Today, in our Bible Study, we read the 61st chapter of Isaiah, which begins:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… (Isaiah 61:1-2a)
After we read the chapter, someone asked, “Are these words written for specific people in a specific historical setting or are they written for us, now?”
The 61st chapter of Isaiah was written to people in exile to give the hope of restoration; of returning to the land of their ancestors, and it is also written for people everywhere who are experiencing exile as a separation from God. Jesus quotes these words at the beginning of his ministry (Luke 4:16-19). The people of Israel in his time were living under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. Even in their own land they experienced a life of exile, full of suffering, separated from God and family. Jesus brings together the themes of exile and Exodus to proclaim a new age in which God is king and we are restored in our relationship with God. These very promises give us new life and new hope today.
So, the Isaiah reading is written to specific people in the past, it speaks to us today in the present and it offers us hope for the future. Past, present and future are always one in God. I have been thinking about this a lot lately in the context of Harvey LaZelle’s death. Harvey gave of himself to build this congregation. That was an act of love and faith for Harvey. As we grieve his death, we are keenly aware that Harvey’s life is the past, but his love, generosity and leadership are still with us here in the present.
We will honor his life as we continue to build this congregation for the future. This building and the congregation that worships and ministers here was built by the people who came before us so that we can continue to live in God’s kingdom, doing God’s work of welcoming, feeding and loving here in the present, so that these blessings might be abundantly known in the future.
Yours in Christ,