Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
May God be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
Let your ways be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nationsRefrain
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity,
and guide all the nations upon earth.
The earth has brought forth her increase;
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.
May God give us his blessing,
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
1Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.
6And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.
We began our study session by praying responsive psalm 67 that celebrates a bountiful harvest as it celebrates and reminds us of God's love for everyone everywhere.
Short overview of the long book of Isaiah that's in three distinct sections, probably by three different primary authors:
1st Isaiah – chapters 1-39 before the Babylonian exile
2nd Isaiah – 40-55 during the Babylonian exile
3rd Isaiah – 56-66 after the exile, mostly addressed to those who returned and to rebuild city, temple, and their own lives.
Despite probable distinct authorship of each section of the larger book of prophecy called Isaiah, all three include material whose style, etc. doesn't accord with the rest and that's almost definitely from another writer.
All of Greater Isaiah(!) brings us magnificent inclusive universalism that's not squishy, sweet, contentless New Age, but reveals a God who reaches out with love and mercy to all people and all creation everywhere. Together with his 8th century contemporary Amos, 1st Isaiah brings us the earliest articulation of true monotheism.
Today we hear from the opening passage of 3rd Isaiah. These verses reveal a God who loves, includes, and embraces everyone (including Israel's enemies!); we also learn about the holy demands of a holy God to do justice and righteousness, to keep Sabbath. As I said, not vapid and New Agey. From Isaiah 56:7, the cornerstone of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA announces "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." This is not only ecumenical cooperation between very different, quite similar, and closely related Christian denominations—it's also interfaith, as it was during 3rd Isaiah's sixth century.
Today's scripture reading follows Isaiah 55, the tail end of 2nd Isaiah that we studied a few weeks ago on Pentecost 6 about God's promise the word will not return to heaven empty, but shall accomplish its purpose. That chapter ends with everyone full of joy and shalom, with a restored and redeemed creation participating: singing mountains and hills; applauding trees. We'll find cypress and myrtle rather than thorns and briars!
The opening demands to do justice and righteousness sometimes seems futile, but even very small actions add up to something much bigger. The Hebrew uses the same word for righteousness and deliverance/salvation.
We had another long discussion of Sabbath-keeping, both in the sense of keeping traditional Friday evening through Saturday evening set apart and holy, and in the generic meaning of "sabbath" we've been using as a day set apart for God, for worship, for family, (as I always emphasize) for not conceding to the demands of empire.