Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Family Business

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

In you the orphan finds mercy. - Hosea 14:3

These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: - "I know your affliction." - Revelation 2:8-9

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 87; Isaiah 41:8-42:9; Philippians 2:5-18

Any of us who are "orphaned" in suffering find in God the loving parent who adopts us as beloved children. As part of God's family, we are comforted, healed, provided for - and raised to be a part of the "family business" of spreading good news and compassion.

Psalm 87 speaks of God's love for "Zion," a name for Jerusalem, the holy capital city of God's people. God's children who are born there are known for where they come from. But that's only possible because they go out into the world, encountering people from other places.

Today's section from Isaiah is the first of a number of places where God's voice speaks to "my servant." These "servant songs" are well known poems, with strong images, lifting up the servant as a "light to the nations" (among many other metaphors) who will go out and connect people with God. Reading through Isaiah chapter by chapter, this first servant song sneaked up on me! After a long section pointing out God's superiority over other powers, Isaiah shifts to address Israel/Jacob and the call and purpose of the people. Moving into the first servant song, the language shifts to singular. Does the servant represent the nation of Israel? The Messiah? Every child of God? I think the answer is yes, all of these.

Christians see in the servant songs a number of clear prophecies that are fulfilled by Jesus. And he also takes up the theme of his followers continuing the "family business" of his work. Another really powerful scripture is the "Christ hymn" of Philippians 2, showing the life of Jesus as "emptying himself" down to the point of death on a cross, then being raised and exalted back up to equality with God. Paul's language about his own life being "poured out as a libation" and his call to "let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus" show how this emptying, serving, giving of ourselves for the abundant life of others leads our lives to reflect the life of Jesus.

God, thank you for drawing us in, and always keeping us part of your family. Thank you for healing, for relief from affliction, for finding us when we're lost and bringing forth new life from death. Help us to live fearlessly and joyfully. Call us and work through us as your children, formed in your likeness, echoing your love. Light up the world so that everyone knows you and trusts you and finds a home of peace in you.

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