Third Week of Advent
Bearers of Hope
Text: Isaiah 61:1-3a (1-4, 8-11)
Desna A. Henry Goulbourne
- Introduction (5 min.)
- Third Session “Bearers of Hope”
- Story Sharing Bevon White, Jr.
- Scripture Isaiah 61:1-3a (1-4, 8-11)
Review of Handout – Rules for Respectful (Faithful) Conversation
Opening Prayer and Scripture (5 min.)
Reflection (5 min.)
The beloved Jewish city of Jerusalem is still in ruins and much work is needed to rebuild after the return of the people from exile in Babylon. It is a daunting task compounded by community infighting, and corruption among their leaders. Yet in the prophecy of Isaiah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem hear a message of hope and change in their circumstances. Isaiah is convinced that he has been appointed under the anointing of the Spirit of the Lord to bear to bear this message in the midst of despair, “the oil of joy instead of mourning” (v. 3a).
The tradition among the Jews and many of their neighbors was to use oil (most likely olive oil) on their faces and hair to add luster. Oil was also used for medicinal purposes, for cooking, and for giving light. However, in periods of mourning no oil would be applied and would often be replaced by ashes. Oil was so valued for its positive contribution to life that it became a symbol of the good life, not of sadness but of gladness, not of grief but of joy. So when the prophet Isaiah shares this message, the people hear an invitation to visualize a positive change in their circumstances and to prepare for a season of festivity.
Bevon Jr. is an immigrant from the Caribbean, and responses to his story may vary widely. Yet what we hear is that his painful experiences of pervasive racism may have hijacked hope of wholesome life in American society. It has raised existential issues for him as he compares his experiences with God’s plan for equality and justice in our world.
The word from the prophet is critical for our communities as it addresses situations that cause many to live with hopelessness and despair, such as systemic inequality and racial injustice, and the catastrophic climate changes already taking place. While we may see the storm clouds of hate and disaster gathering around us, the invitation from Isaiah in this season is to reposition our lenses. Consider the likelihood that we may be community-transformers, not only by becoming bearers of hope, but by living the vision of a new reality that God has shown us. This mission, if we choose to accept it, is possible when we allow the Spirit of God to anoint and equip us.
Story Sharing Bevon White, Jr. (5 minutes)
Questions for Discussion (15- 20 minutes)
- What is our reaction to Bevon Jr.’s story?
- What are the elements in his story that point to the discrimination faced by people of color in our communities?
- What changes are needed in our worldview to better enable us to empathize with the pain of others and to inspire us to take on God’s hope-bearing mission?
- Identify specific ways in which God may work through us to usher in a season of joy and gladness.