We continue reading in the Book of Isaiah, moving from Second to Third Isaiah, and also enter into the 6th week of Easter. While as Walter Brueggemann puts it, a primary theme of both First and Second Isaiah is “a core Isaianic assertion concerning inescapable judgement reliably followed by generous restoration. Thus the two themes together constitute both Israel’s lived memory and Israel’s defining theological conviction.” (p. 184) Of Third Isaiah he notes, “Whereas Second Isaiah is preoccupied with emancipation from Babylon, Third Isaiah is concerned with internal communal life and the tensions that must have arisen among the parties that we might label ‘liberal and conservative.'” (p. 185)
These differences bring up an interesting point to consider at this point in the liturgical year: what happens after the resurrection, after things have calmed down a bit, settled into a new groove, “the new normal”? Have you ever experienced some sort of crucial, life-changing, transcendent moment, and then discovered you still had to live with yourself, your family, and in your life afterward? As we begin reading Third Isaiah, I am hoping for an encounter with the wisdom that comes from the lived experience of a community that has lived through despair, restoration, and the everyday aftermath of those things.
May 6 – Isaiah 53
May 7 – Isaiah 54
May 8 – Isaiah 55
May 9 – Isaiah 56
May 10 – Isaiah 57
May 11 – Isaiah 58
May 12 – Isaiah 59
All this talk about Israel’s restoration in Isaiah, and thinking about that in relation to Jesus’ resurrection at Easter has me wondering about the relationship between the two. While the Old Testament didn’t predict Jesus – instead as Jesus and those who wrote about him in the New Testament were Jewish and knew these scriptures and traditions, they wrote about him with that knowledge. I’ve been thinking about how these themes played out and were depicted in Jesus’ life and ministry. Peter Enns so aptly puts it this way: “Physical resurrection of individuals isn’t the hot topic of conversation in the Old Testament. Revival of a nation is.” And so while he doesn’t directly discuss the chapters we’ve most recently read in Isaiah, this thought is helpful as we continue through Isaiah, considering its broad themes as we also consider what Isaiah and other sacred texts at the time may have meant to Jesus and his contemporaries, as well as if they considered any relationship at the time between Israel’s restoration and the resurrection of a messiah.
How do you think that Jesus interpreted Isaiah, and what effect do you think the book of Isaiah had on Jesus’ life and ministry?
Our prayer practice this month is journaling our prayers, which as Adele Ahlberg Calhoun says in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, can be about more than writing. Sometimes writing can work in conjunction with other creative practices, such as drawing and/or collaging to help us get to deeper meanings in our spiritual lives. Sometimes theology and more academic biblical study methods can become heavily text-based – as befits “people of the book,” and yet it is always important to consider our plans, strategies, and actions in light of our ultimate aims, goals, and outcomes, considering if our methods best help us as multisensory human beings to get to where we hope to go.
What prayer practices best serve you on your journey to connect, partner with, and discern God’s will in your life?
The book we’re reading this month, Organizing Church: Grassroots Practices for Embodying Change in Your Congregation, which discusses faith-based community organizing (FBCO) from within churches. I had no idea until my late 30s that such a thing as faith-based community organizing existed – that there was such a thing that would help me to integrate faith and social justice and live out my faith, publicly working toward God’s justice in the world. I had no idea! I thought that being a good Christian was about going to church weekly and doing good charitable works, and that my inclinations toward social justice were somehow extra – outside of Christianity, which I both resented and rejected by turns. And I doubt I’m the only one.
There are at least six regional or national faith-based community organizing networks, with affiliate organizations all over the United States and beyond! How did I miss them all in my struggles with church (for I have at times struggled mightily with church and my understanding of it – and yet, as my hometown pastor, Rev. Bob Miller sagely reminded me at my ordination, regardless of what I have thought about God over time, God always believed and believes in me – and I would also say believes in humanity, in spite of our massive human struggles to understand our relationship with God and our place in the world)? And so I continue to discover, even after seminary, that some things have seemed like “secrets.” Had I known about FBCO earlier in life I could’ve used my 20s and 30s to work out what it meant to be a faith-based activist / community organizer, and what it might mean for introverted me to make that kind of work my own and integrate it into congregational life. However, one of my regular spiritual practices is to accept the past for what it is and make the best of the present: we are where we are for whatever reason, so let’s work with what we have.
Anyway, you need to read this book – especially if you want to live out your dream for God’s justice in our world, if church as you experience requires a lot of “belief” in your head but little action in the world, and/or if you have wondered what earthly good Jesus was/is anyway. While as with any phenomenon, there’s no one magic bullet to make church come alive if the Holy Spirit isn’t having it, if you’re looking for insight into ways to revive, restore, or resurrect church via faith-based community organizing, here’s this book.
Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for ideas and things to do.
Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world!
What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.
Word and World: Death and Resurrection. Vol. 11. 1. Saint Paul, MN: Luther Seminary, 1991. https://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/issues.aspx?issue_id=41.
Brueggemann, Walter. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.
Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015.
Conder, Tim, and Daniel Rhodes. Organizing Church: Grassroots Practices for Embodying Change in Your Congregation, Your Community, and Our World. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2017.
Driskill, Joseph. Protestant Spiritual Exercises: Theology, History, and Practice. New York: Morehouse Publishing, 1999.