By Pastor Rose M. Blank St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
One of my favorite passages from the Hebrew Scriptures is from the prophet Isaiah: “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you… do not fear for I am with you…” (Isaiah 43: 1-5 NRSV)
In the face of whatever may seem to threaten the people of Israel, God was with them. They were claimed, named and loved by the Holy One, precious in God’s own sight. It was way back in seminary in the 1980’s that these verses came to have a new meaning in my life. We all have experiences throughout our lives when we may feel like we are barely keeping our heads above water or simply trying to keep ahead of all the ‘fires’ that threaten to do us in. The interesting thing about these verses is they don’t say “if” you encounter the ‘waters’ and the ‘fires,’ but “when.” For surely as we live, those things happen that catch us off guard; life gets turned upside down because of a diagnosis, the death of those we love, other losses that cause us to reevaluate our lives, or situations in our community or country that challenge us.
Since those days in seminary, I have often wondered if each of us recognized the presence of God’s love in others, this love that claims us each as precious, if it would make a difference in how we treat one another. In a country that seems to be filled with messages of fear and dread, Isaiah’s word stands as a message of hope and an invitation to remember whose we are. When the waters and fires of hate and fear bombard us, recall that God is the Holy One who loves us and invites us to extend that love to others around us. As people of faith, we are invited, yes, and even sometimes challenged, to embody this same love to those with whom we may disagree.
Remember each one of us is called by name and loved by God so that we might show this love in visible ways to others.