Canned Good Casseroles and Christ

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Vienna Scott, a student at Yale University.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 55:1-2
1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Reflection: Canned Good Casseroles and Christ
By Vienna Scott

Coronavirus and the novelties of socially-isolated life have rocked the rhythms of our everyday. Even simple habits like eating three meals a day are remade by COVID-19. People who once went out to crowded Happy Hours are now home canning jams; the lackadaisical have embraced home workouts; all the Joneses are making sourdough. Who knew a lack of Major League Baseball would breed yeast? 

Life is recentering around it’s stripped, bare-bones necessities. For those quarantined and blessed enough to be food-secure, eating has been elevated to be a highlight of the day; each meal is a feast to be prepared with attention, creativity, and love. For those working overtime or encountering food shortages, meals are brief moments of respite. 

We are unconsciously learning the lessons of Isaiah 55. Isaiah calls us to the wine, milk, and bread. He exhorts us to feast. What does it mean to be called to feast in a time of social famine? 
Feasts combine food, relationships, and celebration. Our loaves and dishes are insufficient conditions to DIY a functional feast. We need the proper cause and company. How do we feast without fellowship? How do we buy without money? If we have no money but are commanded to spend, why spend that fictional coin on anything but bread to sustain us? 

Isaiah’s prophetic words prefigure Christ. We cannot buy without money but someone has already paid. We cannot feast on our own but someone is omnipresent. We cannot afford to nourish ourselves but someone else paid the price to sustain us. Calling us to feast is calling us to the celebration of our relationship with Christ. 

Isaiah’s exhortation speaks to us, a bloated people who have gorged on physical feasts and neglected the spiritual. With the old structures of life falling apart, there is an opportunity to rebuild a new structure with an eye towards the things that really matter. Listening, eating, and delighting in what is good is the spiritual feast. To feast in stark circumstances is to celebrate the life to come with Christ. Christ-Life is feasting. When you sit with the Holy Spirit, even casseroles from canned goods or cereal three times a day can be a celebration. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments. — Psalm 119.10

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 55 (Listen – 2:11) 
Matthew 3 (Listen – 2:17)

Read more about Fasting from the Feast
God invites us to the feast of the kingdom. But many are fasting from God’s feast in order to binge on the benefits we can wring from the world.

Read more about Fasting as a Feast
Christians have a conflicted relationship with feasting, though we seem fine with most other extravagances.

Restoring Relationship

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Allison Tinsley, a student at Truett Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 54.7-8
“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says The Lord your Redeemer.

Reflection: Restoring Relationship
By Allison Tinsley

We have all seen relationships fail, and many of us have even experienced failed relationships. Some of us even know how it feels for a marriage to fall apart. The heartbreak of losing romantic intimacy causes grief unlike anything else.

God understands this heartbreak and offers hope to those suffering. The prophet Isaiah provides a similar picture of God’s relationship with the nation of Israel. Like the adulterous, promiscuous spouse we see in Hosea’s life (Hosea 1.2), Israel has shown a sinful desire to place their own idols before God. The Israelites have strayed from God and disobeyed him, damaging the relationship. Isaiah repeatedly points to God’s compassion, however (Isaiah 54.7-10), and expresses God’s desire that he be reunited with his beloved people.

Isaiah compares Israel to “a wife who married young” and feels the distress of rejection (Isaiah 54.6). Life for women was difficult in biblical times without a husband. Therefore, God’s redemption here is even more significant. Regardless of how the Israelites have sinned or been unfaithful, God is strong enough to overcome their sin and restore their relationship. God’s wrath will not destroy the nation, but in kindness will turn his people back to himself (Isaiah 54.8).

God proclaims a light at the end of the tunnel for the Israelites. Like in the times of Noah, God’s anger is only temporary (Isaiah 54.9). He promises a time of rebuilding when suffering will be no more (Isaiah 54.11-13). He alludes to a time of freedom without tyranny or terror (Isaiah 54.14). God will be with the people displaying unfailing, unshakable love (Isaiah 54.10).

God’s promises to his people carry implications for us. Suffering persists in this life and often feels overwhelming. Feelings are hurt and relationships are broken beyond repair. Even so, we know that God’s love never fails. His love is consistent despite our consistent failures. We are promised a time without fear, sadness, or illness where we will be reunited with our truest love: Christ.

