"O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down....."


The beginning of Isaiah chapter 64, which is read this morning according to the lectionary, is one that might be echoed by those with frustration over the way of the world: “O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at thy presence […].”  What it is a plea for, is that God will reveal himself in power - and that revelation would be seen to be along two principal lines: Judgement and Redemption.

Looking at the scenes from the United States yesterday and the ongoing travails of the world, through pandemic and the normal run of challenges to peace, goodwill, equitable living and safety, there is little surprise that in Isaiah’s day they felt much the same, nor that the Christian Church has taken up the vision of Isaiah as being fulfilled in the person of Christ.  However, the rending of the heavens like a curtain, and the power of God causing the trembling of mountains, was to be effected by a star and a manger.

The mystery of our complex world under the care of the Almighty, and the state of all life bound to that of Christ, is one that through these two broad themes of judgement and redemption, make Christian understanding - our theology - so dependent upon the Epiphany, the showing forth of what humanity should be like in the life and words of Jesus himself.  This is a matter on the one hand of contemplating creation from its smallest and most mundane manifestations, such as I have mentioned before, seeing the outward effects of love and prayer on ourselves and those closest to us, but also on taking the cosmic thoughts that Isaiah throws up today and considering his questioning of the actions of God.

My pondering for this day, as much as I have any just now, is that thoughts of rending of heavens and shaking of mountains is for ever and always, but more intimately and for every moment of each day, the life-changing things are the little moments of inspiration, the skip of the heart when something goes well, the smile when everyone around is sullen, the sign of love in the midst of people tearing themselves apart with hate.  So we shall read Isaiah this morning, and I shall thank God for the moments of joy.

John Mann