The meaning of exile…and a way home: Scripture for Dec. 4

Isaiah 40:1-11
Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

A voice says, ‘Cry out!’
And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand for ever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;*
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,*
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
______________________________
Comment: The opening words of this chapter evoke the glorious tenor aria and the “Every Valley” chorus from Handel’s Messiah. They are also among the most hopeful words in all of scripture. The people of Israel are in exile in Babylon, and here the prophet foresees the end of their captivity. Comfort is promised to them, and a way home. Not only a way home, but a path that is straight and that is not made more difficult by mountains or valleys.  

Questions:

  • In our own culture, what is the functional equivalent of “exile?”
  • What forms of comfort from other human beings have you known? Have you provided?
  • In this passage there is a promise that “the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” Have you ever experienced/known “the glory of the lord?” When?

Rev. Dr. James GertmenianJim Gertmenian
Senior Minister

About PlymouthSpirit

Plymouth Congregational Church is a progressive faith community grounded in the Christian tradition. We are spiritual, loving, relevant and transforming.
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3 Responses to The meaning of exile…and a way home: Scripture for Dec. 4

  1. Charles Matson Lume says:

    In this passage there is a promise that “the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” Have you ever experienced/known “the glory of the lord?” When?

    Mostly these moments of glory have come when I am looking at art, reading poems, or listening to music. I can still remember the Robert Irwin disc piece in NYC that seemed to disappear before my eyes. Glory! and glory! Or the James Turrell piece at the Walker. Glory!

    And sometimes when Jim is preaching! More glory!

  2. Hazel Lutz says:

    •In our own culture, what is the functional equivalent of “exile?”
    I think the strongest forms of exile are experienced by the poor, the unemployed, and the homosexual. Cross this with racial minority status for a double whammy. From personal experience I can also say that illness, particularly very serious or longterm illness, and infertility can also leave a person very emotionally or physically alone and isolated.

    •What forms of comfort from other human beings have you known? Have you provided?
    Listening! Having someone listen to me, rather than try to tell me how I can fix my problem has been the best comfort as well as a strong healer. Having someone believe me when I tell them what I am feeling, what obstacles I am encountering is most helpful.

    •In this passage there is a promise that “the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” Have you ever experienced/known “the glory of the lord?” When?
    The glory of the God, as I have experienced it, does not live up to the musical expressions of Handels expression of these words. It is a more quiet, intimate time for me. Sitting quietly observing, listening, smelling, touching the natural world, as when I spend time in the woods and fields. I do remember some amazing things. I once outside Clinton New Jersey walked with my brother late in the afternoon. We came upon a tiny enclosed meadow or hay field that had been left to fallow. The grasses all stood dried up and bleached of their green nourishment that cattle require. At the sun set and the temperature and light reached some precise levels, thousands of lightening bugs rose up together out of the dried grasses. We stood watching silently, unable to say anything.

    Another recurring natural event that I experience often in winter out on the western edge on the metroarea, is the sound of the unremitting wind roaring across the prairies and pusing against my house. Outside the ground is snow covered and the temperature is below zero. The house occasionally creakes with stronger buffets of wind, but it is unrelenting. It makes a sound like a train passing next to the house. And it goes on all night. I always feel small, vulnerable, and dependent upon the social, political, and economic institutions that are responsible for the house and heat that protect me through the night. Without those social arrangments I am completely vulnerable. I feel very small at those times.

    I think I recognize the glory of God sometimes in the intimate interaction of two people who are carefully resolving some conflict betwist them, or who are just sharing the present moment with each other fully.

    Hazel

  3. Karen Barstad says:

    I think unemployment is “exile” in today’s culture. My brother-in-law was unemployed for almost two years. Then he found some contract work, only to be let go again after a couple of months. He has a job now, but I’m sure at times he felt captive to joblessness, wondering when – or if – it would end. When people ask, “What do you do for a living?,” that must feel very exclusionary to one who has no job. Unemployment probably feels like undeserved punishment, and the road to reemployment must feel like a very tiring journey through dark valleys and across rugged mountains.

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