Isaiah 55:6-11

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:6-11

When I was a child, without question, I accepted a lie as gospel truth – “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” Oh, there were many, many more but this is the one that immediately comes to mind in relation to today’s text from Isaiah.

I broke a bone in my foot in the fall of 8th grade. It hurt. It made me miss the first weeks of basketball. It healed. I forgot about it. It took me decades (if I ever have) to get over the cutting comment about my legs delivered by my 9th grade football coach as we walked back to the locker room after practice.

I broke my hand during a game in my sophomore year in college. It hurt. I missed some games and played out the season with my hand wrapped. It healed. I forgot about it. But I will never forget the counsel of my campus pastor that same year. I went to him in a crisis. He listened to my words. He shared some of his own – helpful, empowering, empathetic – that made a powerful difference in my life. I am who I am today because of that single conversation.

Don’t tell me that words don’t matter and don’t tell me that words don’t hurt. And don’t think that the right words, at the right time, can’t also be tremendously healing.

We are now nearing the end of the most puzzling presidential election in my lifetime. Words have been said that would have instantly eliminated any previous candidate for elected office. Words have been scrutinized and bandied about and twisted and spewed forth like spray paint graffiti on a new concrete wall. November 9th has never looked so good. Early voting numbers have never been so high, no doubt because millions of people are just over it and want this election behind them.

God doesn’t give us a November 8th deadline. God isn’t running for office or up for election.

God also doesn’t give us the kind of insider information that allows us to peer behind the veil of God’s mystery. What God does give us in an invitation to “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” God uses God’s word to invite us to use our words to seek God’s guidance and support. Wicked and unrighteous though we be, God invites us to repent, to return, to seek forgiveness, with the promise that God’s forgiveness is right there waiting for us.

And God gives us his promise. God’s word on it. That God’s words are a powerful force that will accomplish the salvation that God seeks for us. Regardless of how this election turns out, God’s words remind us that we live in God’s hands.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, heal us from the devastating damage that words have wrought in our lives. Keep us mindful of our use of words. May we always speak the truth in love and may we have the insight to see through the fog of careless, hurtful, and divisive rhetoric to the truth that we are all in this life together. And that we are never alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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