BibleWorkbench: Epiphany 2: January 16, 2011

Text: Isaiah 49:1-7

But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God….”

I retired this past June from forty years of teaching community college students; in the moment feeling pretty good about the way I had spent my adult years.  It wasn’t long, however, before I found myself in a group of friends saying the modern equivalent of “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity…” Around the room, my accomplished, thoughtful friends one by one echoed the same thought.

So, for me, and I hope for you, it seems important to explore.  How has your labor been in vain? How have you spent your strength for nothing and vanity? What becomes of all your good work in the end?  Even when your cause is just, or good, or with the Lord?

What question lies behind our experience of futility, vanity, nothing in our labor?  What are we looking for, or expecting to feel, that isn’t there?

In the text, it is God who says “It is too light a thing…” What deeply-heard voice in us speaks that truth?  What might it look like in your life to see, even now, that our vision is too narrow, too crablike, too territorial, too…  What would it look like right now to be a light to the nations?  What larger life might you be called to, in this place, in this time of your life?

– Beth Harrison

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