Hope for the Homecoming

Amid tremendous darkness and despair in a time of exile, Isaiah speaks to the hope that is ours. The text gives us pause to wonder, what might our coming home to God be like today? And on that glorious day when Christ comes back in person to dwell with us here on earth? Notice the longings which rise up within you as you pray with this passage. Ask the Holy Spirit to enlarge your hope.

Isaiah 60:1-6 NLT

“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.

For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you.

2 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,

but the glory of the LORD rises and appears over you.

3 All nations will come to your light;

mighty kings will come to see your radiance.

4 “Look and see, for everyone is coming home!

Your sons are coming from distant lands;

your little daughters will be carried home.

5 Your eyes will shine,

and your heart will thrill with joy,

for merchants from around the world will come to you.

They will bring you the wealth of many lands.

6 Vast caravans of camels will converge on you,

the camels of Midian and Ephah.

The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense

and will come worshiping the LORD.

For Your Reflection and Prayer:
What word, phrase or picture stood out to you as you listened to the text? Bring this into your conversation with God.

Which emotion rises up within you as you meditate on this passage? Where do you feel it in your body? Gently welcome it and bring it into your prayer.

Rest in any consoling words or images given to you in your prayer.

print pdf

When Hope Comes to Life

This Advent, we invite you to pray alongside us through the prophecy in Isaiah 42. Each week we will meditate on the fulfillment of that prophecy as recorded in the Gospels. Together we will watch and wait in hope. We have permission to linger in our waiting. There is no need to hurry. Hope comes alive in the person of Jesus - Emmanuel, God with us.

Isaiah 42:1-9 (NLT)

“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me.

I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations.

2 He will not shout or raise his voice in public.

3 He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.

He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.

4 He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth.

Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.”

5 God, the LORD, created the heavens and stretched them out.

He created the earth and everything in it.

He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth.

And it is he who says,

6 “I, the LORD, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.

I will take you by the hand and guard you,

and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them.

And you will be a light to guide the nations.

7 You will open the eyes of the blind.

You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.

8 “I am the LORD; that is my name!

I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols.

9 Everything I prophesied has come true, and now I will prophesy again.

I will tell you the future before it happens.”

Matthew 12:18-22 (TMG)

Look well at my handpicked servant; I love him so much, take such delight in him. I’ve placed my Spirit on him; he’ll decree justice to the nations. But he won’t yell, won’t raise is voice; there’ll be no commotion in the streets. He won’t walk over anyone’s feelings, won’t push you into a corner. Before you know it, his justice will triumph; the mere sound of his name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers.

For your reflection and prayer:

As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that shimmered for you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

What longings rise up in you as you meditate on this passage? Journal or sketch them.

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

print pdf

The Shift To Hope

We witness the shift to hope emerge within in this precious woman from Samaria. In her encounter with Jesus, she discovers that she is fully known and dearly loved. There are no more secrets which have kept her hiding in shame. She is experiencing love and grace transform her from the inside out. With her own words, she shares her story with her community and her story evokes a thirst in her fellow townspeople. What might Jesus be saying to us through his encounter with this woman?

John 4:27-38 (NIV)
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Without judgement, gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. What does Jesus say to you?

When have you noticed yourself making your way towards Jesus? What drew you towards Jesus? Reflect on those times and talk it over with Jesus.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

 

Hope for Restoration

These words from Isaiah evoke a longing in us for restoration - to be back again in the garden with God as all was created and intended to be. This is the place where our soul longs to dwell and make its home with God. God has placed this hope in our hearts for what is to come and enables us to live in this hope right now, regardless of our circumstance.

As a new year is upon us, what are you hoping for? Who and what are you placing your hope in? And what hope for restoration has the Holy Spirit placed within you? May the Lord strengthen your hands and encourage you to stand so that you may walk upright in this hope placed within you.

Isaiah 35 (NLT)
Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
2 Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
    as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God.
3 With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees.
4 Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”
5 And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
    and unplug the ears of the deaf.
6 The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland.
7 The parched ground will become a pool,
 and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.
Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived.
8 And a great road will go through that once deserted land.
    It will be named the Highway of Holiness.
Evil-minded people will never travel on it.
    It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there.
9 Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts.
There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it.
10 Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
    They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

For Reflection and Prayer:

Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

What longing rose up in your heart as you listened? How do you feel this holy longing in your body? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

To Be Understood

St. Francis of Assisi taught us well in his prayer-poem-song, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace. One stanza speaks of our desire to seek to understand another before being understood ourselves. It is a noble desire and one which becomes increasingly possible as the realization of God's infinite understanding of us personally. lodges deep within our own heart and soul. The gift of being experientially loved, known and understood by God becomes a gift and it changes us from the inside out. Our natural response becomes one of worship and a humility forms within us which seeks to truly listen and understand another.

May you pause and savor anew today, being loved and understood by the One who made your heart.

Psalm 33NLT
1 Let the godly sing for joy to the LORD;
    it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
4 For the word of the LORD holds true,
    and we can trust everything he does.
5 He loves whatever is just and good;
    the unfailing love of the LORD fills the earth.
6 The LORD merely spoke,
    and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
    and all the stars were born.
7 He assigned the sea its boundaries
    and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
8 Let the whole world fear the LORD,
    and let everyone stand in awe of him.
9 For when he spoke, the world began!
    It appeared at his command.
13 The LORD looks down from heaven
    and sees the whole human race.
14 From his throne he observes
    all who live on the earth.
15 He made their hearts,
    so he understands everything they do.

20 We put our hope in the LORD.
    He is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD,
    for our hope is in you alone.

For prayer and reflection:

What phrase or word spoke to you as you listened/read?

How does it feel to have God understand everything you do? Dwell with this thought in your prayer. You may want to journal your conversation with God.

