In pm's words
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December 5, 2016, 12:00 AM

the one where God turns it upside down


Sermon from December 4, 2016

Text: Isaiah 11: 1-10

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior to Come who is Jesus the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

Whenever I hear this particular part of Isaiah I always think of Dr. Venkman from the original Ghostbusters movie – ‘human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!’ Of course, Bill Murray’s character in that film was adding on to the ‘trouble and terribleness’ of ‘biblical proportions’ that his friends were outlying to the mayor of New York City about what was and could possibly happen soon.

I think we like to believe that is what the ‘end times’ will be like. It makes sense right? Blow it all up and start over? Literally wipe the slate clean. We’ve seen so much devastation the past few weeks in our little corner of the country because of wildfires. We are in shock with the amount of devastation that has been wreaked across places that we know so well.

For Thanksgiving, my family and I went to Brevard, NC with Erin’s parents. Just far enough away from those fires to be safe, but close enough to feel the effects. The sight and smell of smoke and ash was everywhere. It was surreal. When I think back on it – yeah, I can see that ‘coming time’ to be sort of like that.

Yet, during the season of Advent we are continually reminded that what God has in store is different than what has ever and will ever be done. The end will indeed be surreal and crazy. We might not be able to comprehend it, but not because of the utter chaos and destruction. Instead, it will be the world flipped over.

When all seems lost, a shoot will rise. From the stump – the cut down and dead – life will spring forth. That life and that light will be the messiah according to Isaiah’s words, vision, and prophesy.

And that messiah will not be like who you think it would be. An individual who will be anointed with and will rest in God’s spirit. When we think of ‘anointing’ during our current time, we like to think of it solely as ‘protection.’ When we talk about someone being ‘anointed and directed by God’ we usually mean that they’ve been kept safe in their life and possibly that they’re pretty successful.

As we read this part of Isaiah, we discover that those are not the ‘outcomes’ of this one having the spirit of God resting upon him.

In fact, the things that this one will do probably won’t bring about safety and any sort of worldly success. I’m sure Isaiah was thinking – this guy – whoever he is; is going to be pushed out and set off somewhere because it doesn’t seem like he’ll ‘fit in’ with the rest of the world.

He’ll judge not by sight or hearing, but with righteousness, equity, and faithfulness.

That’s not something I see going on in the world today. Those are things that scare us. Dealing, working, and dare I say judging someone in those regards brings fear and unknown into our hearts.

Because righteousness isn’t fair – it’s right and just. Fair is giving everyone equal share, treating folks the same – no matter what. Righteousness is giving of what you have so that others are lifted up. Righteousness is letting others speak while you listen. Righteousness is offering up yourself so that another might live more fully.

The one that Isaiah foretells will do that.

As Christians, we look to that Isaiah text and see immediately the one who we wait for in celebration and wait for in expectant hope.

Advent is a weird season. It’s short in length, but powerful in its message. For during Advent we wait for two things – we wait in anticipation for the celebration of that first ‘Advent’ that first time that God came to be with us in the Word made flesh – the incarnation.

We wait for that joyous celebration where we get to cry out to the world – GOD’S HERE! GOD HAS COME! SEE WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE! We wait and proclaim and we celebrate that day. Throughout Advent we are bursting at the seams to shout in joyous chorus about what God has done. It’s what makes Advent so difficult to ‘get’ through at times. We want to already be there – especially in a year like this one. We want to be celebrating something in joy.

But, Advent has a second ‘waiting’ period as well. And that I think is the part of Isaiah’s vision that hasn’t come about yet – but, is still a work in progress. For during Advent, not only do we await the celebration of that first Advent, but we wait in expectant hope for the second Advent as well – the time when the Lord returns.

That’s the one that we get scared of – because we don’t know what it’ll be like or when it’ll come. Yet, Isaiah this morning is full of crazy, outlandish, and dare I say joyous and comforting visions.

Imagine a world where the wolf lies with the lamb? The lion shall eat straw like the ox? Letting your young children stick their hand in a pit of poisonous snakes and not be worried.

Seriously – can y’all imagine that? I can’t. That seems so foolish. So, crazy. So far out there. So, unimaginable. So far and distant from the world we live in.

The biggest surprise of all in that whole vision is that stuck in the middle of these outlandish and foolish visions of the world is that line, “And a little child will lead them.”

Not only will the world literally flip over, but the one to show us the way is a child? Not someone with experience. Not someone with years of learning. Not someone with strength in the most literal of sense. Not someone with extensive knowledge of the operations and machinations of the world, but a child.

I think what stresses many, including myself, about this vision of God’s kingdom that Isaiah proclaims is that we just aren’t there. In fact, it feels like we are so very far from that vision. We continue to hear and see destruction – destruction of the natural world – and humanity’s willingness to be a part of it. Destruction of one another. It still feels like we have been and will live in a world where a lion won’t eat straw, but will devour the ox.

And yet, speaking about that destruction that the wildfires caused in North Carolina – something I heard on the radio this week brought me even a little bit of hope in that. A hope that I think we can look to especially in this season of Advent.

There was an interview with a local fire chief who stated that he was ‘amazed’ that the fire mostly consumed the underbrush, but the trees – those trees that he so lovingly gazed upon his entire life were still there. Still strong. Still alive.

A shoot shall rise out from the stump. Hope remains.

Advent. It surprises us all the time. Whenever things seem most lost and gone – that’s when God shoots forth.

Advent is a season of hope, waiting for and having faith in that expectant hope. Amen.

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