FROM A READING FOR JULY 10, 15TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.' Romans 8:21

The closer I come to dying, the more Sunday's lines from Isaiah 55:10-11 become significant in my life. "Thus says Yahweh: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful....so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."

No one can stop rain and snow from having an effect on this planet; so no one can stop God's Word from having an effect in our lives. These words were proclaimed by one of the greatest prophets, Deutero-Isaiah. As I once mentioned in a pamphlet about him, "He's the person who changed our faith."

We've never believed quite the same way since he came on the scene 2,500 years ago during the Babylonian Exile. Judaism was on the ropes then; practices like sacrificial worship were impossible to perform and, worst of all, Yahweh was regarded as inferior to Marduk since Marduk's people, the Babylonians, had defeated Yahweh's people in battle.

Word is all
The prophet fell back on Yahweh's Word. It alone gave him hope that the exile would eventually end. Though God's Word is easy to ignore, it's the most powerful force our faith has to offer.

It would also cost Deutero-Isaiah his life. His martyrdom seems to be one reason his disciples inserted Sunday's oracle in the last chapter of his work: to assure his community that he died convinced the Word would bring about the dream it proclaimed.

Paul, who identifies with this prophet, shows how their experiences parallel (Romans 8:18-23). He points out that things and people didn't instantly change when he preached God's word in Jesus.

"The sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us," Paul writes. "All creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and...we ourselves... groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies."

No one is conceived, then immediately born. And no birth takes place without pain.

Matthew's Jesus shows He shares His predecessor Deutero-Isaiah's frame of mind (Matthew 13:1-23). (Proclaim only the first nine verses; the remainder is an early Christian allegory.)

Nothing wasted
Jesus' parables only make sense if we're privy to what was said before He delivers the parable. Scholars generally agree that someone said to Jesus, "You're wasting your time! A month from now, half your crowd won't remember a thing you said; a year from now, only one or two will have changed their lives because of what you said."

Jesus points to a farmer sowing seed and notes that if just a little takes root, it will produce "fruit, a hundred, or sixty or thirty fold." If just one or two people change their lives because of the Word He's preaching, it will make His effort worthwhile.

Jesus, like Deutero-Isaiah and Paul, was amazed at the power of the Word He proclaimed. Ministering in a world like theirs, where few seem concerned with that Word, it certainly makes me personally feel a lot better about dying.