Monday, February 18, 2013

Beginning and End

After speaking words of comfort, Isaiah tells us that God continues to calls us into relationship.  Part of having a relationship means that there is an understanding of the other; whether that other is a spouse/partner or a friend or a co-worker or even, in this case, God.  Who is God?  That question lends itself to countless different answers.  Some describe God using gender language: Father or Mother.  Others try to skirt that issue by saying words like Mystery or Great Spirit.  Others prefer to use adjectives like God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present.  Others try piling words on the three letters G-O-D that those letters collapse and can only be found by sorting through the heap.  

All that is to say, perhaps God is beyond definition.  In just a few short chapters, Isaiah 55:8-9 God will say, "My thoughts are not your thoughts."  This echoes what God says to Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth."  Perhaps that should make any theologian or preacher shutter wondering just who are we to stand up before people Sunday after Sunday trying to reduce God to mere words.  

One image of God that comes through in Isaiah is that God is the Alpha and Omega, which means God is the beginning and the end.  If God is at the beginning and ending, it also means God is in the middle somewhere too.  Not just our individual beginnings, middles, and end; but more expansive than that.  God was there from the beginning and when all fades away, there will still be God. And God is here right now as you stare at your computer screen.  One of the tensions in understanding God is that God is both in creation but not completely bound by creation.  

And so, what do we know?  Again, what I love about Isaiah, is how wonderfully practical what follows in Isaiah 41 is.  Isaiah says that what we know is the way we relate to other humans.  The artisan who encourages the goldsmith; those moments when we reach out to others, that is one way that we tangibly encounter the sacred.  Again, our human moments do not exhaust or completely capture who God is.  

In these chapters before the exile Isaiah lays the foundation for what is needed in those moments when we feel cut off from the sacred.  Namely: someone who speaks words of comfort and care and someone to say, "Take courage"!  We may not always be receptive or appreciate these folks, but they are what make the mystery of God present in our lives.  Who is that person in your life right now who is helping to make the presence of God less mysterious and more tangible?  Who is that person who lets you know the truth of the traces of God's grace?  During this season of Lent connect with that person and may you know the truth of God's presence.

Blessings and peace!

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