Dear Friends

Sorry, I don’t seem to be able to manage an email more than once a week!
Isaiah 49:  5, 6
5And now the LORD says,
who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honoured in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength 
6he says,
‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ 
I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’   What does the world need saving from at the moment?  The vast majority of the population , at least of this country, but probably of the whole world, would say the Corona virus.  The official Christian answer is ‘sin’. Which of these is your answer?  Or would you choose something else entirely?
The problem is that on the one hand, ‘sin’ seems so other-wordly that many people would say it was irrelevant.  Especially as the majority of people today would not consider themselves as ‘sinners’.  On the other hand, while the Covid pandemic is a huge global issue, being saved from it won’t take us back to  fairer cleaner society.  There will still be vicious wars going on in various seemingly God-forsaken parts of the world;  there will still be rampant inequality and we will still have to face the ever-present spectre of climate change.  And probably sooner rather than later.
These words were written by the prophet Isaiah roughly 550 years before Jesus was born.  The Jews had been deported into slavery in Babylon and were crying out for a Saviour.  They did not understand why their God seemed to have deserted them.  To precis 15 very beautiful chapters into one poorly constructed sentence, Isaiah’s message from God was that he wasn’t deserting them, he was suffering with them in their slavery, they had realised they were all sinners and he was going to redeem them and bring them back out of slavery to their own land again.   This in fact happened a few years later and Isaiah’s prophecy was proved true.
What’s special about the little bit of the prophecy printed above is that it broadens the salvation from just the Jewish slaves in Babylon, to the whole world. ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel;  I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’    Christians see in this a prophecy which was fulfilled in Jesus.
Today, when we are faced with so many issues that do not affect just a single nation but the whole world, this seems a particularly useful passage on which to meditate.  For we need his salvation to reach to the ends of the earth.  And if this salvation is worth having, then whatever it frees us from, be that slavery or plague, it must surely have permanent results.  Jesus’s promise is not a time limited event which runs out after a few years.  It is eternal.  But it does need us to admit that we are sinners and are at least partly to blame for the situation in which the world finds itself.
This Holy Week I encourage you to consider your own need of salvation and also the way you are implicated in the mess in which the whole world finds itself.  Do that and the delight of the resurrection on Easter will have particular potency!
Here’s a prayer
Here is a gaping sore, Lord:
half the world diets,
the other half hungers;
half the world is housed,
the other half is homeless;
half the world pursues profit,
the other half senses loss.
redeem our souls,
redeem our peoples,
redeem our times.
John Bell, Iona community
And here is some Messiah for Holy Week!
Every blessing