In our first lesson today, the prophet Isaiah was proclaiming really great news to people who had been suffering for seven decades. They had been defeated in war and their city had been destroyed, the temple put into ruins, and they had been driven out. But now Isaiah wants them to realize God is going to change all of that. If you think about it, how would you describe something as glorious, as marvelous as being returned from an exile in a time of suffering and deprivation?
It would be something like right now — those people from Syria that are being driven out by the violence and struggle that’s going on — revolution, religious conflict. If they were suddenly to hear, “It’s all over! We’re coming back!” how would you describe their joy? Isaiah, in the first lesson today, gives an idea of how he thinks this extraordinary accomplishment would be felt by the people, “Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice; the desert itself be glad and blossom; see everything come to life, covered with flowers it sings and shouts with joy.”
And then Isaiah says, “Say to those who are afraid, those who are feeling weak, ‘Have courage; do not fear any longer!'” And it’s marvelous that he says, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart; the tongues of those who are mute sing and shout. There will be a highway, which will be called The Way of Holiness.” Finally, “For the ransom of Yahweh will return with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will come to Zion singing gladness and joy marching with them.”
If only that could be true for all of those refugees and migrants from around the world right now; I’m sure many of us have seen the pictures of those two little children — five and three years old that were drowned trying to escape in a rubber raft hitting a rough sea, capsizing, their bodies washed up on the shore. If you turn to the gospel lesson, you discover Mark is speaking about Jesus. He’s clearly implying that the God who made that happen for the chosen people so many hundreds of years ago is right in our midst, right now — Jesus…