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15 December 2019
God for an exile
Cate Thorn explores the poetry of Isaiah
Rev Cate Thorn
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God for an exile
So today is our third Sunday, in Advent guard at a Sunday. So named, I understand from the Latin words of the mass that are sung guard at a rejoice. It is our time of joy and for those of you with an Eagle Eye, you will have noticed that we like a pink candle. This week slightly off the purple.
Place. Many of you will know each Sunday in Advent, this Advent, we have decided to pay attention to the voice of the prophet. Isaiah Thus far this voice has been expressed in the words of poetry, each week unveiled, a vision of transformation and hope thronging multitudes of people creation itself, renewed. So it may flourish The last two weeks, we've celebrated, the coming transformations of weapons of economies or social orders and of animals. Today, we celebrate the coming transformations of land of human Brokenness of locations, emotions in distance innate, we take readings from their place in Isaiah and we use them for Our intention and purpose and our season of Advent, we hear words from Isaiah echoed in the gospel of Matthew today.
Producing words of, Hope of restoration and flourishing fulfillment.
but a closer consideration of Isaiah requires us to pay attention to the place of today's reading within the Corpus and the context of the full text of Isaiah His as the Habit, the habit of a lectionary we separate out pieces to serve our purpose. So it might be helpful today to consider that Isaiah 35. That we heard some verses from today is of a piece with its previous chapter. Isaiah 34 they are as two sides of a coin, some say Unlike today's words with relent with hope and promise the words and imagery Isaiah 34 portray a god of Vengeance, a God, who deals punishment, and Ultimate Destruction on the Unfaithful in particular, the Unfaithful people of Edom who celebrated with Babylon and the devastation who collaborated with Babylon and the devastation of Judah that lead to them being in Exile.
In stark contrast to Isaiah, 34 days. Would put today's reading portrays a god of restoration and deliverance who rewards those who are faithful.
The holy Highway imagery of Isaiah 35 is almost the direct inverse of the road to destruction of the previous chapter.
It is considered that these are placed within what's known as first Isaiah, the context prior to Exile. But it's confusing because these verses seem to be speaking to the X Files and Babylon. So it's thought they may have been put back a little bit and Isaiah in the process of the total Corpus of Isaiah becoming as it is. But the right of imagery that runs through the verses of Isaiah today, has a basic concern but restoration of wholeness You heard the Wilderness and the dry land through which the Exiles will return. Also participates in the restoration, it is as if this holy Way to Zion is a reversal of The Exodus Journey rather than a journey of wilderness and suffering. It is one of flourishing and abundance.
And in it, we do here the reversal of blindness and deafness and lameness and muteness.
But in case we presume from this that being blind or deaf or lame or mute to make someone less than whole, it's helpful, the Oxford Bible, commentary reminds us that this Isaiah in context in this context of our Babylonian exile, the Blind and the deaf other cooking about the community itself. The section plays an important part in.
Proclaiming the restoration of that Community to, for Humanity, The intent and imagery of the poem is to bring hope to those in Exile this. Why? We think it's better and Isaiah to connecting old hopes with the need for new ones.
But I was interested as I explored more deeply to read this. Isaiah 35 understands that those certain of the, the old promises had come true. They fulfillments were somehow unfinished in specific. The promise of the Wilderness Highway for Exiles had already come and gone.
The kept us from Babylon had return to Zion long ago, but disappointments met them. Judah was a prolonged Devastation new oppressions. Overtook it now in the far extended bleakness, this poet chooses to retrieve the vision of a highway in the desert, the promise will be fulfilled once more but its meaning will be deeper and broader and more finally true.
So we to an hour time retrieve from Isaiah, this beautiful. Poetry this Vision. We can understand the imagery and vision within its context. And time we did a tiny little bit of that. Sermons are only this long, but we still use this text today. We use it to point to and inform our Advent narrative. Not just the one that talks of the birth of Jesus Emmanuel God With Us. But one that also talks about Christ, who will come again with Asian imagery, hope of divine restoration.
So how does this Vision that we hear today that we still want to be part of our vision of what is to come? How does it make sense now?
But as you all know, how we here at X depends on who we are.
It depends on where we located. It depends what we want and or need for the text to speak to us.
So we choose how we listen and we choose what we hear.
You all three ago. I had the Good Fortune to spend some holiday time on Martha's Vineyard. My sister. I was staying with her family, who family, she married into has a place there. Well, one evening my sister, and I decided to go to the far end of the Island from where we were staying to an annual event.
Each year, a number of African-American choirs often along with some quite remarkable soloists Converge on the island to perform a concert, which makes it sound a lot more Posh than it actually was. It was more like a jam session for those who are just incredible musicians. There was an impromptu combinations of choirs musicians instruments and voices.
