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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 44:6–8

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one. (NRSV)

The Israelites had just experienced a traumatic exile. Their spirits crushed. Their numbers depleted. They are newcomers to a foreign land, and everything is in disarray. The people begin to doubt. Faced with the challenge of living as minorities in a foreign land, fearing assimilation or even extinction, the people of God are anxious, and they begin to place their trust not in God but in idols. So the prophet Isaiah calls them back by reminding them who they are and whose they are. They are the people of God—the King of Israel, the Lord of hosts, who is the first and the last, rock and redeemer.

Mainline Protestants—that’s us—are in decline. There is no denying it: we are waning in numbers, influence, and power. We are changing. The Christianity we once knew of packed pews and social prestige is no longer. And I have to admit that this changing landscape makes me anxious. I cling to traditions and customs of the past. I begin to think to myself, “If only we keep things the way they are, if we go back to this or that, people will return.”

But truthfully, these traditions and customs have become so sacred in my eyes that I begin to let them rival God. In my fear and anxiety, I have been placing my trust in idols and not in God.

The prophet Isaiah calls me—calls the whole church—back to God by reminding us who we are and whose we are. God tells us not to fear falling numbers or a changing church, but to be faithful. We are the people of God who redeems, provides, guides, and will never fail us.

Almighty God, you are the first and the last, my rock and redeemer. Grant me courage in the face of fear, assurance in the face of the unknown, that by my words and actions I may witness to your love and work in the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Written by Shawn Fiedler, Worship and Adult Education Coordinator

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