PDF Print E-mail

the sermon for

the Second Sunday of Advent

10 December 2017

Isaiah 40:1-11
We don't go to god; god comes to us!

12102017The film was first released on the twenty-fifth of August, 1939 and was nominated, that year, for six Oscars, including one for best picture. Unfortunately, another film won that category. Gone with the Wind! Released in 1939, it was rereleased nationally ten years later and released, again, six years after that. Then on Saturday, November 3rd, 1956, it was shown on television. The first, ever, Hollywood film to be shown uncut and in prime time! And it's, pretty much, become an annual television classic! Of course, I'm talking about The Wizard of Oz! And we've come to know it all by heart! Dorothy and Toto! The Scarecrow! The Tin Man! The Lion! Even the Wicked Witch of the West and all those monkeys! All those eerie, creepy, flying monkeys!

But even more than family entertainment, The Wizard of Oz has been a way of teaching us about God! Or at the very least, a way of reïnforcing what we, already, know! The great and powerful, at the end of the road, waiting to answer our prayers, to grant our requests, to make our every wish come true! A heart for the unfeeling! A brain for the thoughtless! Courage for the faith-of-heart! A way home for the lost and alone! But first... first... we have to get there! And that's the whole point of the story! The journey to the Emerald City!

The Wizard of Oz sounds a whole lot like The Pilgrim's Progress! The believer facing, enduring, trials and tribulations on his way to heaven! Trials and tribulations just like the Poppy Field and the Haunted Forest and the Witch's Castle and all those flying monkeys! And not once, not one time, in either does the great and powerful ever set foot on the pilgrim's path. Only Dorothy and Toto and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man and the Lion! Only to the Emerald City, never from it! Take those two stories, change a few things, and, pretty much, you have the story of faith that most of us have grown up with. The ladder. The staircase. Pearly gates. Streets of gold. And always one way! One way and only one way! From us to god! From earth to heaven! Just like the spiritual! "We are climbing Jacob's ladder!" and "Ev'ry round goes higher, higher!" So I guess it's kind of natural for us to read the words of the prophet and imagine he's talking about the same thing!

A voice cries out:
'In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

We want, so much, to follow that yellow-brick road! To climb Jacob's ladder! To get through those pearly gates! We want, with all our being, to be with the great and powerful! But there's only one problem. That highway, that ladder, that road, wasn't made for us to use. It's meant only for god! We don't go to the king. The king comes to us! That's why it's called the King's Highway! The great and the powerful sets aside the special effects, leaves behind the Emerald City, and journeys to be with us here in our Munchkinville! It's all Oz! It's all god! From start to finish! From beginning to end! God overcomes the witch! God claims the broomstick! God journeys through the Poppy Field, through the Haunted Forest! God is the one – the only one – who follows the yellow-brick road! Not to, but from Oz! And when god gets her, god gives us a new heart and a new mind! God gives us confidence and courage! God, even, brings us home!

That's where Luke gets is wrong! It's not the prodigal who must find his way back to the father. It's the father, it's the mother, who makes his way, who makes her way, from the home to the pig sty! There's only one direction! Father to Son! Heaven to earth! Every valley lifted up! Every mountain, hill, made low! Uneven becoming level. Rough smooth! And it's all done not to make our journey easier! It's done to make god's journey, god's travel simple and straightforward! God comes to us! We don't go to god! Always, forever, god is the one in motion!

But, then, no matter how often we're told that – here, in this place – we still think it's us. It seems that The Wizard of Oz has a greater hold on our imagination than the gospel ever did. In the past, when I've said 2/3 to 3/4 of us disagree with or don't understand the most basic teachings, this... this is what I meant! It's that downward-pointing arrow! God coming to earth! God becoming flesh-and-blood! Christmas isn't the shepherds going to Bethlehem! Christmas isn't the magi, the wise men, following a star. That's all part of the Oz-like faith! Following the yellow-brick road! Off to see the wizard! But we have it all wrong! All inside-out! All upside-down! All backwards!

