The sermon from Sunday, February 4, 2018 on Isaiah 40:21-31 –
At its best, Christianity is a mix – it raises questions with which we continually grapple, even as it also offers us reassurance and peace through frameworks and answers about how we might live our lives, about what it means to live a good life, and what it means to live in community.
The questions in this passage work in a bit of a different way. The writer is speaking about a community that has lived in exile and that is reaching for the promise of return and the restoration of a better world.
And not only is the writer speaking about such a community in one period of exile, the writer is writing for a later community in another period of exile.
Much of the Hebrew scriptures are written about and for people dealing with exile from land and from culture.
It is a literature of response to dire circumstances. It is a literature of profound faith and commitment to whole and holy life in difficult times. It is a word of faith and hope for a better world for God’s people.
The questions here serve to capture our attention – and perhaps our imagination – Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
I don’t hear them as being posed in a snarky way – like ‘Yo, you’ve missed something’. These are questions of wonder, questions meant to lift the heart and remind us of the great gift of God’s love.
God sits above us and among us and in all the cracks in our days and filling our moments of breath.
Find God in the noise and God in the silence.
It is not shame to be like a grasshopper. We are human beings doing our best to live and to be and ever become good and kind and courageous and wise and Spirit-filled.
So let us dwell in the heart of a God who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads a tent for us to live in – a grand tent of meeting, of common humanity, of enacted justice and mercy for all people and the planet.
That is the home that God offer us. In a bleak and fractious world, characterized all too often by cruelty and greed, God offers us in every moment a home for our spirits, a place of rest for our souls and our minds, and the promise of freedom.
For powers of this world shall pass away. In the sight of God, human privilege and wealth and power mean nothing.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when God blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
Think we might do well to try to see the world and its people through the eyes of God?
Not focused on celebrity and ego and flashy accumulation, but striving all the time to immerse ourselves in God’s love and justice and compassion, striving all the time to walk in the ways of Jesus the healer and teacher, who shared food and wisdom and refused to collude with the powers that be.
Celebrity and ego and flashy accumulation are temporary. They appeal to the dregs of our basest instincts.
God appeals to and lives through our better nature.
To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? God who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because God is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Do not think for a moment that God has abandoned you. Do not feel alone. In our most difficult moments – and we know those come to us all – God’s love is there for us. We can always rest in God’s love.
Not one is missing.
Look above, around, among you. Look within. The pulse of God permeates this world. No matter how isolated you may feel, you are wholly and truly loved.
We come back to the questions – Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; God’s understanding is unsearchable. God gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
You are stronger than you know. And when your own strength gives out, you have the friendship and love of your community. And when that isn’t enough, understand – into the depths of your being – that you are precious to God and loved by God and strengthened by God for every challenge that comes to you – whether it’s about politics or work or family or even yourself.
God offers you love and strength and guidance on a path of goodness and care for yourself, your neighbor, and the world.
This is the heart of God’s love, offered to us to live in this world.