Lectionary reading for 12/6/2021: Psalm 126; Isaiah 40:1-11; Romans 8:22-25
Selected passage for reflection: Isaiah 40:1-11
Isaiah 40:1-11 (NRSV)
1 Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
2 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.
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 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.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
6 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.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
9 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!”
10 See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 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.
During the first months of the pandemic, my husband and I decided, like every other family in the country, to work in our backyard. Our first project was to create a patio so we could install a pergola. But there was a tiny problem: our house is built on a slope, so the first thing we had to do was to level the ground.
Our passage today says that our hope is that "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. The author is speaking specifically about Jerusalem and Israel, a city and a people that have been through oppression and suffering. God is acknowledging that the people of Israel have been walking uphill for far too long. As someone who constantly hikes in the Rocky Mountains, I can tell you, walking uphill is no joke.
Leveling the ground in our patio was ridiculously hard. It was a freaking 12'x12' square and it took us two weeks of using picks, shovels, wheelbarrows, sweating like pigs. Leveling the ground is not an enjoyable task. But the end result was worth it.
The season of Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the kingdom of God. We are preparing for the reign of justice here on earth.
But we live on a slope, where some live on top of the hill in mansions built by those living at the very bottom, having to walk uphill day by day to make ends meet. The slope looks like Latinas making $0.57 for every dollar a white guy makes, or 30% of Black families owning a home when 70% of White households own a home. The slope looks like educational opportunities, access to affordable housing and care, and representation in the media. The slope is steep and we are working with those who have been walking uphill for far too long. The work at hand is hard. The tools are heavy, the terrain is rocky, and the laborers are few. But the end result is so worth it.
What are the slopes you see around you? Is there an area where you can level the ground? How can your everyday choices help level the ground?
We give thanks to you, Voice in the Wilderness,
for the ways in which you call us -
sometimes whispering, sometimes yelling -
to level the ground,
to create an equitable world,
where everybody can flourish
and live in authentic peace.
Embolden us, Holy Love,
to speak up when everybody else is silent,
to advocate when everybody else is complacent,
to level the ground when everybody else is building steeper slopes.
We ask this in your name.
About the Author
Claudia Aguilar R. is pastor at First Mennonite Church of Denver, Colorado. Being bilingual, bicultural, and binational is part of her call to build bridges among different groups of people. She is a certified yoga instructor and loves music, dogs, cooking, and baking. She is interested in ecumenical and interfaith efforts to bring justice and peace to every being. In her free time, she likes spending time in her garden with her husband Doug and their dog Bruno.