O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.*
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered* us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity for ever.
Now consider, we are all your people.
Your holy cities have become a wilderness,
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation.
Our holy and beautiful house,
where our ancestors praised you,
has been burned by fire,
and all our pleasant places have become ruins.
After all this, will you restrain yourself, O Lord?
Will you keep silent, and punish us so severely?
Comments: This Sunday begins the first week in Advent, the period during which the Church anticipates and prepares for the birth of Christ. The reading from Isaiah 64 is a traditional reading for this season. It is a passage of longing and hope . . . but also of awe/dread in the face of God’s power and remorse over the effects of human failure and sin. For this Sunday’s sermon, I will be in “conversation” with Nathan Hanson, a jazz saxophonist. I’ll reflect briefly on a part of the text and then Nathan will improvise a response on his saxophone.This seemed appropriate because of the dramatic nature of the reading . . . more than what could be conveyed in words alone.
- The line “O that you might tear open the heavens and come down,” is particularly dramatic. Have you ever felt this way about God’s absence/presence in your life?
- Is “God’s anger” a meaningful concept for you? If so, how?
- What is the role of awe in your faith?