By Minister Judy Stack
“The Lord will…satisfy your needs in parched places…and you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fail.” – Isaiah 58:11
It’s hot out. Wicked hot. Dangerously hot. The kind of heat that kills. If you are outside, it is not long before you start to understand about parched places. Quickly, you become (despite the humidity—or partly because of it) a “parched place.” Your energy fails. You get impatient and irritable. Your enthusiasm, your joy, your good will get dried up.
In the verse from Isaiah above, the prophet talks about “parched places” for God’s people. He sees that God’s people are longing to flourish. To be like a well-watered garden—growing, productive, and full of life—not just for themselves but like spring of water that overflows and streams forth, giving that life to others.
That kind of flourishing was all wrapped up for the ancient Jews and the writers of the Old Testament (including Isaiah) in the idea of shalom. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and this Hebrew word shalom is often translated as “peace.” The idea behind the word certainly includes what we usually think of when we think of peace—lack of war and violence, calmness, gentleness and not anger—but it includes more as well!
Shalom is, ultimately, everything being in right-relationship as God intended. It is everything being in harmony, all the parts of God’s world being cared for, all the people treating each other as God would want them to—there is no pain but only healing, no lack but only abundance, no anger or frustration or disappointment but only joy and trust and peace. And when that happens there is flourishing!
As we gather this Saturday for our Peace Walk and block party, we hope to bring people of our neighborhood together to care for each other, to support each other, to build ties of trust and community in the face of violence and fear and the things that tear apart the connections that hold our community together.
Because peace—the harmony that God intended for God’s world—is the key to our flourishing. And God has promised, when we care for one another in these ways, he will “satisfy your needs in parched places” and “you shall be called the repairer of the broken places and the restorer of the streets to live in” (Isaiah 58:12).