Reflections from The Hill – Shooting Isaiah’s Arrows – Isaiah 49.1-6
Growing up as I did in a repressive family, I used to fantasise about sitting behind a desk. I interpreted this to mean that, one day, I was going to be in charge of something.
However, no-one ever came to that desk. No one asked me to deliberate on an issue; no-one brought me anything to fix; no one stopped by for a yarn. I was all alone, bereft of friends and things to do.
Then I learned that desks can be barriers for us to hide behind. This brought a new light to my life. People came, but not too close. They didn’t stay, not once. They brought stuff with them but it ended up in the WPB. The barriers were up and I was as happy as a pig in a barrel of malt. Happy, safe, and bored witless.
The desk had to go. I had to stop hiding behind the “Lovely service, Father” stuff and all the other security-oriented approbations. I had to get out of the cloying wonder of my own presence else I’d be as stiff as a four-day old road kill.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had my share of holy moments: I’ve wept beside the death-beds of young children; I love teaching adults “If I Were A Butterfly” with actions; I’ve been put over the fence by a wide-eyed Santa Gertrudis cow and had many other similar Pastoral joys helping people in need.
There have always been the hair-pulling reactions from people who just don’t get it that bring me back to earth. And, unlike Isaiah in this First Reading today, I’ve never been able to convince people to return to a homeland some of them have never even seen, especially since that homeland was in ruins.
What I’m more inclined to do is to rail at them for their obstinacy and beat my head against a wall. Or, if things get really bad, to grab a nice red or single malt whiskey and put a dent in its contents.
I’ve always considered myself to be more a pastor than anything else; more comfortable among a mass of sinners rather than shaking a righteous fist and preaching God’s wrath at them.
Prophets don’t have a long employment history. They either get booted out of town or have their heads cut off after one too many so-called ‘incidents’, so I’m not particularly excited to be among them.
Still, if people find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and God has other ideas, then sometimes it takes a sharp stick or a pointed jab to get them off their derrieres and into moving to where they ought to be.
I am aware that The Good Book has two words for ‘time’. One word is the tick-tock word that describes sequential time; the other is the special moment word, that describes the right, or opportune, time.
There’s not a lot of future in being a knock-‘em-down, drag-‘em-out, fire-and-brimstone type of guy and, frankly, it ain’t me. I’d rather be picking myself out of the dust of a drafting yard than standing on a street corner telling the passers-by that they’re all going to hell in a handbag.
There is a kairos time for many things. I was going to be the pastor with the soft heart who slogged through the rough stuff with the sinners, who wept and laughed with them and who grabbed their sweaty palms and said “This stuff stinks. It’s good that God’s with us, eh?” God’s time was different.
Maybe I ought to have had a hissy fit and yelled at them once in a while. Maybe I ought to have yelled at the coastlands a bit more often. If I did that, maybe I could have shaken them out of their complacency. Maybe.
So I ask: is it possible to shoot Isaiah’s arrows or swing his sword without being cut to pieces by an angry crowd? Is there any future in that?