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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, March 23, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 44:24–45:7

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who by myself spread out the earth; who frustrates the omens of liars, and makes fools of diviners; who turns back the wise, and makes their knowledge foolish; who confirms the word of his servant, and fulfills the prediction of his messengers; who says of Jerusalem, “It shall be inhabited,” and of the cities of Judah, “They shall be rebuilt, and I will raise up their ruins”; who says to the deep, “Be dry— I will dry up your rivers”; who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd, and he shall carry out all my purpose”; and who says of Jerusalem, “It shall be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him— and the gates shall not be closed: I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.

I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things. (NRSV)

When I was little, my favorite movie was “The Wizard of Oz.” I loved the songs and the magical characters, like the Tin Man and the Scarecrow. One part stopped me short, though. It wasn’t the flying monkeys or the Wicked Witch melting into the floor; it was the ending.

At the end of the film, the Good Witch tells the heroine Dorothy that all during the dangers she had faced in Oz, she’d always had the power to get home to Kansas. All she had to do was tap her ruby-slippered heels together three times and say, “There’s no place like home.”

My childhood self found that stunning—the idea that each of us might possess something precious and powerful that we never knew we had, that in fact we’d had all along.

The prophet Isaiah writes in this passage that God tells God’s people, “I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.”

I had to look up “surname” as a verb: it means to give someone a hereditary name, a name common to all members of a family.

I find that equally stunning: the idea that, as God’s beloved, we have a heritage and an identity that was given before we even knew God.

God claims each of us as God’s own, even when we did not know it, or know God. We have an everlasting home where we belong. We have kin whom we have been given to love, as members of a common family.

A creed we sometimes recite in church is this: “We are not alone, we live in God’s world.” And so we do.

God, open my eyes to see you. Open my heart to know and love you and the whole human family. Amen.

Written by Jeanne Bishop, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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