Easter Means I Am Not Just A Foreigner - Isaiah 56
I went to jot down* my notes on some verses I read and realized, it's been a minute since I've written and published anything here. (Or... ~2.6 million minutes! 5 years give or take, but who's counting?)
Not a good reflection on me as a web marketing professional, encouraging people almost every day to blog more. Hypocrisy at it's finest. #YoureWelcome
But, none of that is part of the story. Onward and yonward, to the point!
The Day Before Easter, Easter Eve?This morning, my wanderings through the "Read Scripture" app brought me to Isaiah 56, specifically verses 6-7:
“As for foreigners who become followers of the LORD and serve him, who love the name of the LORD and want to be his servants – all who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it, and who are faithful to my covenant –
I will bring them to my holy mountain; I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray.””
Isaiah 56:6-7 NET
For some reason, two things struck me as I read these verses.
1. I Am A ForeignerAs a Gentile, a non-Jewish person, I am coming at God and the Bible and faith from the outside, as a foreigner. These stories and promises and teachings are technically someone else's - actually an entire other people group's belief system, and I am an outsider at best, a trespasser at worst.
In light of that realization, Isaiah 56 seems like such an about face. Up to this point in the Bible, the point has been Israel, the chosen nation, set apart as special by God. Foreigners have been the enemy in battle or the tempters-next-door, to be avoided at all costs because of their idols and lives of sin.
It feels like such a surprising transition to welcome foreigners and other nations into God's holy temple, to be heard in their prayers... Such a shift would take a massive event.
2. Today We Remember Jesus' DeathGrowing up in the Church, I've gotten so used to hearing the phrase "death and resurrection" spoken almost as one breath, one inseparable phrase, that I've never taken the time to let the "death" part stand on its own. Even writing the subtitle above this section without "and resurrection" felt like a typo.
But, today I stopped and thought about it. I realized how long and quiet and crushing this day must have been for Jesus' disciples - who woke up (or maybe got up after a sleepless night) to see the sun rising on a day without Jesus. No miracles, no word from God, just silence and sadness and hour-by-hour realization that Jesus was really dead.
Jesus had to die and stay dead. To open up relationship with God to be (a) a direct interaction with his chosen people, the Jews and (b) offered in an adoption to any and all nations, foreigners and outsiders, the death had to be definite.
I think, partly because we celebrate Easter weekend as a Good Friday service and then Easter Sunday service, I've let myself believe the linchpin moment of our entire theology is an "overnight success story."
But the opposite is true - the weekend was a long, drawn out, exhausting establishment of God's offering of his son to death.
I think the point I'm trying to make is, there's no "skip intro" (thanks Netflix) to the Friday and Saturday before Easter.
Paying for sin and the ability to welcome all nations, to welcome me, as a foreigner/non-Jew, came at full price. No discounts. No fast forward.
It cost Jesus dying Friday, and staying dead Saturday and Saturday night before he could completely embarrass death on the third day, coming back Sunday morning.
The weight of this payment was enough to activate Isaiah 56's invitation to me as a foreigner. Now I am welcome into relationship with God, as what he promised comes true:
"I will bring them to my holy mountain; I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray."
As I'm writing this, Sam brings it home by suggesting, "And... how cool that it relates directly to our adoption process."
I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a little emotional with the realization... That Honey will be welcomed in, once a stranger, a foreigner, but now invited in, through love, to become part of our family. As an equally valued, equally loved one of our kids - no less important than any of the others. The last year and a half has been a long, hard, confusing experience - frustrating at points, because things keep going differently than planned. But as we make it through more than just an "overnight success" story, we see God's hand in making our cup run over: giving us not just one more kid, but two, through a big long, drawn out process that tested our patience and faith, but ultimately is resulting in a picture of God's love for his children, born and adopted.
Thank you, God, for being all about transforming us as "foreigners" into family - invited, welcomed and heard ("where all nations may pray.")
*jot down? Who says/writes that anymore? Apparently, I'm 175 years old.