What emotion does this Psalm raise within you?

Is there anything you want to ask or say to Jesus about this text?

Friends

Shared confidences, shared burdens, story, history, being known, respect, honor, joy, delight, love, forgiveness, solace, mutual: these are the words of friendship. As you enter this time of prayer, listen to God's invitation to friendship - even in the midst of pain, trouble, fear and shame.  

Psalm 25:11-22(NLT)

For the honor of your name, O LORD,
    forgive my many, many sins.
12 Who are those who fear the LORD?
    He will show them the path they should choose.
13 They will live in prosperity,
    and their children will inherit the land.
14 The LORD is a friend to those who fear him.
    He teaches them his covenant.
15 My eyes are always on the LORD,
    for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.
16 Turn to me and have mercy,
    for I am alone and in deep distress.
17 My problems go from bad to worse.
    Oh, save me from them all!
18 Feel my pain and see my trouble.
    Forgive all my sins.
19 See how many enemies I have
    and how viciously they hate me!
20 Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
    Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge.
21 May integrity and honesty protect me,
    for I put my hope in you.
22 O God, ransom Israel
    from all its troubles.

For Reflection and Prayer:

Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that shimmered as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Perhaps you want to draw or color your prayer.

Picture your friendship with God. Where and how do you most enjoy being together?

When have you been aware of God feeling your pain or seeing your troubles? In your prayer, remember and reflect on an experience of God rescuing you. What stands out to you?

God Leadeth Me

Sometimes surprising, often times just-in-time, always faithful, God is leading us. Pause today, to consider and pray how God is guiding you.

What are you noticing in and around you?

Where do you notice love, or peace, or life-giving joy?
Where do love, peace or life-giving joy seem noticeably absent?

Both reflections, when done prayerfully with the help of the Holy Spirit and over a period of time, can provide clues to how God is guiding. Holy conversations with a soul friend or spiritual director, can help you listen, discern and recognize God's voice. As we grow in intimately knowing the Good Shepherd, we grow in trusting the Shepherd's voice.

"...the sheep hear his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out...My purpose is to give life in all its fullness. "  - Jesus, John 10

Psalm 43:3-5 (NIV)
Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.

Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

For Prayer and Reflection:

What word(s), phrase or pictures in the passage come to you in this reading? Bring them into your prayer with Jesus.

Where are you noticing God's light shining in your circumstances now? How is this light leading you?

How is God showing you faithful care? What care do you need right now? Have a conversation with God about your needs for care and your gratitude for care received.

If discouragement, sadness or despair are where you are now, how might God dwell with you in them?

 

A Still and Quiet Soul

Strong bonds of attachment develop between a mother and nursing infant as the baby learns that her needs for safety, nourishment, being held, companionship, and care will be met. Especially important are the eyes brimming with loving delight that the baby sees in the eyes who see her. Deep inside her soul, she knows love. Her trust is the fruit of this knowing love. Together the mother and babe learn the dance of trust as the babe expresses her needs through cries and the mother learns to interpret them. As the infant matures the time will come when the mother and child begin the process of weaning. This too is a delicate dance and cannot be rushed. A contentedly calm, weaned child: still, quiet and resting in her mothers embrace is the fruit of the loving trust established between them.

The fruit of loving trust is a still and quiet soul.

Psalm 131 (NIV)

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

For Prayer and Reflection:

Is there a word, a phrase, or an image from this passage that holds your attention? Rest with Jesus with that for awhile.

What concerns might you be holding that most keep your soul from rest? What do you notice about your soul when it is quieted? How does this quieting come to you?

Is there a sound, a color, an image, a smell, a taste, a texture or something else which helps you rest your soul and/or encourages your trust and hope in the Lord?

Often Christians are prodded to "mature" quickly. Give yourself permission to be that nursing infant with God. What do you need for trust to be reestablished between you and God? Keep bringing this into your prayer.

Where is Justice?

As our community gathered to attend to Jesus in his trial before the religious elite we individually and communally experienced the redemptive power of God. Profound themes emerged in our sharing and listening to the text, the Spirit and one another. Themes such as:

Do they really think they can blindfold God?

Jesus, in his way, is destroying the structure of the Temple.

"I Am" - a place to stand

Hearing Jesus' voice in the darkeness - I am in the darkness

Freedom from false accusations: from the enemy, others, self

Weep at Jesus' beatings. Weep at the injustice of the world.

Where is Justice? When will you bring justice to the earth?

Here is my servant...my chosen one...
He will not shout or cry out or raise his voice...

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
He will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on the earth.
Isaiah 42

Mark 14:53-65 (NIV)
They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus.

What do you notice about discernment in the text? Is there something which Jesus may be teaching you through this trial? Talk with him about it.

Be with Jesus in this story, either at a distance or by his side. Just be with him.

People of Hope

Hope is not "wishful thinking." In faith, hope is a reality that flows from God, is given by God, established and rooted in us as we believe in the One in whom we hope. Certainly there are times when our hope seems diminished because of human circumstances - these may be times where we are tempted to solve our own problems, or feel disappointment that God has not met our human expectations. These are the times when others can help us realign our focus on the only One who truly is our source of hope.

Abraham was given a promise of blessing, and that through him God would bless the nations. We hold this promise as well - that our lives are meant to be blessed and to be a blessing to others. Reflect on what being blessed means for you. Invite God to bless you today and to see how you might be a blessing to others!

Romans 4:18-25, 5:1-5, 15:13  NIV  
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”  The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone,  but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.   

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.   

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For Refection and Prayer:
What word or phrase stood out to you as you read the text?
What thoughts have come to your attention as you have been listening/reading?
What promise(s) of God are you currently holding in hope?
How might our experience of suffering produce a deeper sense of hope?