United Methodist Church of Antioch
848 Main Street, Antioch, Illinois  60002
                    P (847) 395-1259                     
F (847) 395-4238 
umc.antioch@att.net
Rev. Katie Voigt, pastor
The mission of the United Methodist Church of Antioch is to grow in faith, worship God following the teachings of Jesus Christ, and be instruments of God's love, through the Holy Spirit, as we reach out to our community and the world.

TIME APART

In this space, you will find some of my reflections, some scripture, 
some prayers, and some tips for making it through this time 
that we must all spend apart.

Wednesday - This is Pastor Katie at the keyboard. I've officially been here a week now - oh, how time flies!

Hello, friends of the United Methodist Church of Antioch. I have spent the last week trying to unpack my office, write a few sermons, record some worship services, get to know a few people, work with the ReTurn team on a reopening plan, you know, all the things one does when a ministry transition happens during a global pandemic!

I know Pastor Char wrote a daily reflection and I finally had a moment today to work on one. :-) 

          I have, for the last five years or so, used a ‘read-through-the Bible-in-a-year’ devotional as part of my morning routine. Because of Leap years and other oddities, I can’t say that I’m on track with today is ‘this’ day of the year and I’m readying ‘this’ day’s devotion. I usually finish the Bible before the year ends and just re-start, hence re-creating the problem for the next year.

Anyway, this morning I was reading in Isaiah and I got to some verses I had highlighted in a previous read-through. Isaiah 48:10-11, “10See, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity. 11For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for why should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” I was struck by what this felt like to me reading it this time, and I noted that by highlighting it in a previous year I had probably had feelings about it some other time, and it made me do some research because I wanted to learn more about why the words were originally written, what was their first context.

As biblical scholars continued to study the material that had been lumped together into the books of Isaiah, it became clear that it might have been better separated into three books, so Isaiah 1-39 has been known as First Isaiah, 40-55 has come to be known as Second Isaiah and 56-66 as Third Isaiah.

It seems, based on other places in chapter 48, to reference a people who have been scattered. They are not at home. They are not settled. They are not comfortable or in charge of their own lives. They may not even be in their home country, let alone their hometowns.

              “…we know only that a period of judgment, devastating in scope, is to be visited upon God’s people and that a remnant will survive (6:11-13). We know also that Hezekiah will be spared seeing this period of judgment (39:5-8). When we read into chapter 40 and following, it is clear that the day of judgment is past (40:2, ‘she has served her term – her penalty is paid’)” (Christopher R. Seitz, “The Book of Isaiah 40-66” The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI, Leander E. Keck, ed., Abingdon Pres: Nashville, 2001. 317).

              If we take a step back and look at a larger piece of chapter 48, Paul D. Hanson encourages us to see something more. “Obstinate Israel is shocked into alertness to God’s presence by the juxtaposition of ‘former things’ and ‘new things,’ this time in the same passage. No excuses! They have already heard the ‘former things.’ But no complacency either, lest they say, ‘I already knew them’ (vv. 6-7). And lest Israel forget what holds such dialectics together and what preserves hope even in the face of human treachery, verses 9-13 state explicitly that it is for the sake of the One who is the first and the last, the Creator of the heavens and the earth” (Paul D. Hanson, “Isaiah 40-66” Interpretation, James Luther Mays, ed., John Knox Press: Louisville, 1995. 124.).

              So, if I take all that in, and think about what I am experiencing now, I think about those people in exile hearing that they had been refined, that they had been tested in the furnace of adversity. Somedays our sheltering in place sure felt like exile, didn’t it? Now that we are opening back up a bit, it doesn’t have the same feeling, but I know that even though I don’t usually see my family all that often the fact that I couldn’t made it feel worse. I felt separated from them because of someone else’s doing, and I imagine this is a tinge of what exile must feel like. I also imagine exile to be much worse. I, at least, could still gather with my worshipping family – albeit electronically, my colleagues and I could still gather in the same manner, so there were ways to continue to meet. I wasn’t completely apart. And, while I don’t believe that God is testing us with this novel coronavirus, it kinda feels like it, doesn't it?

              So, here’s the thing… while I don’t believe God tests us, I believe that God can use these very human circumstances of ours to help us learn and grow. God can redeem this season of our lives, if we give God the opportunity. In Isaiah, those in exile heard that it was for God’s sake that they were being tested, that it was for God’s glory to be revealed that they were being allowed to walk through that season of separation. What if we sought out ways for God to be glorified during this time? What if we, with every action we took and every word we said, tried to make God known in our world? What if, in all of our interactions online, we tried to be a voice of love and forgiveness, grace, even? What if we tried to bring God’s glory into the world so that the name of the Lord would not be profaned?