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3OT A ~ "Walking Out of Darkness" ~ Susan McGurgan

The people Isaiah speaks to

are a people who have been

oppressed by corrupt leaders,

dispossessed by a ruthless enemy,

and fractured by ugly division.

The great armies of Assyria dismantled the Northern Kingdom of Israel,

displacing people from their land,

leaving them in poverty and despair.

The darkness Isaiah speaks of

is the darkness of betrayal;

the darkness of people caught in political and economic snares

that challenge their faith and erode their hope.

Isaiah speaks words of anguish,



He speaks of a people walking and living in darkness.

This darkness is like a shroud--

a black void that limits and binds--

a heavy yoke that weighs down weary shoulders.

It is the darkness of dishonesty and sin--

of turning away from God

and turning toward human power.

And yet….

into this darkness,

the prophet dares to speak a word of light.

Isaiah invites his people

to place their current landscape of despair

next to a future filled with light and hope.

His words stake a claim of liberation.

He calls people to envision the present reality overturned—

their fortunes reversed.

He speaks of joy in the midst of sorrow

and freedom in the face of oppression.

He summons a restoration

that can only begin

and end

in God.

His words promise that this current darkness—

no matter how thick and impenetrable it may seem,

will be pierced by the light of new life;

by new opportunity;

new awareness;

new faithfulness.

For Isaiah’s people,

this is good news, indeed.

It is good news for us, too.

There are times when the dark shroud of our own world

surrounds us,

choking out the light,

binding us to heavy yokes of sorrow or loss.

We too, are a bitterly divided people,

and many in our land and in our world

are displaced and longing for the safety of home.

Many of us walk in the darkness of loneliness or fear,

or in the bitterness of ruptured relationships

and betrayed trust.

Many of us suffer unrelenting pain,

and awaken day after day

to gaze out on the same bleak unchanging landscape.

And yet,

our faith invites us to stand in the midst of this darkness,

and with Isaiah,

claim the light.

This is a bold claim—

Some might say




Even mad.

Isaiah is no fortune teller,

casting spells and gazing into a crystal ball.

He was not predicting the future,

but rather,

throwing himself onto the promises of the past.

As a prophet,

Isaiah remembered.

He remembered,

and he trusted in God’s eternal covenant.

He remembered,

and he believed that the God of faithfulness

continued to call each generation,

each community,

each family,

each person,

into a relationship of faithfulness--

God’s faithfulness.

Our faithfulness.

Isaiah remembered,

and he trusted that the Covenant of life and hope--

the promise passed down to us from the beginning of creation—

remembered in the rainbow sent as a sign to Noah,

in the parting of the Red Sea,

in the message from Mt. Sinai,

in the lives of men and women who lived on mana in the desert,

still endured.

This promise allowed Isaiah to stand in the darkness of his world

and claim light, and joy, and salvation.

Can we trust that same message of faithfulness and hope?

Can we join in Mary’s “Yes”?

Can we kneel beside the manger?

Can we accept the invitation, “Come, follow me?"

Can we rejoice in the emptiness of the tomb?

Can we stand in the darkness of our own world

and claim the promise of light?

This message of hope has always been

a little beyond our ability to imagine or understand.

And yet,

here it is….

Light in the darkness.

It is a message we desperately need to hear,



At a time when much of our world would


the dignity of the poor,

at a time when

trust in people and institutions feels broken

and hope seems far away,

at a time when our problems feel overwhelming,

Isaiah reminds us that yokes are made to be smashed.

He reminds us that anguish will take wing.

Abundant joy is ours to grasp.

Darkness will be dispelled,

and we will walk out of the shadows and into the light.

This is our birthright.

Isaiah knew that the God of the covenant

remembers us,

sees us,

saves us,

leads us home,

even when darkness temporarily obscures our path.

These words of the Prophet Isaiah are both our promise and our future:

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

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