URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 22nd May 2024

Wednesday 22nd May 2024
 
Reading Isaiah 54:2-13 
 
Enlarge the site of your tent,
    and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
    and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left,
    and your descendants will possess the nations
    and will settle the desolate towns.
 
For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,
    I am about to set your stones in antimony,
    and lay your foundations with sapphires
I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
    your gates of jewels,
    and all your wall of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
    and great shall be the prosperity of your children.

Reflection
Who puts jewels in foundations?  Over the last six years, as I’ve watched Northstowe grow from 150 to 1,500 of the planned 10,000 houses, I’ve never spotted a sapphire in the footings!

Meanwhile, Isaiah’s call to ‘stretch wide the tent’ has become our vision. We’ve dared to partner not just ecumenically with Christians from across the traditions, but with community groups, developers, schools and others that God sends our way. This isn’t simply for today: we dream of a Northstowe where our spiritual descendants will be a blessing for generations to come. More than dream: we’re putting down deep “stakes” of prayer, trusting in the One whose steadfast love holds us firm.

So perhaps there are gleaming jewels in the foundations: God’s expansive, unwavering love. A love that we pray will continue to shine out from the gates and pinnacles.

Isaiah’s honest appraisal of storms and disappointments resonates too. Our challenges might not be those of Isaiah’s first hearers, but many of us know heartbreak. I wonder if some of the jewels sparkling in the foundations are the tears of shared lament?  I’m challenged by the reality that tears will glimmer on the pinnacles and gates too.

And there are more jewels: our story is of God sending just the right people for each stage. What hope, encouragement, and joy these people have brought! Sometimes, their ministry among us has only been for a season: new town populations are transitory, and work-life patterns shift and change rapidly in a community with so many young families. So Isaiah’s picture gives me hope: their gifts are enshrined in the foundations. And God will bring more “jewels” to help shape the pinnacles and gates.

If God can do that here, where else might precious gifts be unexpectedly nestling? What jewels of love, lament, and joy is God pouring into the places where God has put you, too? 

Prayer 

Surprising God: Creator, Saviour and Sustainer,
we have much still to learn from you,
even as you continue to meet us where we are:
whether in our pain, confusion, or joy.
Thank you for the great and still unfolding story 
of how you love your people.
Help us take up our place in that story,
trusting you to reveal the jewels of your love, 
our shared lament, 
and the gifts of those around us.  Amen
 

Today's writer

The Revd Dr Beth Cope is an Anglican pioneer minister at the Northstowe Church Network - a network of new missional and worshipping communities in the Cambridgeshire new town of Northstowe, in local ecumenical partnership with CofE, Baptist and URC and in friendship with the Quakers.

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New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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