Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 234)
Isaiah 61:1-11 NASB
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,
They will raise up the former devastations;
And they will repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks,
And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.
But you will be called the priests of the LORD;
You will be spoken of as ministers of our God.
You will eat the wealth of nations,
And in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame you will have a double portion,
And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion.
Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land,
Everlasting joy will be theirs.
For I, the LORD, love justice,
I hate robbery in the burnt offering;
And I will faithfully give them their recompense
And make an everlasting covenant with them.
Then their offspring will be known among the nations,
And their descendants in the midst of the peoples.
All who see them will recognize them
Because they are the offspring whom the LORD has blessed.
I will rejoice greatly in the LORD,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.
Isaiah 29:17-21 NRSV
Shall not Lebanon in a very little while
become a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a scroll,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD,
and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
For the tyrant shall be no more,
and the scoffer shall cease to be;
all those alert to do evil shall be cut off—
those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit,
who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate,
and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.
Such words of hope—blind eyes seeing, justice for the poor, the wounds of the broken-hearted bound up. And Jesus steps onto the scene, fulfilling such anticipations and many more. “The kingdom of heaven is near,” he says, and proves it as he walks the hills of Galilee, hands extended to the poor.
“How wonderful,” we all too often think, going about our merry way. But these are not dead words from the past, but the living, breathing heart of God, eager to set all right with the world. Such words must not merely bring us comfort, but become intercession for the world.
Go through them, line by line. Internalize the words. Transform them from words of hope to prayers of intercession: “Spirit, anoint me with your power. Anoint those in mission throughout the world.” “Bind up the broken-hearted, God.” “Lord God, release the wealth of nations to the poor.”