Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave
the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?
God tells Isaiah to comfort his frightened people. To be tender to them. To reassure them.
But then what is Isaiah instructed to say, in the reading for today? That the valleys shall be filled in and the mountains brought low.
That doesn’t sound very reassuring to me. It sounds cataclysmic. Terrible.
And then the Lord tells Isaiah to cry this out, that “all flesh is grass,” that our beauty is fleeting and our lives just a moment. That we wither. That we wilt.
That doesn’t sound comforting to me. It sounds depressing. It sounds morbid.
But no, not really. It’s reassuring after all.
When I was really worried about something, really worked up, my dad used to say “in a hundred years, it won’t make any difference.” And he was right. What I was so worked up about wasn’t all that important, and it helped to hear that. I felt better.
Think of all the things you’re worried about–from the perspective of the stars. Think of all the problems you have to solve–from the standpoint of geologic time.
If you took a roll of toilet paper and rolled it out to its full length, the amount of time human beings have been alive on earth would amount to a tiny corner of the last square.
It’s humbling to think this way but it’s also freeing. All the little things that preoccupy us are really even littler even than we imagine. We’re little. We’re infinitesimal.
Relax. Let it go.
And yet here’s the paradox. Here’s the saving insight: God remains, and he loves us. “The word of our God stands forever,” Isaiah says, the Word that created the stars, the Word that created the earth, the Word that created time and exceeds it, and that Word is here now, too, is with us in this moment and the next, is never not with us.
The other day I went to a retirement party for a colleague, and I came away feeling sad and empty and ignored. I felt sad the whole rest of the day.
But God never ignores us. His calculus doesn’t work like ours: all of us count.
We are just one of a hundred–we are just one of a hundred billion–but somehow to God we are infinitely precious, we are precious beyond price, and none of us is ever lost. None of us is ever cast aside. God always finds us. God always carries us home.