Sermon For Sunday, November 17, 2013

Isaiah 65:17-25

“Nostalgia & Daydreams: How To Be Faithful Along The Way”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~ http://www.FranklinCircleChristianChurch.org

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher

Twitter: @FranklinCircle ~ Pastor’s Blog: https://nearwestclevepastor.wordpress.com

You can just hear Edith and Archie Bunker croon out those lyrics as the 1970’s television show “All In The Family” rolls onto your television screen:

Boy the way Glenn Miller Played

Songs that made the Hit Parade

Guys like us we had it made

Those were the days.

Didn’t need no Welfare states

Everybody pulled his weight

gee our old LaSalle ran great

Those were the days

And you knew who you were then

Girls were girls and men were men

Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again

If you’re a country and western fan, you might be reminded of the lyrics of the song by the mother/daughter singing duo, the Judds,

Grandpa

Tell me ’bout the good old days.

Sometimes it feels like

This world’s gone crazy.

Grandpa, take me back to yesterday,

Where the line between right and wrong

Didn’t seem so hazy.

Did lovers really fall in love to stay

Stand beside each other come what may

was a promise really something people kept,

Not just something they would say

Did families really bow their heads to pray

Did daddies really never go away

Whoa oh Grandpa,

Tell me ’bout the good old days.

Grandpa

Everything is changing fast.

We call it progress,

But I just don’t know.

And Grandpa, let’s wonder back into the past,

And paint me a picture of long ago.

Into this mix of nostalgia-inspired songs, comes the voices of Haggai from last week and Isaiah this week calling us to imagine that the best is yet to come.  Isaiah proclaims:

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create [the city] as joy, and it’s people as delight.”

And then we hear words that should bring to mind the last few chapters of the book of Revelation:

I will rejoice in [the city] and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress…

Then Isaiah paints a picture for us of the Beloved Community, a place of ultimate peace, equality, and justice, where every creature flourishes and all are blessed by God.

How to get from point A to point B is one of life’s greatest struggles.  How do we learn from the past without becoming mired in it?  How do we celebrate the work and wisdom of our forbearers, without idolizing them and enshrining their words and deeds as the ultimate test of what is good, worthy, noble, and true?

But in this season of envisioning what is yet to come, we are also to be wary of daydreaming and pie-in-the-sky Pollyannaish planning.  Just as we do not want to be stuck in the muck of the past, we similarly do not want to be whisked away by the fickle breezes of the future.  What are we to do?  How are we to plan?

Chapters 56-66 in the book of Isaiah, written around the time of the re-establishment of the temple in Jerusalem, contain beautiful poems exalting the cosmic function of the temple. (1)  This section of the book begins with a picture of an ideal restoration, where the exclusions found in the practices of the first temple are removed so that everyone, including foreigners and those with bodily deformities (eunuchs) can worship together.  Today’s passage may not immediately sound like a passage about the temple, but the final statement that equates Jerusalem with God’s “holy mountain” (verse 25) makes the connection explicit.  This poem focuses on the city, not as the political capital, but as its religious center.

What Isaiah is calling us to is to understand the importance of the temple, for us this is the church, in the midst of the people, for us this is the city, and how this is the place to imagine a future of harmony, health, equality, and justice are real, and then act as if it were possible.  In the words of the Rev. Jacquie Lewis of New York City’s Middle Church, the church is where we rehearse the commonwealth of God, we practice being the Beloved Community.  Every day in the temple, God recreates this cosmos: a world of harmony, prosperity and joy.

In today’s world, this balanced vision is sometimes replaced by the “prosperity gospel,” the notion that if we praise God and do the right things, God will reward us individually with prosperity.  Too often, though, we think “prosperity” means money and, personal wealth for us as individuals.  The picture of prosperity in Isaiah is not one of personal wealth.  It is a picture of communal harmony.  And that community is defined in the broadest of terms: it includes even the things that can harm us, i.e. our enemies.  The blessings are not demonstrated by the wealth of the elite: there is no prosperous king in this picture.  God’s blessings are seen when the poorest and most at risk among us live to a ripe old age.

The way to avoid living nostalgically in the past and the way to avoid daydreaming about the future is to come to church and intentionally, regularly, and passionately listen for God’s recreation of the world according to God’s values, hopes, and loves and then in the here-and-now practice being that kind of community!  There is nothing magical about this space, but there is something terribly precious about this place!  It is here that we hear God’s vision of the future and it is here that we begin to live it out.  You cannot do one with out the other: here we listen, here we live it out.  This takes time, patience, and your presence!

Christ may have talked a lot about the kingdom, or kin-dom of God, but he always, always expected us to begin living as if we were in it here and now.  This church is a place set aside for exactly that reason.  This is the church’s ultimate calling!  Let us be what God is calling us to be.  A new heaven and a new earth.  Here.  Now.  And thus forevermore.

Amen.

(1) I was heavily reliant upon the commentary on Isaiah 65:17-25 by Corrine Carvalho, Professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN at Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, found online at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1792

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