I’ve been looking for a picture for this passage since reading it yesterday. I took pictures of circles on the rec center sports field – those just didn’t seem right. Then I took some pictures of random circles that I saw when walking to church later in the day…not those either. Then today, I thought about the circle that rings the cross on our church’s logo. Nope. Didn’t speak what I was hearing. What I kept thinking about was a circle that wasn’t closed and I remembered the Labyrinth. I have grown to love praying labyrinths over the last several years – the physical act of walking and praying and then coming to the center and being in that place of focusing on being at the center of Christ’s will for my life. I was blessed to take some time at Montreat last week to pray the labytinth there but I think that my favorite labyrinth is this one pictured from a retreat center called The Springs. Its simple – just stones marking the path through the grass, but it is a holy place that has been crafted there and I am blessed by remembering the holy moments I spent praying there in May of 2015.
So why an “open circle” out of this passage from Isaiah 56? Because what I hear in the words there is that there is a circle that has been drawn by the Lord but that it is not one with high walls and rigid boundaries, but instead openings into the circle that we might not expect. For those hearing these words initially, they may have been stunning. After all, they were the chosen people and here God is speaking through Isaiah to say that the “foreigner” and the “eunuch” have an opportunity to enter the circle. As Isaiah notes, as they follow, keep sabbath, choose the things that please the Lord, and hold fast to the Lord’s covenant…God will give them an “everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (56:4-5)
This section of Isaiah closes with beautiful words about the Lord God who “gathers the outcasts of Israel” and who “gathers others to them besides those already gathered.”
So yes there is a circle and yes there are boundaries, but like the labyrinth, there is an invitation to Come, enter, and be blessed. Amen.