"For all this God's anger has not turned away, God's hand is stretched out still." - Isaiah 10: 4
In my travels for work I have been in lots of different churches. A number of the UCC churches I have visited begin their service with words inspired by the God Is Still Speaking Initiative, "Whoever you are, wherever you are on life's journey, you're welcome here."
It is a powerful statement, one that extends a welcome and yet does more. It says — at least it says to me — that there is always an opportunity, with God, for a new beginning.
Today's verse from Isaiah says something similar, something simple yet powerful . . . "God's hand is stretched out still."
These words are especially compelling given their context in the Book of Isaiah. The larger section from which they come is a tough one. It describes a brutal time when people were lost in violence and lies. The following verse is a good sample: "They gorged on the right, but still were hungry, and they devoured on the left, but were not satisfied; they devoured the flesh of their own kindred." (Isaiah 9: 20)
God's prophet, Isaiah, does not hold back from telling it exactly like it is. And how it is is awful.
And yet, twice in this same tell-it-like-it-is passage, these words are repeated, "For all this God's anger has not turned away, God's hand is stretched out still." I understand that to mean, "Despite God's justified anger, God's hand is still stretched out to you."
If Isaiah were beginning the worship service the words might be similar to the Still Speaking invitation but even more pointed, "No matter who you are, no matter what you have done or failed to do, no matter how lost you are or have been, God's hand is stretched out still — right now — to you."
When life is hard and sad, when you have failed yourself and others, when you have done or said things that seem impossible to face or to own, when you are scared and on the run, this word of God comes,
"My hand is stretched out still." Because God is God, there is always the possibility of a new beginning. No matter when. No matter who. No matter what's happened.
My hand is stretched out still. Take my hand.
Thank you, Holy One, that with you there is always a new beginning. Grant me the courage to live into it. Ame
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.