I know this is late but I still wanted to share this reflection I wrote to encourage anyone who feels like their life, family, dreams or community is in ruins. This reflection was apart of the 40 Days of Prayer Lenten Series that Restoration Church and Metro Hope Church developed, be blessed!
– The Sistas in East Harlem
Sit in silence and read each version of the passage opening your heart to what the spirit wants to communicate to you.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor] [a]and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion—to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit—that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former desolations and renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. – Amplified Bible
The Spirit of Adonai Elohim is upon me, because Adonai has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives, to let out into light those bound in the dark; to proclaim the year of the favor of Adonai and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, yes, provide for those in Tziyon who mourn, giving them garlands instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a cloak of praise instead of a heavy spirit, so that they will be called oaks of righteousness planted by Adonai, in which he takes pride. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, restore sites long destroyed; they will renew the ruined cities, destroyed many generations ago. – Complete Jewish Bible
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. – New Revised Standard Version
During these times of economic crisis and uncertainty we hear the still voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, urging us to see the Kingdom of God breaking into our lives. Many of us are mourning the loss of employment, the breakdown of our families, the gentrification of our communities, the gun violence that kills our youth and a host of other personal and societal ills that threaten our humanity. In spite of all these causes for mourning, today’s passage tells us that God is going to comfort ALL who mourn, not some but ALL; this means that on a personal level God will comfort you in your mourning. On a societal level we see from this passage that God wants to comfort us so that we can rise- up and rebuild the ruins of our cities. Lent is a annual season of mourning for the church but many of us live in a constant state of mourning, but the word of God promises us restoration. When God comforts us it is because our healing is important and because God wants to use us to help rebuild someone else or even an entire community. Isaiah 61 declares that God has a plan for cities, not in spite of the challenges faced in these communities but because of them. All over New York City I see God doing something in the ruins: faith leaders gathering to advocate for our youth, urban gardens providing vegetables in food deserts, Christians taking to the streets to serve the homeless, public art gracing formerly barren streets and a host of other actions large and small that are rebuilding our cities.
Will we give God our mourning so that it can be replaced with the call to rebuild our communities? Will we give God the ashes of our lives so that we can receive divine beauty? Will we be honest with God about the faint state of our spirits so that we can receive the song of praise? The choice is ours. We do not have to be perfect to be rebuilders of our cities; all we have to do is be willing to give our mourning, ashes and faint spirits to God. Transparency is the key to healing ourselves and rebuilding our communities, take time to be honest with God today and see the Spirit heal and use you in a mighty way tomorrow.
For more information about how God can use mourning in your life read Good Grief by Granger E. Westberg
- March 17 @ Isaiah 56-61 (phyllisbenigas.wordpress.com)
- Captivating: Chapter 6 – Healing the Wound – Hemmed In (Pgs 92-98) (girlfriendscoffeehour.com)
- Beauty from Ashes (brianotte.com)