August 11, 2013
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
There are two kinds of people in the world. Those whom God loves and they know it. And those whom God loves, and they do not know it. Yet.
Talking to the people following him, and so to us, Jesus is very clear: It is God’s good pleasure to give you a place in the covenant, to give you inheritance in the kingdom. This is good news for those who have felt like they do not fit in, for those who feel cast out, for those who feel too heavily the weight of sin or hurt or the past. You are forgiven. You are loved. You have hope. You are made new.
This sounds different than the message that so many seem to hear from the church, whether we actually say it or not. So many people hear messages of unworthiness, of sinfulness, of “get your act together before we will have anything to do with you.”
It is not surprising, given that the churches that tend towards an inclusive Gospel, a message of welcome, a celebration of the wideness of God’s love tend to be allergic to the idea of actually telling anybody about it. It is okay to be wide open with the love of Christ, as long as we do not let anyone know! Leave the airwaves and the billboards and the public voice of the church to others.
But maybe we have figured out that God loves us. We are done right? Not yet.
Jesus follows up his message of God’s love with what instructions for being a part of God’s kingdom. Sell your possessions and give alms. If we are in the kingdom, then it is about how we share that love and compassion in real and tangible ways. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Visit the sick. Be good news. Make your live a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Jesus then starts to mix his metaphors. He starts out telling his followers to be like servants who wait for their master to come home. If you are supposed to be waiting and watching, you do not want to be caught asleep. Like when the deacon came to the pastor’s office and said, “Preacher, I think I see Jesus walking up the sidewalk. What should we do?”
He is the master for whom the servants await, waiting to see his return, waiting to see the life they know in him to be found in themselves.
But then he flips the metaphor. If the master knew when the thief was breaking in, the master of the house would have had guards and locks. But the Son of Man is like a thief in the night.
Parables make us work for our supper.
On the one hand, creation belongs to God, and the proper way of living, taking care of one another, practicing tangible compassion, is how we are to live.
On the other hand, Caesar, Pharaoh, the ways of the world, think that they are in charge. So the message and the love and the kingdom have to sneak in.
We are always drawn between these two. We want to love God with all that we have and all that we are, and love our neighbor as ourselves, but then we get worried about our pension or our safety or the stock market or the price of gas or any number of other things. We want to love one another but we worry about what people will say. We want to sing praise but do not want to seem too religious, lest we be called one of “them.”
Isaiah opens his prophecy with a common complaint of the prophets: the people who are supposed to be in charge, who are supposed to be following the covenant, who are supposed to lead, are in fact worried about themselves and giving the right offerings and showing off how many rams they can afford and how many public shows of religiosity they can perform.
He goes so far as to call the leaders of his day the worst insult one could hurl: you leaders are like the leaders of Sodom and Gomorrah! It is important to notice that at no time does Isaiah state that the problem of Sodom or Gomorrah is sex or sexuality. The problem, according to all of the prophets who reference these devastated cities, is that they had wealth and did not care for the poor; they had security but did not care for the vulnerable.
Isaiah equates his day with that of Sodom and Gomorrah, warning them to change their ways:
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
defend the fatherless,
plead for the widow.
And here is the message that permeates the entire Bible, both Old Testament and New, both Torah and Gospel, both prophet and epistle: God loves us, so take care of one another. God loves us, so protect the vulnerable. God loves us, so feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, visit those in prison. God loves us, so be good news to someone who needs it.
God loves us. Now what are we going to do about it?
Thanks be to God.