Gracious God, let us never lose sight of this promise. Remind us of Your love for us, especially throughout times of suffering and pain. Heal us when we are broken and use us in providing healing for those around us. Help us to be led by Your unfailing love in all we do. Amen.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Deliverance belongs to the Lord. Your blessing be upon your people! — Psalm 3.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 54 (Listen – 3:14) 
Matthew 2 (Listen – 3:18)

Read more about New And Improved
God had once turned away from his people because they were unfaithful, God now promises that he will be their God and they will be his people once again.

Read more about Hitting the Mark of Reconciliation
The gospel has the power to resurrect dead relationships just as it has the power to resurrect our souls and our physical bodies.

The Cup

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Morgan Fikkert, a student at Covenant Theological Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 51:7-8, 21-23
“Hear me, you who know what is right,
    you people who have taken my instruction to heart:
Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
    or be terrified by their insults.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
    the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
    my salvation through all generations.”

… Therefore hear this, you afflicted one,
    made drunk, but not with wine.
This is what your Sovereign Lord says,
    your God, who defends his people:
“See, I have taken out of your hand
    the cup that made you stagger;
from that cup, the goblet of my wrath,
    you will never drink again.
I will put it into the hands of your tormentors,
    who said to you,
    ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’
And you made your back like the ground,
    like a street to be walked on.”

Reflection: The Cup
By Morgan Fikkert

The world often seems hopeless, devoid of the signs of life that God has promised in Jesus. Isaiah reminds us that, despite what we see from a human perspective, God is at work. He will soon lift the fog of evil in the world and restore all things. Christ’s death and resurrection is the assurance and archetype for our own hope: the greatest evil turned for the greatest good. We look forward with hope even in the midst of struggle. 

This poem ties together several biblical images from Isaiah 51 and other passages, three of which I will note here. 

“God-wrestlers” refers to Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel of the Lord when Yahweh renames him “Israel” (Genesis 32.22-32). The idea of gripping a heel refers to two stories: one, the promise of a Savior who will receive a bruised heel as he crushes Satan’s head; and two, the story of Jacob gripping Esau’s heel as they were born (Genesis 3.15; Genesis 25.21-26). Lastly, the recurring image of a cup of wine represents both God’s wrath and Jesus’ blood (Matthew 26.39; Jeremiah 25.15; Revelation 14.9-10; John 19.28-29; Luke 22.20).

The Cup
We are called the God-wrestlers,
Israel,
born through pain into struggle, 
but gripping a promise
as a hand grasps a heel.
We are mocked by shouts of opposition 
in the streets of the nations, of the world — 
even of our own city.
How could the light of the faraway sun
dispel the fog of these angry cries?
How could tiny moth or worm eat up
the oppressive purple robes of royalty?

How could the blood-red wine of wrath — 
which left us staggering, drunk with our own 
regret, pain, confusion, and guilt — 
be filled again for another’s lips?

“I thirst,” he gasps.
He was born through pain into struggle,
gripping a promise by the heel. 
He was assaulted by shouts and thorns and nails
in the streets of the city he formed
with a word.

The darkness deepened,
blood poured out,
injustice triumphed.

But
after 3 days,
when death was irrevocable — 
the faraway sun came near, 
dismissed the fog,
brought low the high,
crushed the head. 
And with bruised heel
and pierced hands,
He rose.

We are called the God-wrestlers.
In the fog of pain and doubt,
gripping the promise,
a loaf of bread and a cup of wine,
we too will rise.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who trust in him! — Psalm 34.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 51 (Listen – 4:35) 
Revelation 21 (Listen – 4:34)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 52 (Listen – 2:46) Revelation 22 (Listen – 3:59)
Isaiah 53 (Listen – 2:39) Matthew 1 (Listen – 3:29)

Read more about Liquid Wrath and Liquid Forgiveness
God’s liquid wrath flows from his love for the victims of injustice. It is fueled not by simplistic destructive retribution, but redemptive restoration.

Read more about Greater Footstool, Greater God, Greater Redeemer
Christ, who is higher and greater than anyone has imagined, would become less and lower than anyone would imagine, to do for us what no one could imagine.

A Word for the Weary

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Joshua B. Fikkert, a student at Covenant Theological Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 50:6-10
6 I offered my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
    from mocking and spitting.
7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.
8 He who vindicates me is near.
    Who then will bring charges against me?
    Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
    Let him confront me!
9 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
    Who will condemn me?
They will all wear out like a garment;
    the moths will eat them up.
10 Who among you fears the Lord
    and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
    who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on their God.

