Isaiah 66:10-14New International Version (NIV)10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her,
all you who mourn over her.
11 For you will nurse and be satisfied
at her comforting breasts;
you will drink deeply
and delight in her overflowing abundance.”12 For this is what the Lord says:“I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
and dandled on her knees.
13 As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice
and you will flourish like grass;
the hand of the Lord will be made known to his servants,
but his fury will be shown to his foes.
Today's Old Testament lesson is some pretty sweet poetry, not to mention seriously savory Gospel.
Sure the 10-14yr old boys will probably snicker at the breast-feeding image.
Be that as it may, it is an incredible image, finding comfort in the arms of a nurturing and compassionate parent. THAT is our God.
I may take flack for this from conservative LCMS Lutheran theologians, but lets face it, for eons many believers have likened the Holy Spirit to God's "feminine side." From the church of the Holy Wisdom (Saint Sophia) in Constantinople, to Michelangelo painting a woman at God the Father's side in the portion of the Sistine Chapel that depicts the creation of Adam (is she Eve, just some Angel, or the third person of the Trinity?). Skip all that if you like, God Himself is comparing His love and comfort for us to that of a new mom! Comfort personified.
My hyper-analytical brain went to work on the name Jerusalem right away. Was Isaiah talking about the geographical city of Jerusalem? or the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21:20? For that matter, are God, Isaiah, & St. John all speaking allegorically?
"Salem" is Hebrew for peace or completion (better yet, whole, perfect & complete peace- Philippians 4:7). but no one really knows the true meaning of the prefix "Jeru." See, Jerusalem isn't exactly a Hebrew word. There was a city of Jerusalem before there was a kingdom of Israel (Genesis 14:18-20). Some people have said that it may mean something like "the King's" or "God's," thus Jerusalem would be either "City of God, or City of God's Peace." I know, ironic that so many have warred over it for so many years, right.
So let me speculate (God, and whatever Lutheran clergy forgive my if I'm being waaay off base here), I'm the first to admit that I'm no expert. But what if the Jerusalem Isaiah and John are both talking about here isn't a place, but a concept? The concept being the church. God's people. The "Body of Christ."
Revelation 21:9 says that the New Jerusalem is THE bride of the Lamb of God. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all have God comparing Israel and/or Jerusalem to an adulterous wife. I have to be careful here, don't misinterpret what I'm talking about as antisemitic; its not as simple as the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, so the message of salvation goes to the gentiles. What I guess I'm getting at is that if the Church is His "Bride," and its the Holy Spirit who "calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies" the Church...
I understand that the visible church, the hierarchies and institutions, the politics and sin and abuse and denominational rifts and sects- that's not a nursing mother. Hours of banal council and trustee meetings surely isn't comforting. God knows plenty of pastors and evangelists have at least been raging hypocrites and and worst heinous monsters. So it may be hard to imagine the church on Earth being Christ's bride. But keep wresting with this idea with me.
Peter does talk about God's Word (the Bible) as mother's milk for newborn babies (1 Peter 2:2). Jesus Himself is the Word of God... and while we're at it, the Holy Spirit is the very breath (pneuma) of God. Maybe this is just all so much Divine mystery, but stay with me just a little further. There is what people call the "invisible church."
The point was this- That if/when we allow God to live and work in and through us collectively (call it fellowship or koinonia or communion or whatever), then this "body" can surely share the satisfying, consoling love, joy,comfort and peace, which can only originate from God Himself.
We are (or should be) the new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ and there for, the city, the kingdom, the community, even the very body of of Christ. And in that way, His PARTNERS.
So that not only are we welcomed by God the Holy Spirit (Soul, Wisdom, Breath, Thinking, Inspiration) to find warmth and comfort under Her wings (Matt. 23:3&), but as we gather into God's family, we too can extend peace like a river to those who need it, by sharing God's love, forgiveness, and grace.
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.