Friday 1 December 2023

The Fairytale of Isaiah

"Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand." (Isa 64:8) 

Kirsty MacColl leaning over piano, singing at Shane MacGowan, black and white, in Fairytale of New York,

Hard to know where to start with the woe of the world today. Innocents suffer and die as Hamas attacks Israel and Israel bombs Gaza. Ukraine faces another winter of bombardment of its energy supplies, up against a gormless yet relentless opponent. In order to try to resolve the issue of climate change, three English dignitaries fly to a conference in separate private planes. And Shane MacGowan has died just before Christmas. And the hope that Fairytale of New York may finally make it to number 1 after 36 years comes as small consolation.

Like Kirsty McColl and Shane Macgowan, Isaiah 64 is looking into a world of disillusionment after hope. After Exile, the hope was that the Jews would return to a land of blessing - where ever valley was raised up, every mountain lowered, every road made smooth, and they would live up their calling to be God's chosen people.

Instead, they managed about half of it. Malachi will point out to them that they're letting down their side of the covenant in the imperfect sacrifices they're bringing.They were still a fractious little nation, with a poor replica of their original Temple, surrounded by enemies and at risk of being crushed by the great empires around them. The dreams weren't bad, but after the party they still have the hangover of reality to face. 

And if that's not sounding familiar yet again today, I don't know what is.

And yet amid the disappointment, there is hope. And the hope doesn't come from the failing People of God, as they forget to call on God's name and do their substandard good works. Instead it comes from their Covenant God. The one who on Sinai made the mountain shake with holiness.

And so the turn to God as their faithful parent - "we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand." The clay on the wheel may go wrong - but that doesn't make it worthless. It can be remoulded, returned, broken flat and made into a ball and raised up again.

All those people that sell us perfect lives - with the right products, the right lifestyle, the right prayers, the right way of following God's laws - are lying to us. Because in this world it is not in our hands to have a perfect life. Even a man as rich as Elon Musk must put up with his own fallibility - whether he believes in it or not.

When Kirsty tells Shane in "Fairytale" that he's taken her dreams from her, he says "I kept them with my own. Can't make it all alone. I built my dreams around you." In the drunk-tank, as two lovers scream abuse at each other, there's still a glint around, as the boys of the non-existent NYPD choir sing and the bells ring out Christmas Day.

We can despair, or we can turn and say - you are the potter, I am the clay. Let's try again, and again. Remake me again, and let's see how it works out this time. And let me be remade and remodelled and changed until the day when I am fully in the right image - the one I am called to be, the one I was seen as before time began, the one I will be when time ends. And if it takes the end of time to make this all right, then let that be.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl