March 27, Easter Sunday
The Word Sends*

One of my favorite quotes comes from F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Isaiah 42:6-9 (NRSV)

I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

I love this because I believe it is deeply true! And I love it because I believe that it is more than a test of intelligence; it is the holy work that we are called to. It is what hope is – holding grief for what is and dreaming of what could be.

This calling began many generations ago and it is where Israel finds itself in this passage from Isaiah, trying desperately to hold on to two ideas in their minds: they are in exile in Babylon, held captive by their enemies. They feel abandoned, and yet – God is still God. He has taken them by the hand and kept them, as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to set free the prisoner and make the blind see.

We haven’t left the days of exile behind. Our world has been shaken by people being driven from their homes by violence, searching desperately for a new home. Might they be trying to hold in their mind two opposing ideas? That home is behind them, and home can be found again?

The Word sends you and me into the exile of discomfort, far from where we want to be, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally or spiritually. We’re called into the discomfort of loving the stranger, offering a home, learning from each other, hearing and sitting in each other’s pain together. This season is one of discomfort, where we stand face-to-face with our own brokenness and the brokenness of our world, and acknowledge our need for the coming redemption. Yet the Word sends us to this very discomfort in the relentless pursuit of new things, in relentless pursuit of the Kingdom, of redemption for all, of love, of justice, of grace. Not alone – hand in hand with us.

May we hold in our mind both ideas: both the pain and the joy of this season, the call to discomfort and the truth that God stands with us in it.

Into what discomfort is the Word sending me? Where do I see God’s hand with me in it?

God, you are the Lord. You have called us in righteousness.
You have taken us by the hand and kept us that we may share your love and grace with all we meet.
We give glory to your name for your redemption and healing.
May you use us in this world to create a new thing: a world where your justice, mercy, and love reign.

By Mollie Palmer, Director, Together for Hope, Arkansas
First Baptist Church, Jonesboro

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