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Epiphany A 1st Reading

Isaiah 60:1-6

The Glory of the Lord Will Rise.

If we hear the words of the prophet in chapter 60 in light of the previous chapter we can capture the excitement in the air. “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” I want to put a few exclamation points in this opening verse. “The GORY of the LORD!” For in the chapter preceding there is darkness and separation from God. There is a disconnect, but it is not because “his arms are too short.”(vv.1) but rather it is the iniquity of humanity that builds walls. Perhaps we can imagine for a moment, as we walk in the garden with Adam and Eve after they chose disobedience—that feeling of “Oh, no!” I don’t know about you, but when I was young and disobeyed my mom or dad, and I knew they were going to find out, I wanted to hide. I didn’t want to be found, or maybe I would just not come home. Sweat would consume me. All I could think was to avoid them at all cost. In that avoidance, in the place of fear, I would see nothing else. No matter the activity in which I engaged, my mind was blind to everything else. I was preoccupied with my “iniquity” and a great divide occurred between us.

Have you ever tried to focus on anything else while a dark cloud of brokenness consumed you? Maybe it is that we use other events in order to preoccupy ourselves from the coming judgement. It seems so easy to simply turn off the lights – to just stay in the darkness. Light can appear to become a source of pain, not redemption. Perhaps this is a reason why protestants have long avoided confessing our sins to one another.

We used to play a game when we would go camping. Usually games are inclusively fun, or at least it is the hope that everyone enjoys themselves. However, this particular activity was not that way. You’ve heard of Follow The Leader and you’ve probably even played it before. This particular version of Follow The Leader was quite different. It was played at night with as many people as possible while the leader handled the only flashlight. We wouldn’t walk an easy path. The one holding the light would walk difficult terrain, meandering through the woods and over rocks making it a challenge for all those who followed behind.

The further back one is in the line, the more difficult it becomes to see the path, the rocks, the tree branches that fling across one’s face. Any obstacle reveals itself in an untimely fashion. The point of this game you ask? The point is that each person is supposed to call out the obstacle to the one who follows, beginning with the person who carries the light. You see, the information of the correct way to go originates with the person who has the flashlight. Hopefully, to the very last in line, the truth of obstacles are passed. Nobody wants to fall behind. Everyone want to be close to the light to see the proper direction or to avoid stumbling in the dark. To do this we must gather toward the light and listen intently to directions in order to avoid pitfalls.

There is another choice, though. We can allow our eyes to adjust to the lack of light. We can fall behind on purpose, convincing ourselves that we can see better without light. Perhaps we can see directly in front of ourselves slightly better, for tiny bits of light simply obstruct our night vision. It is either full light or none at all. In the previous chapter, it seems as though there was no light at all—a people that have fallen behind the leader who carries the light. They are “groping like those who have no eyes.” (vv. 10) The beginning of chapter 59 reveals that the iniquities of the people are the cause of this distance. God’s righteousness does not reach, not because He has abandoned the people, but because the people have walked in darkness.

Ah, but this is not how the chapter ends, but rather, God will redeem them! That is where we pick up in Chapter 60, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” There is optimism as though the people can now see. “Lift up your eyes and look around…”, the prophet encourages. People are going to gather around you, perhaps because in your redemption the glory of the LORD shines.

This is celebratory language of a people redeemed, for the light of God has shone them a new way and is giving new life. It doesn’t stop there! People of the world will be drawn to the new life that is taking place in this nation.

Christopher Reiter | Church Planter, Jacob’s Well church Boise, Idaho.

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