such thing as a god, nor will there be after me. I, yes I, am God. I’m the only Savior there is. I spoke, I saved, I told you what existed  long before these upstart gods appeared on the scene....“Yes, I am God. I’ve always been God and I always will be God. No one can take anything from me.  I make; who can unmake it?”...

This is what God says,...“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?... 

“But you didn’t pay a bit of attention to me, Jacob. You so quickly tired of me, Israel.  You wouldn’t even bring sheep for offerings in worship. You couldn’t be bothered with sacrifices. It wasn’t that I asked that much from you. I didn’t expect expensive presents. But you didn’t even do the minimum—so stingy with me, so closefisted. Yet you haven’t been stingy with your sins. You’ve been plenty generous with them—and I’m fed up.

“But I, yes I, am the one who takes care of your sins—that’s what I do. I don’t keep a list of your sins. “So, make your case against me. Let’s have this out.  Make your arguments. Prove you’re in the right. Your original ancestor started the sinning, and everyone since has joined in. That’s why I had to disqualify the Temple leaders, repudiate Jacob and discredit Israel.”

Luke 14 - 
One time when Jesus went for a Sabbath meal with one of the top leaders of the Pharisees, all the guests had their eyes  on him, watching his every move.  Right before him there was a man hugely swollen in his joints.  So Jesus asked the religion, scholars and Pharisees present, “is it permitted to heal on the Sabbath?”  They were silent.  So he took the man, healed him, and sent him on his way.  Then he said, Is there anyone here who, if a child or animal fell down a well, wouldn’t rush to pull him out immediately, not asking whether or not it was the Sabbath?”  They were stumped.  There was nothing they could say to that.

Jesus went on to tell a story to the guests around the table.  Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honor, he said, “When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor....When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place.  Then when the host comes he may very well say, “Friend, come up to the front.”  That will give the dinner guests something to talk about!  What I’m saying is, If you walk around with yuor nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face.  But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Jesus turned to his host, “the next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor.  Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks.  You’ll be--and experience---a blessing.  They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned--oh, how it will be returned--at the resurrection of God’s people.”

That triggered a response from one of the guests, “How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom!”  Jesus followed up, “Yes.  for there was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many.  When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, ‘Come on in; the food’s on the table.”  Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses - I bought a piece of property and need to look it over....I just bought five teams of oxen and need to check them out....I just got married and need to get home to my wife....the servant went back and told the master what had happened.  He was outraged and told the servant.  “Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys.  Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.”  The servant did so and  reported back that there was still room.  The master said, “then go t the country roads.  Whoever you find, drag them in.  I want my house full!  Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.’”

One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “ Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters -- yes, even one’s own self! -- can’t be my disciple.  Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me, can’t be my disciple.  Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple.  Salt is excellent.  But if the salt goes flat, it is useless, good for nothing.  Are you listening to this?  Really listening?”