Reflection: A Word for the Weary
By Joshua B. Fikkert

Christians are in exile in this world (1 Peter 2:11). We long for the new Heaven and the new Earth, and this longing is heightened in this current season. From the frustrations of life in a global pandemic to the pain of racial and systemic injustice, we are confronted on a daily basis with the reality that this fallen world is not what we are made for. 

The exiles from Judah felt this type of pain, and they cried out, wondering if God had abandoned them and if deliverance would come. In Isaiah 50, God responds to this question. He tells them he has not divorced them nor sold them into slavery. God has not forsaken them, and because of his love, he will redeem them.

Then, the great redeemer, the Suffering Servant speaks. He proclaims a word that “will sustain the weary” (Isaiah 50:4). However, the message of the Servant is unexpected. He will not save through conquest but through humility, meekness, and suffering. 

Instead of merely answering the doubts and questions of the exiles from afar, he shows up and identifies as an exile, as one of us. The incarnate Son of God felt every part of what it’s like to be human. He felt what it’s like to be sick, to be ignored, and to be a victim of state-sanctioned brutality. On the cross, he could not breathe. 

However, the good news of the Suffering Servant is not just that he suffers with us but also that he is vindicated for us (1 Timothy 3:16). The injustice and the suffering he experienced bodily is reversed by his resurrection. No harm can touch him, no charge can be leveled against him, no opposition can stand before him (1 Corinthians 15:25). The good news is that Jesus reigns.

A day is coming, and we pray soon, when the righteous, the innocent, and the oppressed will receive their vindication. No harm will touch them. No pain will befall them. For those who walk in a sleepless night of terror and darkness, the nightmare will end. “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me. Let none who look to you be put to shame. — Psalm 25.1-2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 50 (Listen – 2:09) 
Revelation 20 (Listen – 2:49)

Read more about Transcendent Peace and Rest
There is security unattainable even by those with stockpiles of resources. Christians can rest in God.

Read more about This Present Age
There was never an age of this earth in which evil did not wreak havoc, governments did not mishandle justice, and in which the church, in one capacity or another did not fail to fully live out the gospel.

Beyond Self-Centered Religion

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Morgan Fikkert, a student at Covenant Theological Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 49:5-6
And now the Lord says—
    he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
    and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
    and my God has been my strength—

he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
    to restore the tribes of Jacob
    and bring back those of Israel I have kept.I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
    that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Reflection: Beyond Self-Centered Religion
By Morgan Fikkert

Israel’s religion was fake, shallow, self-centered. They wanted God for what he could do for them, and God was deeply grieved. He wanted them to turn to him, but time and again they turned towards empty idol worship. 

But despite Israel’s insincerity, The Servant—Jesus himself—shows up and announces hope.

But who does he announce it to? To none other than the “islands” and the “distant nations”— not just Israel (Isaiah 49.1). Yahweh’s response to Israel’s sin is that he will extend salvation not just to Israel but to everyone. 

God’s whole-earth, every-nation, plan for all-time is unfolding before us! We are humbled and amazed that we are caught up in it. But how often do we, just like Israel, make the entire story about us as if God is only around to make us happy?

G.C. Berkouwer’s sobering term for this is “soteriological self-centeredness” (The Return of Christ). Satan has convinced us, like Israel, to believe the lie that God is our servant who fulfills our desires, makes us feel better, and enables self-actualization. The Christian life is not only about our personal relationship with Jesus.

God does absolutely care about every one of us—our needs and desires and hopes and dreams. But we, like Israel, have been invited into something much larger than our own, often selfish, worries and desires. We actually participate in this cosmic plan! 

Jesus didn’t save our souls and leave us waiting for heaven. He’s given us a mission now as his people, as members of his Body here. We, like The Servant, are a light for the nations. We proclaim His salvation to the ends of the earth. (Matthew 5.14; John 9.5)

This changes how we read the Bible. How we pray. How we treat that crazy person on Facebook. We are so small in God’s cosmic plan. And yet he calls us to action.

God is, even now, spreading his light throughout all the world. You are a first-hand witness to the incredible work he is doing. You have a part to play in a story much larger than your own. It is too small a thing to wait around for God to accomplish our purposes. Let’s choose instead to participate in his cosmic work of renewal in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our work.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — Psalm 67.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 49 (Listen – 4:55) 
Revelation 19 (Listen – 3:47)

Read more about Ennobled by the Incarnation
Jesus did real things in the real world and calls us to be real human beings who act to benefit our world in real, tangible ways.

Read more about Light Shines in the Darkness
It should be light which dispels darkness, not the other way around.

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.