I really like our O.T. reading from Isaiah. It is a wonderfully hopeful passage reminding us that God has the capacity l to recreate. God will make a new heaven and a new earth.
This would have been a good passage to read last Sunday as we marked Remembrance Day because it describes a world of peace and justice. The description of this new heaven and earth is a stark contrast to the destruction , death and sadness which war always brings. I could have used all kinds of examples last week to describe the horror of war. One example I was going to use but forgot to include was the war in Syria. Because of the fighting children are not being vaccinated and polio has returned. What an absolute tragedy caused by this war.
But in contrast Isaiah is inviting the people to rejoice and to be glad in what God is going to do. God will undue the horrors of war. God is going to undo the horrors of sin. Indeed Isaiah speaks about how not only will people rejoice but that God will be glad and delight in His people.
Isaiah’s poetry and lyrical style works brilliantly. It captures ones imagination and is inspiring. You buy into the vision of the new heaven and new earth where the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, where weeping will be heard no more and in fact the former horrors will not even be remembered. The vision is one of utter joy and delight. An interesting sermon might ponder what it would mean to be able to forget all evil, to have it be a thing of the past never to be remembered again.
I wish I were a poet . I believe that the church needs poets to help us envision God’s dream for us and the world. I only caught bits and pieces of it but there was what seemed to be an excellent program on C.S. Lewis this week on the CBC radio program Ideas in the Afternoon . In the part I heard they were describing how C.S .Lewis as a young man and an intellectual in the university setting was a total atheist. But he loved poetry and in reading poetry his imagination was ignited and he realized that there was truth beyond the material world which science could study and verify and explain. Poetry took him to a place and truth beyond the teaching of the enlightenment. At first he did not become a Christian but I suppose a theist and then moved to Christianity. And I think Isaiah is just such poetry that ignites our imaginations and places before us God’s creative power and the joy and delight and hope this offers. Apparently when Martin Luther King gave his famous I Have a Dream speech he started off with another prepared message which was not going over that well. But someone kept saying to him , tell us about your dream, and so he did. He spoke like Isaiah and the rest is history.
I suppose it would be a good sermon if I could have us all use our imaginations to consider what God’s new heaven and earth will look like. How would we behave in this coming reality?
Our reading from 2 Thessalonians seems to be in stark contrast to our reading from Isaiah. It is not describing God’s perfect future but the present day and ordinary daily lives in a the less than perfect situation in a Christian community. There are people in the church who are lazy and busybodies and it is causing problems. It is often thought that these Christians are convinced that the Day of the Lord is near , that God is about to make all things new so why work hard. After all that would be a waste of energy. I think this is a good reminder that we are to keep in tension the wonderful fact that God is going to make all things new but that we are to work with God in this mission. I actually find this very exciting to think that we are partnering with God. So there is no place for not doing our part which seems to be Paul’s grave concern.
I actually find Paul quite harsh and my left leaning sensibilities are kind of shocked when he says “ if you don’t work you don’t eat”. In fact it is clear in Scripture that we are to feed the hungry , we are to offer radical hospitality. Jesus fed the hungry crowd and repeatedly called for people to be giving and generous. I really do not think Paul had in mind people who could not work and feed themselves nor do I think he is calling for the survival of the fittest.
But Paul is deeply concerned with the health of the community. And it is life draining when everyone is not given the opportunity to contribute and when people refuse to do any work to help out. The body of Christ requires everyone to chip in and no one to intentionally slack off. I think there is also a message here that although being a Christian is always lived out in community every individual is also required to take initiative for their own spiritual health. We are all called to a life of prayer and Scripture reading for example.
I believe Dorothy’s Bible Study has been studying St. Benedict’s Rule of Life. I wonder how his teachings would inform our Epistle reading?
I am running out of time so I will only briefly comment on our Gospel reading. Frankly , I find apocalyptic writing such as our Gospel difficult to understand and will not try here to offer explanations but rather some comments to ponder.
Our Gospel will seem very timely for those of us who heard Bishop Mason speak about the persecuted church last week. There are indeed many people who are in prison and being tortured for their faith as Jesus predicts in our reading. It was very moving to hear how these Christians bear witness to Christ’s love in the midst of great trials. God must be giving them the words to speak. One of the messages night was that although the persecuted Christians throughout the world may be abandoned by others they are not abandoned by God and even though Jesus describes horrible things such as earthquakes , famines and wars, He is clear that not even a hair from our head will be harmed. A good sermon might want to wrestle with this apparently contradictory statements as there is great harm in such events. One commentator I read noted that God is greater than all of these things, war is not the end, earthquakes are not the end , famines are not the end personal persecution is not the end. The end is in God’s redemption which of coursed takes us back to Isiah.
What would you say if you were preaching ? Any comments or helpful suggestions always appreciated.