Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11 (Common English Bible)
The LORD God’s spirit is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for Zion’s mourners,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise
in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the LORD to glorify himself.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore
formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past.
I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and dishonesty.
I will faithfully give them their wage,
and make with them
an enduring covenant.
Their offspring will be known
among the nations,
and their descendants
among the peoples.
All who see them will recognize
that they are a people
blessed by the LORD.
I surely rejoice in the LORD;
my heart is joyful because of my God,
because he has clothed me
with clothes of victory,
wrapped me in a robe of righteousness
like a bridegroom in a priestly crown,
and like a bride adorned in jewelry.
As the earth puts out its growth,
and as a garden grows its seeds,
so the LORD God
will grow righteousness
and praise before all the nations.
What word, phrase, or image stands out to you in this passage? Sit with that for a moment. What does it bring up for you? What questions do you have? What connections do you hear (to other stories, images, art, movies, music…)?
What feelings come up when you think about this God?
Have you ever prayed like this? (not with these words necessarily, or so eloquently, but in this kind of spirit?)
Who is speaking? The prophet? The Messiah (which means “anointed one”)? The people of Israel? You? Why does it matter, and how does it change the reading if you imagine it being spoken by different people (including yourself)? How does it change if you read these words as being spoken TO you? (are there parts of your life that are brokenhearted, poor, captive, discouraged, without joy?)
Jesus uses these words to sum up his ministry, to declare his mission statement. Is this how you understand the purpose of Jesus’ coming–for these very earthly things, these concerns that might be considered political (in the sense that they are about the polis–the way we live together)?
The word “righteousness” means “right relationship”–so to grow in righteousness or to be clothed in righteousness is to be in right relationship with God. How do you find yourself growing in righteousness?
The prophet (and later Jesus) tells us that God’s vision is for global transformation–from discouragement, poverty, and captivity to joy and righteousness. What does that vision have to do with your faith? How do you work to be a part of God’s mission statement?