Here is my sermon from this past weekend. I’m planning to post each sermon on the blog in text form. You can follow this link to Good Shepherd’s website where the audio is posted. I’m not sure how to post audio files into the blog page yet. 🙂
Advent blessings to all of you,
Isaiah 2:1-5 • November 28, 2010
Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, the light and peace of world. Amen.
I believe very strongly that it is through community that we live out our faith. Being alive in Christ is not something that we do alone – it always includes community. At times these communities are great blessings that bring joy and peace. And at other times these communities bring anger, violence, and mis-trust to our lives that is anything but peaceful.
Our Advent worship this year celebrates faith in community with the theme “On Earth as it is in Heaven” today, we’ll take a little time and walk through our Old Testament scripture from the prophet Isaiah which gets us started on our Advent journey.
The prophet Isaiah, whose names literally means “the Lord saves!,” arrives on the biblical scene about 7 centuries before Jesus’ birth. Isaiah’s prophetic message is direct and very clear. One such message is that the desire of God’s heart is for all people to live in peace with God, peace with one another, and to worship God and experience the transforming presence of God.
Isaiah is identified in verse 1 of our text today, “The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” And verse 2 begins this prophecy of Isaiah, “In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.”
Frequently God meets people on a mountain in the Bible. Here is another example of that in the mountain of the Lord’s house or Jerusalem. But Isaiah is not saying Jerusalem is or will be the highest point of elevation in the world, rather, that Jerusalem will be the place where the heavens and earth intersect. The meeting place of God and all humanity. A meeting place of peace for the entire community, no longer a meeting place of war.
We continue with verse 3, “Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob (or Israel in this case if you remember to the later part of the book of Genesis); that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
This is a not a time of peace in the world. The Assyrians and Babylonians are great powers and war is common place. Isaiah’s prophecy calls nations who were known to be at war to come to the house of the Lord, not to kill and conquer one another, but to learn God’s ways.
Verse 4, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
The mediator here is not the United Nations or the Supreme Court, or even Isaiah. It is God. It is not humankind.
Finally, verse 5, “O house of Jacob (or Israel), come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”
Isaiah’s prophecy is not a vision of being transformed in the past tense – a onetime mountain top experience. It is a vision of being transformed continually. Transformation that brings light into the world making it possible for us to follow. To follow a path toward the light of Christ. God coming to us.
I think all of us would agree that this prophecy of Isaiah is still a work in progress. In fact, it often challenges our imagination whether or not any progress has taken place. Last time I checked, people are still being killed in war. It may be hard for us to imagine war fought with swords and shields in the world today where war is fought with long range missiles and computer technology. But the result of war is much the same as it was in the time of Isaiah. Or what about the war we experience between families or members of our congregation right here in Bismarck. The warring nations of the Assyrians and Babylonians of Isaiah’s time may be hard for our imagination to grasp, but the warring nations of the Anderson and Jones families within our communities is very easy for us to imagine.
The transformation that God is calling us to follow, challenges our imagination. God is bringing about this transformation right now. A transformation that extends beyond you and me in order for the light of Christ to shine for others and for the peace of God to freely be shared with all. Here are just a few ways I see this happening.
God is transforming hands that can cause abuse physically and emotionally into hands of peace and joy for the homeless in Bismarck-Mandan through service projects like decorating for Christmas at the Ruth Meier’s Hospitality House that our 6th Grade God Rocks team will offer this week.
God is transforming a time of uncertainty and anxiety into renewed hope and excitement for the future of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church’s mission and ministry through the tireless work taking place between our congregation’s Church Council, our Bishop and his staff, and many other leaders in this congregation.
God is transforming wealth that can be used to manipulate and control others into wealth that brings comfort and hope to our neighbor in need whom we may never meet through Good Shepherd’s annual participation in projects like Operation Christmas Child & the Angel Tree,
God is transforming words that can be used to hurt and attack others into glorious sounds that bring worship and praise to our God through our Adult Choir’s annual Christmas Cantata, our Church School students Christmas programs, and our worship together celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas in congregations around the world.
The peace we seek during this Advent season destroys all weapons of war, and prepares the way for the One who brings peace. God is transforming communities of faith like Good Shepherd, and communities in which you and I work or go to school or play a game of volleyball. God is transforming these communities into be mountains of peace.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this first week of Advent, let us pray for peace. Amen.