When my children were little, we would regularly watch PBS and
Those were the questions they were wondering. Have you ever
the morning shows. We watched Barney (anyone know the song?). We
wondered about similar questions? I know I have.
watched Sesame Street. We watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. And
occasionally we watched Lamb Chop with Shari Lewis.
Isaiah has heard his people. Maybe he has even wondered
these questions as well. But he has also been listening to God. And
It was watching Lamb Chop that I learned a song that I sing
after hearing these questions, he begins to share with the people what
when I am in the midst of a challenge that never seems to end, have you
God is saying. He reminds the people that God desires more for them
ever experienced what feels like an un-ending challenge?
than the brokenness they have experienced. And even now, in the
midst of the brokenness, God is working to do something new.
The song that I sing goes like this: “This is the song that never
ends, and it goes on and on my friend. Some people started singing it,
Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth: past events
not knowing what it was, and they’ll keep busy singing it forever, just
won’t be remembered; the hurt and pain of the past won’t even come to
because . . . it is the song that never ends, and it goes on and on my
friend. Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was, and
they’ll keep busy singing it forever, just because . . it is the song that
In the midst of a never ending challenge, it is sometimes hard
for us to believe that God is doing something new. It is hard for us to
remember and hold on to that as we work through the pain and the
Well, you get the idea. It is the song that never ends, because it
brokenness, our God loves us and cares about us so much that as we
work through it, with the help of God, God will bring us to a new place,
That song is what comes to my mind when I am in the midst of a
challenge that never ends. Do you know what it is like to be in an un-
As I was reflecting on this passage I was reminded of a book I
ending challenge? How did you face it? How did you get through it?
read a couple of years ago called Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier. Leon is
Jewish. At the time of his father’s death, he was a non-practicing Jew.
In our scripture for today, the Southern Kingdom of Judah has
been facing an unending challenge. It has gone on and on and on and
There is a prayer in Judaism called The Mourner’s Kaddish. It is a
beautiful prayer, which ironically never mentions the name of the
deceased. But it is to be a part of the ritual of mourning the death of a
Their ancestors had lived through the disintegration of the last
loved one. It is a prayer that is meant to be said everyday.
days of the kingdom. They had lived through the horror of the exile.
After forty years, they had come back to the land. Initially, they rejoiced
There is also a tradition within Judaism that says if a son prays
when they came back. But life wasn’t easy. They rebuilt the temple and
this prayer, three times a day in a synagogue, morning, noon and
thought life would get better, but life still wasn’t easy. They were
evening that his father will be redeemed. So Leon sets out to pray this
persecuted and challenged by their neighbors. They hadn’t experienced
the peace and security they longed for. Death, uncertainty, challenges
abounded all around them. They never seemed to end. Where was
The book is kind of a rambling journal of his learning’s about the
God? Didn’t God see what was happening? When would life get better?
history of The Mourner’s Kaddish and his experiences throughout the
year. It talks about his own struggles with faith. It gives witness to how his faith changes and begins to develop and how this even surprises him.
One of the interesting things I discovered is that this passage
It is a story of his personal growth and change. It is a story of
played a huge role in the development of Mother Teresa. It was this
how his parents lived faith and dealt with their own faith and tragedies,
passage that motivated her to go to Calcutta and get involved there.
even the tragedy of the Holocaust. At one point in the book, Leon’s
Because that is where she thought she could make a difference for God
sister calls him. Her son was to say prayers in the synagogue in Hebrew.
the most, it was where God most needed her.
Her son wanted to share his Hebrew with Uncle Leon.
On one occasion, as people came to visit Mother Teresa,
So, he gets on the phone. He says prayers to Uncle Leon. Leon
someone asked, “Mother Teresa, you are making such a huge
is touched. When his sister gets back on the phone, she says, clearly
difference here. How can we make such a difference where we are at?
beaming with pride, “What do you think?”
Leon surprises himself by saying, “I think Hitler lost.” She says,
She thought for a minute then said, “Remember to smile at
“What?” It is not quite the response she was expecting.
people. Remember to notice the people around you. Smile at your
children. Smile at your co-workers and neighbors. Smile at your spouse.
He replies, “I think Hitler lost. When children are saying prayers
Be good to each other and let God’s love shine through your smile.”
in Hebrew, we are still alive. God still is reaching out to us. We are still
The person laughed and said, “That’s easy for you, you aren’t
God is doing a new thing. God is doing a new thing in Leon’s life
as he get’s reconnected to his faith. God is doing a new thing in the
Mother Teresa corrected her and said, “Oh, but I am married.
nephew’s life as he connects with faith. God is doing a new thing in the
And sometimes I don’t find it easy to smile at Jesus at all. He can be
midst of life’s challenges and difficulties and God is reaching out to us as
quite demanding. But smile anyway. This is how we love God. This is
a part of that. Are you open to including God to help you through the
un-ending challenges you face? Are you open to seeing God in the midst
Life isn’t easy. Sometimes we face challenges that don’t seem
to end. But Isaiah reminds us that even in the midst of the challenges,
People won’t build homes for others to live in, nor plant for others
God is at work doing something new, creating something new. When
to eat . . . They won’t labor in vain, nor bear children to a world of horrors,
challenges come our way, may we learn to lean on God, look to God,
because they will be my people, blessed by me . . . Before they call, I will
take God’s hand as we walk through them. May we learn to smile and
answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.”
let God’s love shine through us, no matter what we face.
Isaiah is reminding his ancient hearers and us, that God loves us
and wants to be in an intimate relationship with us. God yearns to come and heal our brokenness and make us whole. God wants to be in a daily, regular relationship with us, and through that relationship, God will bring healing and wholeness to us and with God’s help we will make a difference in the world.
Two Timely Topics First, some news about pertussis (whooping cough). The State Health Department is reporting an epidemic of pertussis this year in California. There have been 5 infant deaths in the state (as of late June). Make sure your children are up-to-date with their shots. The “P” in the DTaP vaccine is for pertussis. In addition, kids should get a booster dose (“Tdap”) aft
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