Proper 16A, 8/27/2017
St John’s Episcopal Church, Kirkland
How many of you are frustrated or angry about something that’s happened in the last month?
How many of you are worried, about yourself or someone you care about?
How many of you are worn out?
Isaiah is speaking directly to many of us today, to those of us who are tired of hatred and anger; to those who are afraid; to those who are beginning to lose hope that a better world is possible with humans in it. Isaiah was speaking to a people who knew hardship. They knew war and struggle. Their way of life had been nearly eradicated, their hopes of a kingdom ruled by God and justice had been crushed. They were close to losing hope. And in every generation after, when the world is at its darkest, God’s people have come back to Isaiah’s words.
Because Isaiah tells us the one great Truth that we must never forget, the Truth that has kept Jewish people going through conquest and exile and horrific torture. Even in death: that Truth is startling simple but it changes everything.
God, Isaiah says, is faithful. It is what God is. God remains faithful through rejection and disaster. God remains faithful through human sin, and rebellion, and hopelessness.
It is the truth Isaiah wants us to hear today. We are the children of Israel, and we have wandered far and wide, but we come from her quarry. We stand on the rock that is the covenant. God, we are promised, is faithful. Always and forever. Where we see only destruction and wastelands God sees possibility. Where we see hatred and division, God sees beloved children. Where we see the impossible, God sees possibility.
God set aside the Jewish people out of all the world to be a light to the world, to share the Truth they had discovered, to teach all God’s children of the faithfulness, the love, of God. You see Isaiah doesn’t just promise that God will turn Zion’s wastelands into gardens, or her mourning into gladness. Isaiah doesn’t just have good news for the faithful of Israel.
Today Isaiah offers hope that is active. It is not the passive hope of a someday eden, nor of a future in which God will magically transform the lives of Israel alone. Instead, Isaiah promises the Jewish people the hope of spreading their light to all peoples. Isaiah reminds them that they are to be light, that they are to teach and enact justice, that they are to share wisdom with all they encounter. He tells this to people living in exile, people living under the dominion of a foreign power.
He isn’t talking about manifest destiny, he isn’t talking about converting the world. He is demanding that we show forth the faithfulness of God. That while God is turning our wastelands into gardens we must be doing the same for our broken world. God hewed you out of a rock, formed and shaped you in the quarry of your family and your faith community, who in turn were shaped from theirs back to Abraham and Sarah. The good and the bad went into who you are today. And God has been there, guiding and cajoling, and encouraging even (or maybe especially) in the moments that seemed darkest.
You are not perfect, but God doesn’t use the perfect, God uses broken people like you and I and Sarah and Mary and Peter. And on we flawed foundations hope gets built.
Or world has grown dark. Who thought we’d be thinking about nuclear war so many decades after the iron curtain came down? Who thought that in the 21st century we’d be fighting Nazis and Klan? Yet here we are. The desert needs our water, even if it is the water of our tears. The wilderness needs our care. We and all of God’s other lights together: Jews and Muslims and folks who don’t even believe in God, but who do believe in love and justice. The seeds of a new world are all around us. In young passionate people who might never enter the doors of our church, but who are part of God’s plan. We are not alone dear ones as light bearers in this dark world.
Every month we see that as God’s community dinner and grown and grown. It’s not a St. John’s ministry anymore. It’s God’s ministry among and with our neighbors. We’ve seen it in families who find shelter under God’s roof every night. We’ve seen it as faith leaders from our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters have come to share with us. The darkness is vast and wide and roars like a lion. But the light is here, small and quiet as a kiss; but utterly unstoppable. Because the Spirit of God is breathing on our flames and they will become a fire to light up the whole world. Do not lose faith, brothers and sisters.
Remember the rock from which you were hewn. Remember those who came before you. And remember, that God who is faithful and loving is making a way in the darkness for the whole world.
That we must be the light of hope to those living in darkness, that we must be the voices of justice to those crying out for it. We who know a faithful God, a loving and merciful God
The promise of God, abundance out of what seems impossible.