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The monthly Sing For Joy newsletter contains a letter from the program's host, Pastor Bruce Benson, along with a listing of music selections for each program and the corresponding scripture readings. If you'd like to receive a complimentary subscription, fill out our online request form to subscribe.

February 2021 Newsletter (Year B)

Pastor Bruce Benson

Isaiah Sings

Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40

As I write, we have entered a new year, hoping — maybe even daring to expect — that it will in fact be new, not just a continuation of frayed and battered 2020, dragging itself along with us as we yearn for change. To be sure, many of us found things to appreciate and embrace about the year. I count myself in that number. The same Covid that is killing so many people and businesses has given others more time outdoors, to their delight, and given many people an incentive to pursue neglected interests. Some people have found the proverbial "silver lining." Nevertheless, the year will be remembered mostly as a year of trouble. We long for a respite from that, even though the book of Job says we are "born to trouble as the sparks fly up." 2021 won't change that.

Along with whatever else this past year's troubles have done, they have reminded us (not that we needed such a painful reminder) that much of the language of the Bible is poetry, and needs to be heard that way. The words from Isaiah 40, quoted above are an example.

2020 reminded us again and again that people of faith, that is, those who "wait for the Lord," aren't so different from anyone else. Like others, they do not always have their physical strength renewed; sometimes they have it taken away. As Jesus said about the rain — it falls equally on the just and the unjust — so too Covid-19 is no respecter of religion and spirituality; it capriciously kills the believer and the un-believer alike. The eagle gets injured, and does not mount up; legs fail, and will not run; lungs become weak and short of breath, subject to weariness, even death. If Isaiah 40 were not poetry, it would simply be false.

But Isaiah 40 is not an invitation to wishful or magical thinking. It is addressed, rather, to a place within us that can hear through hard ice the quiet murmur of a frozen river in winter; that part of us that can hear in a family's sobs of grief not only pain but love; that something within us that knows it is supported and sustained by grace even in times of loss. In other words, Isaiah doesn't merely speak, Isaiah sings.

And you will hear Isaiah 40 sung in a setting by Kenneth Jennings during the Sing For Joy program for the first Sunday in February this year. I hope it will renew your strength. And if you are starting this new year already weary, maybe don't try to run. Just walk, letting the song of Isaiah 40 give you the encouragement you need not to faint. That too would be reason to sing for joy.

Peace be with you,

Bruce Benson

Pastor Bruce Benson

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