Christmas is Jesus coming to us! It's gravity pulling god out of heaven into creation itself! At Christmas, we don't go to god, but god comes to us! And during Advent... During Advent, we simply sit... and wait... and watch... for that moment when god appears! Appears in the story and in the songs! Appears in the water and in the bread and in the wine! Appears, even, in the faces of the people all around us! Strangers! Friends! We don't go to god. God comes to us! And all the preparations? The lists we make? The lists we check twice? Well, the preparations – like the journey – belong to god, as well!

The king's highway doesn't begin here and end there. It begins there! Up high! Far away! And it makes its way to us! Just like that burlap arrow that hangs on the wall behind me! You see, that way of the Lord, that highway for our god, is nothing less than love! Nothing less than charity! Than grace! That highway, that road, is god's grace, god's charity, god's love! For each and for every! For one and for all! It's not a yellow-brick road that leads us somewhere over the rainbow, but a path that journeys from a stable to a cross, from a cross to a grave, and from a grave not to the sky, but back to life! Right here! Right now!

So, we've seen the movie so many times, before! As a family! Sitting together on a couch! Lying on the living room floor! Over the decades, across the generations, it's become a big part of our life. We've been entertained! Amused! But we've, also, been distracted and confused. By the special effects. By the music. By the story itself. It's all what we expect. All what we already believe. "Follow the yellow-brick road," we're told! "Follow the rainbow over the stream! Follow the fellow who follows a dream!" But here, this morning, the prophet says, "Sit! Sit and wait!" "Your god is coming!" "Your god is near!" My friends, it isn't for you – for us – to go to god! But it's god's job to come to us! After all, why else is god god!

PDF Print E-mail

the sermon for

the First Sunday of Advent

03 December 2017

Isaiah 64:1-9
When all is done and said, we are all god's people!

12032017"Today's Readings" That's the name of the lectionary insert we use each and every Sunday morning. "Today's Readings" Two pages! 5 1/2 x 8 1/2"! Printed on high-quality 45 lb husky smooth offset paper! As you've seen, it contains just abut everything in worship that changes from week to week. The prayer of the day! First and second readings! Gospel! Psalm! And for the overachievers among us, on the back, across the bottom of the page, are the readings for next Sunday! "Today's Readings"

But three's another lectionary insert available through AugsburgFortress! Four pages! 8 1/2 x 11", folded in half! Printed on the same high-quality 45 lb husky smooth offset paper! It has everything "Today's Readings" has and more! It includes the Prayers of Intercession we offer between the Creed and the Peace! But "Celebrate," as it's called, also has an overview or introduction for the Sunday as a whole and for each reading individually! For instance...

this is what's written about the First Reading, for this morning! About the passage from Isaiah! "This lament comes from a people who have had their hopes shattered. The visions of a rebuilt Jerusalem and a renewed people of God, spoken of in Isaiah 40 –55, have not been realized. Instead, the people experience ruin, conflict, and famine. This lament calls God to account—to be the God who has brought deliverance in the past." Well, I read those words, sat back, and through about what I'd just read. There was a lot in those sixty-or-so words!

You see, contrary to appearances, the book of Isaiah isn't just one book written by one person. The first thirty-nine chapters were written some seven-to-eight centuries before Jesus. Back when the Assyrian Empire conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and controlled the southern kingdom of Judah! The book doesn't, even, mention Babylon about a hundred-and-fifty years later! When Judah was conquered, Jerusalem – including the Temple – destroyed, and the king was led away as a slave to Babylon itself! Second Isaiah – as it's called – are chapters 40 to 55! They leapfrog over the story of Babylon and go right to the time of Cyrus the Great and the Persian Empire. For the exiles in Babylon, it was a time of promise, a time of hope! It was a time when the Jews believed that god was making all things new! Cyrus gave them permission... and encouragement... and support... to go back "home" and rebuild Jerusalem! To start all over, again, in the land! To start all over, again, in THEIR land! But then, there's Third Isaiah! Chapters 56-66! The part of Isaiah that today's reading comes from.

