Wilderness Peace

This sermon can be listened to here
 Gate Pa – Advent 2 - 2020

Readings:

Psalm                          Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13                                        
First Reading:              Isaiah 40:1-11  
Second Reading:        2 Peter 3:8-15                         
Gospel:                         Mark 1:1-8                              
What I want to say and what I want to happen:
Use Isaiah and Mark to find hope and peace in this hard year. A wilderness year. Isaiah and Mark are all about the wilderness.
If there was ever a year we need Isaiah it is this year. We hear worlds of hope for a people lost in the chaos and trauma of the exile, with words of God coming ready or not. So what does that mean for us preparing and waiting through this time of Advent?
We hear John the forerunner speaking words from the wilderness inviting us to repent, to see our world differently and to live in this world differently.
In what ways do we act as a forerunner?
What does that mean for us as people living in our COVID-19 wilderness?


The Sermon

       1.     Introduction:

Been a hard year
So much uncertainty
Learning to do things differently
-         Online church
-         zoom
Learning to do new things
-         washing our hands every 20 seconds
-         Scanning our Covid Ap wherever we go
Sobering to think that as we live our relatively normal lives
-         Edge of uncertainty
-         Tinged with some anxiety about the cases at the border
-         Possibility of community transmission
In USA – averaging million new cases a week
-         Over 3,000 deaths a day.
-         100,000 in hospital
Been hard
Even here
Many feeling social consequences
Many feeling economic consequences
Many personal social consequences
Been a hard year
 

       2.     Isaiah

This is a year for Isaiah
Hear Isiah all through Advent
-         Wonderful
Story of Isaiah
Story of exile
beginning of second Isaiah
            chapters 40- 55
            written towards end exile.
has been suggested that one of the ways we can understand this passage
like game hide and seek
-         God has counted
-         and is coming for exiles – ready or not.
in fact God is more than coming
God is rushing headlong for the exiles
and nothing
but nothing is going to get in the way
            not valleys
            not hills or mountains
God is coming – ready or not.
These people devastated by defeat
-         destruction city and temple
-         centre of religious life
-         house God – where shekinah God dwelt
-         made sense of their world
-         gone
-         as recorded in book LAMENTATIONS
-         left dislocated and traumatised and in despair in exile
-         serving Babylonian gods – Marduk
to these people we have this great image of God coming ready or not
coupled with use of Good Shepherd tradition
words of hope and comfort
for all find themselves lost in exile
lost in a wilderness
like many today

        3.     Coming ready or not

Coming ready or not is not good news for everyone
Not good news if you’re like the kid still trying to get it together
Not all exiles were keen to hear that God was coming
Exile understood God’s punishment for abject failure Hebrew people to live as people of God
            not lived as people living in God’s presence
            sent into exile – punishment
                        chance to mend their ways
not a lot changed from when first came to Babylon
sure – some still devout – harder here without temple
others played lip service demands       
            not treat others well
            not treat poor well
            really in it for themselves
others still not worship one God alone
            and instead moved allegiance to gods Babylon
            in particular – Marduk the chief god
but people see what happening
            Babylon falling
            Persia rising
Persians known letting exiles return home
so how were exiles to make sense of this?
 

       4.     Making sense of it all

first thing did was reaffirm God’s sovereignty
            God is in control of everything
            God sent them into exile
            God will take them out
God is coming – ready or not
 
second – shift away from strict reward punishment understanding of God
that’s how understood exile
            behaved badly
            got punished
            got sent into exile
            when behave well
            get rewarded
            get to go home
But God isn’t waiting around
God is coming ready or not
It is God’s mercy and grace that is at work here.
God forgives long before the people have even worked out that something is wrong
God loves before there was a people
God continues to love even at the darkest hour
This sovereign God is a God of mercy, love and grace
This God is coming ready or not
and this God will stop at nothing to find them.
this God will stop at nothing to find us
that feel likes good news for us in this Covid time
 

       5.     Mark

Which brings us to John
Voice in the wilderness
Speaking words of Isaiah to a new generation
Not in exile
Lost in a wilderness of occupation
Preaching
-         Get ready
-         God is coming ready or not.
Inviting repentance
o   seeing God
o   God’s world
o   And our place in it
o   through different lenses
-         to have a bigger mind.
As heard last year in Matthew
Live for a world where all flourish
-         Where the common good is held as paramount
-         A world where the needs of the poor are placed first
-         Where ALL are treated with honour and respect
-         And given what they need to thrive
This is shalom – peace
This is what God is working towards as we lit our peach candle
God’s wholeness and completeness
This is the bigger world we are invited to repent into this Advent
Repentance also involves acknowledging our blindness
-         To acknowledge our poverty
-         To live in humility
-         Being open to a whole new way of being with the other.
All sounds very big and very dramatic
 

       6.     Advent Action

Actually, doesn’t need to be
This week government declared climate emergency
In part did so because young girl in Sweden
2 years ago decided strike from school on Fridays and protest outside parliament
Inaction around climate change
Very small step
Sat on her own
Slowly others joined her
Gained some media attention
Other young people in Europe
Around the world
Began to strike on Fridays
So movement grew
Invite you to consider this advent
what Isaiah offer you this Covid - advent
what repentance mean for you
what might one small action be

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