|Rev. Dr. Michael Ciba, Southwest Regional Minister|
This week's author is the Rev. Dr. Michael Ciba, Southwest Regional Minister for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you."
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God's people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
In 2010, Dan Savage and Terry Miller founded "It Gets Better" as an outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens who are at risk of suicide because of harassment, bullying, and lack of understanding from family and friends. The project encouraged adults to videotape messages to teens to assure them that "it does, indeed, get better," to encourage them to persevere, to accept and love who they are, to seek out help and support, to not give up on life and to not lose hope.
Currently, over 30,000 videos have been uploaded to the website: [www.itgetsbetter.org]. These videos have been viewed more than 40 million times. While some of the messages came from famous people, most come from ordinary individuals of all ages, genders, backgrounds, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Together, they offer a moving testimony to the power that comes from collectively and individually speaking words of hope to those who are in despair.
Isaiah also speaks to people who are without hope. The people of Israel had lost their land, their place of worship, and their way of life. The exile in which they live is a new wilderness. The promise of a return to Jerusalem elicits more fear than hope. The present is awful and the future doesn't look any better.
Isaiah boldly proclaims to the people of his time and place: IT GETS BETTER! The desert which seems dead to you won't just blossom; it will sing. Disabilities will be healed. The dry landscape will become wet. No one will get lost on God's highway. Those who were overwhelmed with sorrow will sing for joy.
Isaiah is right to proclaim that God, and only God, can achieve such an overwhelming transformation. But God works through creation and through people. God spoke through the prophet. God acted through all creation. God builds highways but we walk on them. God gives us voice but we are the ones who must sing, write, preach, record, and proclaim.
God calls us to bring water to the thirsty in a dry land. God calls us to proclaim hope in the face of despair. God calls us to proclaim to young and old, gay and straight, that it does, indeed, get better, if we all travel the road and share the journey together.
God of hope, we know how easy it is for anyone to lose hope. Help us to proclaim good news to those who think the bad news is too much to bear. May we offer your hope to all who need hope, especially those who are most vulnerable. We pray in the name of Jesus, who brought good news and who was persecuted for who he was. Amen.
the friends and family of the Rev. Carl L. Christensen, who recently retired from the Ivoryton Congregational Church UCC, who died on August 21.
those suffering from the impact of Hurricane Isaac;
those injured or grieving after the shootings in Marikana, South Africa, on August 16;
those struggling to cope with this summer's drought conditions;
the Rev. Stephen Camp, senior pastor of Faith Congregational Church UCC in Hartford, who is recovering from severe injuries suffered in a fall;
the Rev. Carl F. Schultz, Jr., pastor emeritus of First Church of Christ Congregational UCC in Glastonbury, who is recovering from surgery for a broken hip;
the Conference Minister Search Committee as they begin to consider candidates;
the Rev. Dr. Barry Cass, the staff, members, and friends of the Somers Congregational United Church of Christ, which lost its 170-year-old meetinghouse to a devastating fire the night of January 1-2;
the Rev. Alison Buttrick-Patton, the lay leadership, staff, members, friends, and community of the Saugatuck Congregational Church UCC, which suffered severe damage from a substantial fire on the night of November 20;
the Conference's partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery and their communities on the Korean peninsula;
the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Rev. Eric Anderson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Church of Christ, Cong'l
P The Rev. Paige L. Besse-Rankin
CE Ms. Sara Khrla
First Cong'l Church of Granby
P The Rev. Virginia Ann McDaniel
AP The Rev. Nada Blair Sellers
South Cong'l Church of Granby
P The Rev. Dennis P. Moon
First Cong'l Church of Greenwich
IN The Rev. John W. Collins
PE The Rev. Sally Colegrove
PE The Rev. Thomas L. Stiers
AP The Rev. Avery Manchester
AP The Rev. Daniel B. England
AP The Rev. Mark D. Montgomery
MM Dr. Craig Symons
CE Ms. Rosemary Lamie
North Greenwich Cong'l Church
P The Rev. Royal B. Garren
MM Mr. Albert MacKenzie
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The Spirit Calendar: September 03, 2012 by Rev. Dr. Michael Ciba, Southwest Regional Minister