A Note from Pastor


For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch (Isaiah 62:1 ESV). Epiphany is the season of light. By nature, light goes out from the source shining in every direction. As we at International Lutheran Church celebrate the season of Epiphany – the ever-increasing light and revelation of Jesus the Son of God – we recognize how His light impacts our lives. God’s Word declared through His prophet Isaiah helps us to see how the glory of God is revealed in His Son and how His glory shines into and through our lives creating in us a new identity in Him.

Near the end of Isaiah’s prophecy to the people of Jerusalem, the message changes to one of hope and promise. Isaiah speaks of their return from exile and their new or renewed identity through God’s anointed. This is good news and something to shout about. Here in Isaiah 62 we read about how the people of every nation and the kings of every land will see this light in Him. His light even changes the identity of Zion/Jerusalem from forsaken and desolate to “my delight” and “married.”

Forsaken and desolate are easy concepts for us to relate to these days. You only had to be tested positive for COVID, or simply standing next to someone who sneezes on the subway to feel the social impact. Our whole response to COVID-19 – social distancing – is built on the premise of avoiding contact with those who are infected. This is for good reason – COVID-19 and especially the Omicron variant is very contagious. Even as advanced as our medical systems are, there is still a lot we are unable to control when it comes to viruses. It seems contamination is inevitable. The impact of our environment upon us in immense and unstoppable.

But this isn’t anything new. The 4th century philosopher, Mencius, understood this simple truth. When he passed with his students by the vats of dye in the market place, he remarked on how easily the white silk is changed into deep blue, or striking red, or all kinds of other shades of color. Mencius used this as a way of pointing out the importance of cultivating the right relationships. Since it is impossible not to be affected, or infected with the environment around us, the most important thing one can do to be a “right” person is to find the “right” teacher and the “right” classmates, friends, neighbors, etc. In other words, our “sins” rub off and into the lives of others. “Social distance” is the only control we have.

The ultimate outcome of this reality, though, is forsakenness, desolation, emptiness and loneliness. We can never really find the perfect community because we are always present in it ourselves. We bring our sin and sadness wherever we go. Isaiah foretold along with all the other prophets of God what would be the outcome of Israel’s sin and Jerusalem’s rebellion: they would be led away into exile. They would be desolate and forsaken. This is the sad reality of our sin, our failures to live according to God’s good and perfect design or even our own expectations. We are exiled and left feeling all alone. His holiness does not reside in darkness and evil, but shuns it and repels it.

So how is it that Isaiah can speak so exuberantly? What can possibly change the situation? Here Isaiah points out that change is in how God looks at us now in the light of His Christ. Not only does the light of the Messiah go out into all the world, shining on people in faraway places great and small. That light now changes the identity of Jerusalem and Zion. He personifies this in the names that are changed from “desolate” and “forsaken” to “my delight” and “married.”

“My delight” is obviously a major change from rejection and separation. God does not shun us but now takes delight in us. He is happy with us and favorable toward us. We saw this last week when at Jesus’ baptism the heavens were opened and the voice was heard, “this is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” Because of Christ – because of His forsakenness on the cross and His desolation in our sin - God now shines on us and gives us a new identity. We are His delight!

The second name is a little more challenging for us to consider. Perhaps it is because of our own misconceptions or perhaps our own limited experiences, but again and again in the Scriptures God speaks of His relationship to Israel and to the church in terms of marriage. The special relationship between a man and woman and the commitment that they make to each other with God’s blessing is used by God to help us see our new identity in us. Whether we are married or single, we can all rejoice in understanding that God has committed Himself, His very identity to you and me. Luther often talked about the great reversal of salvation. Our sins now belong to Jesus, and He suffers for them just as His glory and righteousness become yours and mine and we are restored in them. All His acts of goodness and all His active obedience and action to fulfill the will of God perfectly was for you and me. He did it for us. Like a bridegroom rejoicing over his bride. He lavishes us with His grace and love. In the same way, His passive obedience, His willingness to suffer on the cross for you and me and all people was for the purpose of giving us His very best – His own light and glory.

Now you and I shine in His love. We are not alone or forsaken, but loved and eternally the object of His grace. This kind of life shines out, shouts out. Isaiah said that it makes him want to shout out and rejoice. The light of His love is not only visible but audible. The light that goes forth is accompanied by the sound of those who have been touched by it. Your life and mine are now living testimonies and banners of His love in our age so that all can know His grace.

Pastor Carl