December 4th 2016
Introduction:Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote this poem:
God, send your prophets here, for all around we see the sinful, broken values of humanity. Accepting death and fear, our nations go to war and so deny that peace is worth our struggling for.
Send stewards of the earth, for it’s become plain: this world we haven’t cared for cries aloud in pain. Forgetting nature’s worth, consuming for today, we never realize what it is w throw away.
Send ones who love the poor, for leaders arm the land; they buy their tanks and take the food from children’s hands. With greed, we long for more while others cry for bread; remind us that we can’t be full till all awe fed.
Who are your prophets here? We wonder, Lord, and scratch, and then we realize you are calling us, your church. Your kingdom, God is near; you show what life can be! So by your Spirit may we answer, “Lord, send me!” (Biblical text: Isaiah 11:1-10, Matthew 3:1-12)
From the roots of a bulky rotted stump, a branch emerges! The extravagant hope of Israel will come from a shoot, a branch. The branch will have wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord, justice and equity, righteousness and faithfulness. That’s some branch! Or more accurately, that’s some hope!
As confused and dark as our world often seems, we are living in a time of great imagination. I believe that the things that are true and right will always stand the test of observation and the challenges that may come. Our economic system is in transition. Political power is up for grabs. Scientists have grown beyond the boundaries they previously knew and are trying to come to grips with all the new understandings about the universe in which we live. A global community is working at ways to live together in peace and respect for each others traditions, values, and beliefs. The internet has created equal footing for art and literature to all people.
The year is 586 B.C. and the Babylonians cut off the tree that is the royal line of king David. The capture Israel and destroy the Temple in Jerusalem. All hope is lost for the people of God! During this time the prophet Isaiah proclaims that a day will come, a new day, a day of renewed extravagant hope for the God’s people and indeed for the whole world! A day of peace, a day when all people everywhere will sit together and respect each other.
In my study of this passage from Isaiah I came across something that is both interesting and enlightening. We know that Jesus is referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth.” The Hebrew word here is “hannetseri” or Nazareth. But in the Hebrew language it also means the branch of a tree or a stump. A very interesting play on words as well as the fulfillment of prophecy.
I.) Our culture is re-imagining:
A.) We are dreaming together!
1. The church would do well to dream together about where God is leading us in this day of change and transition.
2. Old ways have lost a great deal of their meaning and relevance, and yet there is the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us in new directions.
B.) With this dreaming and re-imagining there is an element of fear.
1. It is as if the rug has been pulled out from under us at times.
2. It is as if the long held traditions and beliefs are being pulled up by the roots.
3. It is as if a storm has come through the area and knocked over and pulled up strong powerful trees by their roots and laid them over on their sides.
4. We are afraid of the unknown to be sure.
5. The world is uncertain, un-sturdy, unreliable.
Ex. Theologian, Karl Barth says it is less like we are rooted or standing firm and more like we are being upheld by the winds of the Holy Spirit.
C.) I wonder is the hope of Isaiah is less about being rooted in David and more about being upheld by the Holy Spirit.
1. Because this prophet dreamed big, really big, in fact so big that dependence on the stump was out of the question.
2. Dependence on the Holy Spirit is at the heart of our extravagant hope!
II.) Isaiah is re-imagining the culture of his and The Day that is to come.
A.) Things have been difficult in the culture and society of Israel.
1. The prophet for tells a day when people will return to God and have their faith renewed.
2. When will that day be?
3. It has happened a number of times down through history but is there one final day when it really goes over the top?
4. Spiritual awakenings, as they are referred to, have happened and they will happen again I am sure, are impacted by many things that happen in the world around us.
5. What will trigger the next great awakening of hope for our world?
6. A horrific or perhaps major positive event that will impact all people everywhere?
7. When will the day come, what will happen, will we be here to see it, these questions and many more are at the very heart of the extravagant hope we proclaim today!
B.) As we gather on this second Sunday of Advent, we proclaim afresh and anew our commitment to the baby born in Bethlehem and to the reason for which he came.
1. We, who are Christians, recognize that the image of Isaiah of a stump is in fact a metaphor of the coming of the Jesus from the stump that is the people of Israel.
2. We recognize that his message of peace and love for all people was indeed the message God wants proclaimed everywhere!