Service on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seeyouonsunday/videos/3504463426487825
I have a group chat with some friends from Seminary. This was the message I got yesterday. The Struggle Bus is a term for when things are hard or difficult or life is going against you. Like those mornings when nothing goes right and you spill your coffee and you can’t find your keys and you only found your right shoe and not your left and maybe you left the house in two different colored shoes. Your car has a flat tire you get stuck in traffic.
My friend who sent this is a pastor and his wife is a pastor and they have three kids all involved in their own activities. And just that sounds difficult and wouldn’t surprise me that going into December things real hard. Of course, they have struggles that are unique to them, and some that are not.
That’s me responding I have an Android. And November did feel like a weird month. Everything felt just a little off and a little fuzzy. Like I was just behind and to the left of everything else that was going on. I don’t think I was riding The Struggle Bus but I’m sure I’ve heard it coming up behind me.
The Struggle Bus makes it seem like troubles are funny, it’s a humorous way to look at difficult times. But for real, my friend is thinking about their churches, when they should or might move churches, that their queer kid is getting bullied, and that sometimes the grey sky makes for grey feeling days.
We know struggles, we know troubles. We know that one trip simple trip to the doctor can lead to years of medical treatment or just weeks of worry. We know that COVID was hard and many people, young and old, have struggled with loneliness. We know the loss of relationships, jobs, and dreams.
We are back in Isaiah but 150 years. Two weeks ago when we were reading in Isaiah, hoping that they could avert the trouble, last week the Judeans were told there was no averting disaster. What we read today, we are on the other side. There had been disaster, Babylon had taken Jerusalem, burnt the temple, wrecked the city, and deported the leadership. When we end up in this part of Isaiah, the exile has been going on for 40 years.
For 40 years they had lived away, been foreigners in a foreign land with a foreign king and a foreign god. They would have been living in the uncertainty of the future and the horror of the past. Imagine the stories that they had told their grandchildren of the city at its glory and the city while it was in ruin.
They would have wondered if they were ever going to make it home, if there is a reason to hope. They would have wondered if God was still with them, if God even cared. They would have asked if there was a future, if there was anything to look forward to. If their desperate situation might ever resolve.
But they would have also seen that a change was on the horizon, that in the distance, there was a new power that was about to conquer Babylon and might change everything.
Persia was coming to conquer Babylon and there is hope that Persia will let the Judeans go home.
And they were trying to sort out what God was doing, what it meant, who they were with God.
And there they understood that God was still on their side. What would that look like?
And in Isaiah, there is a promise of restoration and return. There is a promise of comfort for the people.
This, the second part of Isaiah that starts here in this chapter and goes through chapter 55 is written for the community that have been exiled in Babylon that was seen a glimmer that maybe there was a way to Hope sometime in the future. It’s the most tentative and fragile hope.
The prophet is writing putting words in God’s mouth given words from God but what we’re not particularly clear on is who God is speaking to. Is God speaking to a group of divine beings angels inviting them to comfort, all of you, comfort my people. Maybe like Angels took care of Jesus at the end of his 40 days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness. But I wonder if that looks like for us when the perfect song comes on the radio at just the right time. When after being so strong for so long the tears come and in the end offer some cathartic release. When something beautiful and nature, some art piece, some music catches You by surprise in its loveliness.
And if that’s the group that God continues to talk to, these angels, these divine beings that are preparing the way for God and God’s people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their lives and recreate the world God had offered to them in the first place, where vulnerable are cared for, the foreigner is welcomed, and the poor have enough. Which is great! But not really how we’ve seen God interact with the people, there is usually something, between what was and what will be.
So what if it wasn’t to the angels, what if God was talking to the people. “Comfort each other, y’all!” God is saying “We’re coming back to Jerusalem, but you’re going to do some work. Prepare.”
Level the mountains, raise the valleys, get ready.
God is inviting them to hope in the unexpected, to prepare for the unlikely–that God is coming in might and gentleness to shepherd the people home. What a terrifying thing to hope for, that in the worst thing they could imagine, there would be new life.
And then prepare for it. And then proclaim it to people who are living in the worst thing imaginable and without hope. Which sounds scary, to be the hopeful voice in a crowd of despair, when you see only a spark at the end of the tunnel, and you’re not sure how long you have to get there.
But isn’t that what we’re called to do, be a light in the darkness? a voice in despair?
Comfort, go comfort God’s people. Bring comfort, bring needs, bring warmth, bring food, bring comfort. Care for each other, look out for each, do good for each other. Do you need comfort, look to your community, your neighbors, to each other. Comfort each other. We’re all going through things. What might seem impossible to me, might be Tuesday for you. But the reverse can also be true. Show up for each other in comfort, share your struggles, be comforted. Connect with your neighbors, comfort them. Maybe you are certain there is the light at the end of a someone else’s tunnel, even if they can’t see it. It’s not our job to tell them it’ll be ok. to push them to the light we see, certainly not to tell folks that it’s not really a big deal. Comfort, be present, show up, tell each other their enough and they are never alone until they can see the light.
Prepare for restoration, prepare for recreation, prepare for the kin-dom of God by living in God’s way. It’s living in the world as if God is coming, as if Jesus is going to return. It’s like that saying that if you’re really going to pray for rain, bring an umbrella. Prepare to experience something this season that is different than the hustle and bustle, than the assumed joy everyone is expected to have. Prepare in silence, in prayer, in reflection, in generosity, in community to meet Christ in the face of each other and be Christ in your actions and words. Prepare and be.
If you’re going to hope for a better future, prepare for it. Nurture it, live it in acts of kindness and generosity, in present solidarity, with voice and prayer, with challenging the systems and loving people. Co-create with God the world as it ought to be, as it was made to be. Comfort, Create,
And then, proclaim it, invite others into it. Share what has given you hope, what has brought you joy, what community means to you. Proclaim light into the dark places, water to the dry places, beloved community to the lonely. It does not mean pretending everything is OK, but living as if there is hope, as if Christ is coming.
Christ is coming. In some known time but also in us, in our hearts, in our actions, in our love. Comfort, create, proclaim.