Recognizing our own Shadows - Isaiah 59 and Psalm 146
A Lent Reflection for Monday, March 20th
By Rev. Melissa Lee Emerson
Lectionary reading: Psalm 146; Isaiah 59:9-19; Acts 9:1-20
Selected passage: Isaiah 59:9 and Psalm 146
Isaiah 59:9 NIV
“So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.”
Psalm 146 NIV
“Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord.
I can feel the deep shadows. Turkey and Syria have lost thousands to a devastating earthquake. The responses to President Biden’s State of the Union address was another sharp reminder of our growing partisan divide. My congregation has been trying for months to help a refugee from Afghanistan find a job in his career field.
It’s easy to let the darkness consume us. But Lent teaches us to approach the darkness differently - with hope. The Psalmist knew darkness in his life, but he held onto hope in the One who would make darkness run with perfect, luminous light. The kind of light that banishes broken systems, that crushes evil attitudes of selfishness that lead to oppression, that release the wrongfully convicted and those who are bound by shame, that restores bodies broken by others or ravaged by sickness, that goes to the margins and restores dignity to those subjugated.
As our souls cry out in the piercing darkness, Lent tells us to keep crying out while reminding the depths of our souls that God is in control. Not only does God see every longing refugee, abandoned child, weeping widow (and will fight for them), but He sees each act of evil and moves to interrupt their ways. Because God is the righteous King, we can trust that as citizens of His Kingdom, God will have the last word and bring justice to darkness.
What a gift that we get to join God in casting out darkness! But it starts with first recognizing the deep, dark shadows in us. How do we block God’s light in our daily lives? Do we put our in human beings instead of God? Do we get overly preoccupied with our hustling that we forget about those whom God cares about?
In prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any ways our darkness blocks God’s light from reaching our hearts and from those around us. Confess and commit to trusting in God above anyone else. Ask the Spirit to reveal how God is inviting you to shine His light in the midst of the unique darkness around you.
Lord, true light and source of all light, listen to our morning prayer.
Turn our thoughts to what is holy and may we ever live in the light of your love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN (Cathedral of Saint Matthew)
About the Author
Melissa Lee Emerson pastors with her husband, Anthony, at Mosaic Community Covenant Church in Houston, TX. She received her M.Div. at North Park Theological Seminary. When she’s not chasing her 4-year-old daughter around, she can be found learning the cello or re-organizing pockets of her home for the 9238th time.