By David Baumann
A Reading from Isaiah 51:9-11
9 Awake, awake, put on strength,
O arm of the Lord!
Awake, as in days of old,
the generations of long ago!
Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces,
who pierced the dragon?
10 Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep;
who made the depths of the sea a way
for the redeemed to cross over?
11 So the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Every now and then in the Old Testament there is a description of a joy-filled, even triumphant, procession. Describing a procession into the sanctuary, Psalm 68:25 says, “The singers go before, musicians follow after, in the midst are maidens playing upon the hand-drums.” 2 Samuel 6 describes the magnificent procession in which the Ark of the Lord was brought into Jerusalem, with frequent sacrifices along the way and King David himself dancing with all his might. Similarly, in the New Testament, in Ephesians 4:8, we are taught that Jesus “ascended on high” and “led captivity captive, and gave gifts to people.”
In today’s lesson, two of the most momentous processions are described: the crossing of the Red Sea and the return to Zion after three generations of captivity in Babylon. A procession requires that those in the train are coming from one place and going to another. Today’s processions are about people leaving captivity and slavery and entering into freedom. They are described as “the redeemed” and “the ransomed.” These appellations teach that those in procession had been helpless and hopeless in the place where they had been held, but another had brought them out, showing himself more powerful than what had held them captive.
A procession further implies that there is a crowd taking part: it is not one person; it is a family, a nation, a people with a shared history and a shared hope of deliverance. The resurrection of Jesus begins the procession of the “redeemed and ransomed” from captivity in the shackles of shame and sin into the raised, triumphant hands of eternal life. “Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” For the dead and living in Christ, there can be no better news, can there?
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Central Florida
The peace of Jerusalem