A reflection on Isaiah 40:1-11 by the Rev. Marnie Peterson
Tonight as we celebrate the feast of John the Baptist, I want to do that by thinking about Isaiah.
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.
A voice of one calling, “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord, make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God…”
What comforts you? What do you look for in building relationship with each other? Do you help to make way for God to be known in the world because of our experiences here? Because of what we learn and experience here together.
I wonder how we clear the way for God? What does that look like for us? For you and me and for our community?
I have been thinking about this all week while I was down in the Diocese of Olympia participating in a training for leaders in churches to help enable them to look for ways in which we can make our congregations healthier and more connected to the various missions that God is calling us into.
So, of course I was thinking about us and we are up to here.
I was thinking about the ways that we are deepening our relationships with each other: the prayer group that Bill and Andrew are starting. I thought about the Saint Bees Tea that Douglas initiated and we are hosting on July 10th. I thought about the retreats that we have been on and the bible study that Andrew is hosting.
I think about the various and many conversations that I have been privileged to have with many of you over these two years since we began and that I want to keep having.
I think about the ways in which we listen for God here and with one another. The prayers that we say together, the time that we take for intentional prayer in our service. The conversations that happen in our community meetings. So much! There is so much that happens here that is beautiful and good and reminds me that God is alive and well here in this place.
You know the things that we do here should impact our lives outside of these walls. The hope is that we leave here changed by what we do here and that we would be here together as we would like to be. The kingdom that we are working to bring about starts here.
And that is comforting, don’t you think?
That we could be working to bring about the kingdom of God that includes you and me and connection to each other?
John the Baptist came and pointed the way to the man called Jesus. He helped the world to get ready for who Jesus was to be for us. He pointed the way for the one who would come and show us how to be. He demanded a lot of the people around him. He baptized people and insisted on their repentance and faith in God and he knew Jesus when he saw him. He recognized who Jesus was and what that meant for those around him. He was maybe the first to proclaim the ‘good news’ that our Gospel holds. That Jesus came and points us towards a new way of being.
Creating a path and the possibility for Jesus to be known is our work and we have a particular way that we do that because of the people that we have here and because of the ways that we come together and that is our gift to the world around us.
If God can use a crazy man like John the Baptist to help people see and know Jesus, then surely God is also using this place too and each of you and me as we go out into the world.
Because you are God’s and know the love of God. Because of the ways that you and we encounter this community in the ways that we do here, we have something to say about the ways that God loves us.
We have something to say about what inclusion looks like following God. We have something to say about what being gay looks like and residing in the love of God. We have something to say about what coming from other traditions looks like and finding God in a new community – we have so much here that helps point us towards what love looks like.
And that is what I thought as I saw the readings for this week and as I taught and learned over the past several days.
We are up to something beautiful here. We know what God’s comfort feels like and how hard building towards it can be.
Building this community with you has been one of the most challenging parts of my ministry so far. I really didn’t know what I was doing, only that I felt called by God to do it and that I had a hunch that there was a community that might need what I have to offer as a pastor. I have been grateful to Andrew for his shared leadership in this endeavour and his fearlessness in starting new things and I have been blown over by the people who have been coming – by you and by the community that is beginning to form.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low and the rough ground shall be made level. And that can be what it feels like when we get it right – when we come together in this place to share and to be, when we point the way to who Jesus calls us to be together.
There have been times since we started when we have not gotten it right, when we have had to go back and re-think and start over, but then there have been times when the beauty of what we experience and are building together blow me away – like Pentecost when we baptized Jacob and Ted, like the BBQ last summer on the lawn of St. Mary Magdelene, anytime we have a potluck and only 4 people RSVP and I am convinced that we will only have cake and 4 people and suddenly a table is set in the wilderness and a banquet shows up, like many of the moments we have stared since starting our prayer time in ordinary time here, like the night when everyone prayed in – honestly there have been too many times now to count.
I am changed by what we do here and what we are building. I hear Gods voice in your reflections when we gather. I see how we can make a difference in the world around us when I hear what you have planned. Following in the footsteps of John the Baptist, I believe that this community is working towards contributing the kingdom of God and making Jesus Christ known.
‘And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all human-kind together will see it.”