This lament comes from a people who have had their hopes shattered. The visions of a rebuilt Jerusalem and a renewed people of God, spoken of in Isaiah 40 –55, have not been realized. Instead, the people experience ruin, conflict, and famine.

The people return home. And it was nothing like what they dreamed of! Nothing like what they remembered! When they lived in Babylon, anything – everything – was possible! So bright! So shining! But when they returned to Jerusalem... They were overcome, overwhelmed, by what they found! Thus, the lament...

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

It's a lament, a dirge, a song of agony and of anguish. There was nothing that remained of that Jerusalem or of that god. And even here, they mourned, they grieved, they wept, as they had beside the Euphrates as exiles.

They wanted to make Jerusalem great, again! Back when the nation was strong, was proud! When the people were prosperous and powerful! When life was safe and secure and free! But then, they came home. They wanted to do it. They tried to do it! They really did! But the harder they tried, the more difficult it became! The closer to god they tried to get, they farther away they fell! And in the end, they simply gave up. Conquered, vanquished, by their own helplessness, by their own failures. They could only do so much. Only go so far.

This lament comes from a people who have had their hopes shattered. The visions of a rebuilt Jerusalem and a renewed people of God have not been realized. Instead, the people experience ruin, conflict, and famine...

I have to confess, as I read the words... from Isaiah... from Celebrate... I thought about us. I thought about us. Hopes shattered. Visions unrealized. Ruin. Conflict. Famine. It's one thing to build a church from scratch! To watch it sprout, grow from nothing! Fresh! New! But it's another thing entirely, waiting for the dust to settle... then picking up the pieces and trying to put them all back together... more a Humpty Dumpty moment... Some pieces are missing, never to be found... Some just don't mesh... Others, still, aren't our pieces, at all... That's what this passage is describing! No matter how hard... no matter how long... no matter how well... sometimes, it just can't be fixed... not like before... not like in the beginning...

A windstorm folds the roof of a church back like a tortilla... After thirty years, an a/c unit, finally, gives up the ghost... Hope cracks... dreams crumble... visions collapse... And the people are overcome... are overwhelmed... discouraged... disheartened... And that's not, even, considering the changes and chances of life that confront us at home... at work... at school... The fears. The frustrations. Our heads spin. Our hearts ache. "This lament comes from a people who have had their hopes shattered, their visions unrealized." That's true of us. O that you would tear open the heaves and make it all go away! O that you would tear open the heavens and make it stop! Even if just for a moment!

I thought of us. And then I read the last line. I read the very last line. "Now consider, we are your people! We are all your people!" Yes, we have been conquered. And yes, we have been defeated. By Assyrias. By Babylons. Our dreams, too, destroyed. Our hopes shattered, as well. We've done our best. We've tried our hardest. But the best wasn't good enough. And our hardest? Our hardest has been far from adequate. Shoulders to the wheel. Noses to the grindstone. We've tried it all. And that all hasn't made any difference. And yet, we are still your people! We are all still your people! Just as god remains our god! Remains our god in spite of it all!

So the passage begins as lament. Sorrow. Regret. A dirge of broken promises and shattered dreams. And yet it ends in a simple statement of faith. "Now consider, we are all your people!" We always have been! We will be, forever! Even here, even now, we belong to god! There may be gloom. Gloom. Despair. Agony. But that one thing never changes! Life may become more than we wanted. More, even, that we can handle. It may not be what we expect, what we signed up for. But god is still our god! And we, all of us, together, are still god's people! We cry out for help. But instead, we receive faith!

My friends, god loves us. And there is nothing, there is no one, who can get in the way! Not Assyria! Not Babylon! Not Persia! And not, even, ourselves!

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 81
Copyright © 2017 Midland Lutheran Church , 2705 West Michigan, Midland, TX 79701 (432) 694-1373
RocketTheme Joomla Templates