sexta-feira, 3 de junho de 2016


All people are like grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
Isaiah 40:7b-8 – NIV

We are really quite fragile and limited. There is much that lies ahead of us. Life is full of obstacles with "mountains" to climb, "valleys" to span and "deserts" to cross. We have our ups and downs, experience scorching and freezing and pass through our floods and droughts. The future is unknown and uncertain with the unexpected waiting beyond the curves that lie ahead in the winding road we must walk. In times of acute need we need hope that we can feed upon to give us strength in order to face the challenges that present themselves on the way.

Looking on the other side of life we see that, at the same time, good things happen. The world that challenges us also sustains us. Sometimes threats don’t materialize and other times we have unexpected strength of overcome obstacles. The above text reflects these two aspects: fragility and strength.

This text is the fruit of a feeling of fragility and uncertainty. The inhabitants of Jerusalem who were held in exile in had little prospect of returning to their hometown. They felt their fragility. Then, with a turn of events, Cyrus, the new Emperor of Persia (now Iran) released the hostages to go home. Isaiah looked on him as an anointed instrument of God to free the people.

540 years later, John the Baptist repeats the message of Isaiah to proclaim the opening of divine action to open new ways! This time, Jesus would be the Anointed One to bring deliverance. The captives were the people of Palestine, hostage to Roman oppression. Besides the political rule of the Roman Empire the politically oppressed were in need of liberation from themselves. John misunderstood the nature of the hope he proclaimed, but never-the-less sensed a turn of events. The message of Jesus was not what he expected. The Jesus Way was not to BRING revolution but was to BE revolution.

History has repeated itself. Crisis has become a way of life. Economic and social oppression is on the increase. Human violence has become the norm and becoming the ever more frequent subject of news reports. People are held captive by being kept in ignorance and induced to indifference, intolerance and religious or ideological fanaticism. Compassion, tolerance, humility and nonviolence are seen as weakness. With growing globalism the dominant philosophy is becoming “winner-take-all” with those who are left out to fend for themselves. The increase of individual fortunes is at the expense of spreading poverty and violence. The economy is increasingly shaky, the political order more unstable, weather shaken by global warming and a confusing religious landscape. The world today is radically different from yesterday. We cannot even imagine what it will be like tomorrow with the increase of state and private surveillance, terrorism and mass destruction of civilian populations by chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

As we face the obstacles of today we feel our fragility. The text describes humanity as "dry grass" and "falling flowers". Who are we to be able to withstand the blows to our very existence? Who are we to face the devastating currents that are dragging down the little stability that we knew! Until now we always have had openings of ways for us to escape.

Isaiah painted hope as: "The word of our God endures forever." The Word is not something written in some old scripture, but the principal of renewal we find in the natural order. The old dies and the new replaces it. The action of nature can open new ways, using the elements of destruction to bring renewal. For Isaiah, Cyrus, a pagan normally despised by the Jews, was an instrument of the Word to free the Jewish people from exile. For early Christians, Jesus who was rejected by officialdom became the Word capable of transforming disgrace into grace. By following the way of Jesus the Word built and transformed lives.

We may be withering grass and falling flowers in a withering and falling world, but we can have hope that ultimate reality is more than that and ally ourselves to that which renews and goes beyond withering and falling. Grass returns and fallen flowers leave fruit. By allying ourselves with principles of life we can move toward renewal and the birth of the new.


Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out.”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.”
You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
    or weighed the mountains on the scales
    and the hills in a balance?
Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
    or showed him the path of understanding?
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
    they are regarded as dust on the scales;
    he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
    nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
Before him all the nations are as nothing;
    they are regarded by him as worthless
    and less than nothing.
With whom, then, will you compare God?
    To what image will you liken him?
As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,
    and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
    and fashions silver chains for it.
A person too poor to present such an offering
    selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
    to set up an idol that will not topple.

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