Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On Isaiah 61

When I read Isaiah 61 it sounds a bit like a fairy tale. It's a make believe utopia, only I can't fully buy into it because I've seen and heard about so much brokenness and destruction in our world. It sounds great, but is it really possible?

There was a bit more meat to this week's sermon, which outlined the history and background of the text, but this was the heart of it. I was grateful that M was willing to step in at the last minute and be my debate partner in worship. Thanks M!

Imagine you are in your early 30s, and you live in a nice peaceful town. Your job is good. Your family is happy. Your kids go to a good school. You’ve lived in this town your whole life and you love it. Your parents and grandparents moved here about 8 years before you were born. They had lived in the city but big business took over and turned it into warehouses full of machines and most people, including your parents and grandparents lost their jobs. They moved, along with many others, to the small town where you now live and they started over.

You’ve heard their stories 1000 times—stories of how they struggled to even scrape by and put food on the table. Stories of how hard it was to adapt to small town life after generations in the city. Laments about how much they miss the good old days and that beautiful city full of fun and adventure.

You can empathize with their sense of loss, but you’ve never even been to the city so you can’t hardly miss it.

Your grandparents died almost 15 years ago now and your parents are getting older and more feeble. You have your family and your life is good.

One day you attend church, which is comprised mostly of other families who had to move when the factories took over the city, and in the service you are all told you need to move back to the city to rebuild it. The factories moved away to some place cheaper. There are empty warehouses, polluted rivers, over-full dumps and vacant, run-down apartments and this city needs you!

· Big deal! It’s no my city. This is my town.

· The city needs you and it could be great!

· “Could be” being the operative words. It’s not right now. It’s worn down, ugly, and dangerous. And besides that it’s no place for a family.

· I know it sounds bad, but if we all work together it’ll be amazing. We have the chance to start from scratch and make it into the perfect city.

· Start from scratch? I’m established and comfortable and I’ve worked hard to get where I am—I don’t want to start over

· But don’t you see the promise of what could be? Parks and top schools. Safe havens and beautiful homes….

· I see it--it sure looks nice, but that’s way down the line and I’ll be lucky if my kids get to see it like that.

· But they will. You will! At least parts of it….

· Yeah, parts of it….not the actual, amazing city you’re presenting.

· Don’t you see the potential?

· You don’t get it….I don’t need to be back there. I’ve never been there and from the sound of it, I never want to be. What you’ve described is a fantasy, the reality is, it’s an ugly worn down city and it needs way too much work.

No….you don’t get it—it’s not some fictional fairy tale kingdom—it’s God’s promised kingdom. Where we work together. Where we get along. Where we don’t live in fear. Where no one is alone. Where everyone is loved. Where no one is abused. Where everyone has enough and is willing to share with everyone. Where there aren’t insiders and outsiders—there’s just us. I know it sounds sugar coated and too good to be true, but it’s God’s kingdom. Can’t you imagine God doing amazing and awesome things? Even in that city?

Don’t you have a hope that God is still more creative and more powerful, able to take us places we can only imagine? I’m not saying it will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it. How could God’s promises not be worth it? You will have to move from your place of comfort and stability in order to get there. You’re gonna have to work hard, even though you already worked hard. It will be stressful and aggravating because we won’t get there as fast as we would all like, but if we work together and stay focused on the vision, we will get there.


Rachel said...

Really interesting, Debbie! I like the imagery you've used. I'm going to have to ruminate for a while on the idea of the kindom of God being built on top of a worn-down, crime-ridden city... I think I like the idea, but it seems a lot scarier than the fairy tale. :)

johnsue said...

The concluding sentence of our group covenant is "I pledge to support and challenge each member of our group to leave the confines of comfort in our search to do God's will in the world." But I didn't think God would be calling me/us to work that hard or be that uncomfortable and we certainly shouldn't have to move from here.