“Word for the weary and Revelation for the humble” ©
by Rev. Jim Ryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Isaiah speaks to us today to remind us of the purpose of the Word of God by saying the prophet “sustains the weary with a word.” This word for the weary, this reminder that the Word of God has a fundamental purpose, can stop us in our tracks. It stops us on the path to self-righteousness; stops us from one-upping each other on our way to judging others. The purpose of the Word of God is to comfort the weary. Case closed.
Were we – were I – to take this message to heart how much less strife and division would there be among Christians for sure, as well as throughout humanity. Clearly the sacred words of too many so-called religious people treat the Word of God as a weapon to judge, to exclude, to do violence physically, mentally, spiritually. In the Name of God we boost our own “capital” as if the gospel of prosperity were a real thing. In the Name of God we promote our own careers as if the gospel was a tool for calling attention to one’s resume. And we use the Name of God as though it gives us the right to take on the mantle of “expert.”
This is why giving comfort to the weary is a fundamental purpose of the Word of God and why this act stops us in our tracks. So, let’s consider the perfectly obvious case. It is the tsunami wave of weary people who are right now making their way across Europe seeking comfort. Let’s be thankful that a few governments are responding with some comfort. But let’s be even more grateful to the thousands of people who are responding out of simple person-to-person concern – the ones who have set up tents at the sides of railroad tracks to give food, water, clothing to those who pass by on their way to safety, away from war. Let’s be thankful to those who bring clothing to railroad stations, and let’s be thankful to those who open their homes to refugee families.
Let’s be aware that this fundamental prophetic example is all we need to act as God’s people. “Give comfort to the weary.”
As I reflected on this charge from Isaiah I recalled an earlier use of this sense of wearying used by the prophet. It happened at the time when each individual leader of the communities of the Jewish people was lining up to be in alliances with powerful leaders of neighboring communities. Such alliances watered down the single allegiance that mattered to the Jews which was the covenant with God. In this mix of claiming that allegiances were each one’s sign of more closely following God’s way, along comes King Ahaz – the hypocritical king. In response to those who wanted a sign from heaven that Ahaz was sticking to the single allegiance that matters, namely with Yahweh, Ahaz says, “Is it not enough that you weary other people? Must you also weary my God?”
What makes this hypocritical is that King Ahaz had already made an alliance with the Assyrians and, of course, he was claiming at the same time to be independent of all such power plays. How hypocritical, yet how typical, of those who want to use the Word of God for their own benefit.
Lately, we see in the episode of the County Clerk in Kentucky who refuses to perform the function of a County Clerk – which is to follow the law of the land – a case of making God’s Word into my word. She will not issue wedding licenses to gay couples even though they clearly have the right to be issued such a license. And after serving 5 days in jail for contempt of court we see how well-staged the self-righteous can make the Word of God. With microphones blaring, with candidates for President positioning for the cameras, with signs and cardboard crosses waving, with media-savvy religious people taking the cause to the public, we witness the forgetfulness that often happens among people of faith.
We forget that the Word of God is for the weary. Give comfort to the weary. Sustain the weary with a message and with actions that remove their weariness.
Is this complicated? Does this message really need the media?
Or does this message, rather, need to be spoken in tents along rail tracks, in clothing stacked on “take what you need” tables, in open doors to open homes?
Tomorrow, September 14, is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Before we spend too much effort on exaltation and glorying for its own sake, or on how we may use the Holy Cross for a message to exclude, let’s remember that it is the Cross. As Peter needed to learn the hard way with a reprimand from Jesus, revelation is for the humble. And as our teachers taught us, the strength behind the virtue of humility is the ability to acknowledge truth. The truth of the Cross is the pattern of death to resurrection. So, Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Take up your cross.” And as James reminds us in today’s second reading, the proof is in your good deeds that give faith believability.
“Brothers and sisters, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save. If anyone is in need of clothes and has no food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘Good-bye and good luck. Keep warm and well fed,’ without giving them the bare necessities of life, then what good is this? So it is with faith. If good works do not go with it, it is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
We praise you, Holy & All-Loving One, for this new day.
We draw comfort from undeserved blessings
and unanticipated joys.
It is you who speak words to our hearts
and act with love on our behalf.
We do not know how these blessings came to be
in this world that is too often a place of weariness and emptiness.
We open our hearts, our minds, our spirits
to you and to all whom you love.
We are obliged to care for the creation which is your gift to us.
We are to give comfort to those who are weary.
This is the purpose of your Word.
May we not weary you with our judgments about
who you love the most and the best.
Let humility which is the purpose of your revelation
encourage us to live as you did –
through death to resurrection.
We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ,
now and forever.