It took place and a plain painted Timber church. That was a curious circular structure and it was far too hot for any choir robes.
Hymns and spirituals and quite incredible and prompt you solos with threaded through with a narrative.
Some of that was personal testimony, some of it was stories behind the reason these spirituals or these hymns that either been written for this all were from the past were important for the people that were singing it.
Some of them were passed through parents and Grandparents were Generations. There were stories of Times Gone by times of slavery, and oppression. And yet for many of those who were speaking, it was a continuing narrative for them of Oppression and Prejudice and Injustice.
So I listen to these words, these hymns, the scriptures of Hope just like the one who today or weeks, I'll seeking freedom from oppression. The hope of dwelling, in our land, not as outcasts, demeaned and diminished and denied fulness of flourishing.
I listened with a Dawning awareness.
I was hearing words that I knew.
Yet. I was hearing the meaning of them in a way and stark contrast to the usual way. I did usually I hear such Promises of restoration and transformation is words of Hope of how things will be different.
When moments of restoration and transformation breakthrough in a moment and time that makes God Nolan to us. And when we are a part of this, we participate in making God real but as I listened to the voices and song and prayer and testimony, what I came to hear was that hope was not so much in the restoration of things occasionally or sometime later. Hope was now.
In all the overwhelming challenges of life. God, Jesus was always and abiding lie with them.
The promise is that they are never alone or abandoned but accompanied in the company of a God who loves them fiercely and dearly Hope was a now thing.
And they were many tears of joy.
This wasn't a triumphal us now at narrative.
It wasn't a narrative that assume God was on their side and would be known when everything was restored according to their Vision or their program of things. It was a narrative that spoke of knowing and experiencing that whatever life would bring God was with them.
It made all the difference.
They transformed their world.
So I began to wonder if such way of hearing and knowing and receiving and living in a god present world was he experienced of those in Exile?
It is with those who knew Exile in Babylon with the Poetry of Isaiah reminded and restored to them the hope and promise that God present was with them in all of life, despite the appearance of things.
Let my ears attuned. So differently made me pause.
Have I learned to hear differently? Because I have power and privilege. Could it be that I hear from the vantage point of one who oppress us?
Unknowingly that. I am an oppressor.
In systems that oppress.
I would really, really like to soften that.
but maybe the hardness of it is necessary for me to dwell with I know that I want the world to procreation to be restored and creation to flourish, but how much of my creation destroying Comfort? Am I willing to give up?
I love the idea of the hungry being fed and the oppressed being set free.
I love the idea of there being a fair and just distribution of resources. So each has enough for their need. I love the idea because I desire to follow the Jesus way. I desire to trust myself to God's beneficence, to the Embrace of God, who loves me, But am I willing for the freedom? This grants me because I haven't position of power because I have more resources than I need. Am I willing to have that encroached upon to ensure the freedom and beliefs of others?
And am I willing to risk endangering my version of the way, the world is and having it up ended by another real of somebody else's.
In Advent, we hear these words to my Sia and they echo in Matthew.
In Advent, when we tell of God, born among us. When we say, we know, the promised Emmanuel has come Why are we singing come O? Come Emmanuel.
Is it because just as with that community that was post Exile that ice. I was speaking into Jesus visitation Among Us is an unsatisfied fulfillment. Things just don't seem to be that different real captors and refugees suffer in the present. The Earth is a burning desert. Bodies are broken City's. A joyless, and human hearts everywhere are sighing.
I will doesn't like this by chance. A lot of it happens because of the choices we make.
The choices we make to keep going a system of privilege that denies people and puts them in context of Exile, not just humans anymore, but I very creation.
but when we, as people of privilege, have the privilege of choosing and we recognized the way things are and we recognize it's an outcome of the choices we've made and we really want to do things differently for different outcomes.
What is a resource for choosing otherwise?
What poetic visions of Hope of long ago, like those from Isaiah, a part of a narrative Through Time, a narrative that has withstood the test of time.
That bears a wisdom within a context, you doesn't confined there.
take such as this provide, a broader scope a perspective, more tested and considered of how to live and how to be in the outcome then as possible for us to know within the time-bound limit of our lifetimes Could it be the wisdom? They bear as a kind of resource that you and I need the vision of Hope, and the vision of what happens when we don't live that way, could they hold up to us a mirror that makes us accountable and provides us with a challenge. So, we can choose differently.
A radiant challenge is to reimagine this old story from Isaiah for our time and our place.
As I listened to the voices of those in Martha's Vineyard, we might learn to hear that old story differently.
We might learn to hear it told through the experience of those in Exile.
and through them, the gift we receive is to be reminded to be reconnected, to be recommitted to Isaiah's Vision that despite the appearance of things, despite our inconsistency, we are part of a story that says God is here.
God is and now reality.
And whether that God is made known.
Depends very much on what we do.