For Tuesday, 31 March 2020: Fifth Tuesday of Lent
Read: Isaiah 35
Again, cold and damp. Again, there is just a tease of sunshine behind the grey, clouded skies. Again, a chill wind comes from the west northwest. Again, the reminder that Spring is busting out all around me: grass is getting greener; the pale pink buds of a few weeks ago are deepening in their red color; and Mallards once again call my backyard home. Maybe grey in the Spring isn’t so bad after all.
The prophet Isaiah declares that there are those who will be redeemed and promises they shall return to Zion. The imagery in Isaiah 35 is of a blooming desert in the Spring. If you have seen a desert in bloom, then you know it is awash in blossoms and life. A place which is so often perceived as a foreboding place, even a place of death, transforms into a carpet of life. Isaiah casts that picture as the return to Zion through the exuberant Spring desert: Even a place of death is transformed to exuberant life. Zion is a place which is both physical and spiritual for Isaiah and the exiled community.
Redemption from exile, that is the core promise of the prophets. Perhaps these days in which we live are something of a self-imposed exile. Exile in the Biblical narrative is seen and portrayed as a way in which God shaped and re-shaped a culture and society which had lost its’ way. There are some who are trying to draw a parallel between the happenings of our present-day circumstances and events with some type wrathful action of God. I heard one this morning on the front porch. It made me giggle. God’s redemption came at a price; that is not grace!
Zion has at least three meanings in the Bible. The first is the actual hill on which the city of Jerusalem was built. The second is the city of Jerusalem itself. The third is the place in which God dwells. It is that third meaning which captures my attention the most. As I am watching the Mallards and noticing the changes in the trees, I am wondering if we can understand Zion as any place where God dwells?
I can see the handiwork of God in the tree’s preparing to burst forth with leaves. I can see the handiwork of God when neighbors become more welcoming and compassionate to one another. I can see the handiwork of God when I give myself permission to not meet my own expectations of myself. Signs of God’s dwelling among us are all around us if we’ll but look for them.
It’s very easy to become overwhelmed with the seemingly endless “bad news” we stream into our lives each day. I shouldn’t be surprised. Even in Jesus’ day, bad news seemed to travel faster and be remembered longer. Even in the gospels, Jesus is asked about a construction disaster and was the collapse of the tower the handiwork of God (Luke 13:1-5). Jesus’ response is to call us all to turn our lives toward God. For me, that means looking for God even on grey days, when chill winds blow, and Spring struggles to emerge. In what grey and shadowed place will you look to find the presence of God, today?