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In days to come
Well, today, marks the first Sunday in Advent Advent, which we might understand as that in between season.
Jesus Emmanuel God With Us has come out of dition, says it. Our tradition also says that Christ once come is to come again. And so we wait With anticipation anticipation and the narrative. We know where we are, awaiting the birth of Christ. Again, God come in, human form back then anticipation, in the narrative, we tell of the restoring Christ, who will come again, The opening words from Isaiah today are words of anticipation in the days to come.
These are the words of one who was named a prophet.
when you know, these are words named by a prophet, does it cause you to hear them as predicting and speaking of things that are yet to come, It's interesting though, because these words that we think might be of the future told by a prophet, a centuries-old, Isaiah sign of am, has lived in a particular context, for the says this word, is concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the time that ice I loved.
And the Poetry we heard today is redolent with words of Hope of a restored creation.
But when we look back over the history of time, this hasn't come to past hasn't come to pass. So we look back and linear time to hear tell of things still to take place in the future this in-between time. The gospel words, we hear today, I might understand as being part of a hinged time, they come from the mouth of Jesus. The one that we have named since, then God With Us, that hinge time when God was present here on Earth speaking of And still to come or Future Hope, but about that day and that hour, no one knows.
Only the father.
All we know is it is to come and while we wait, we are to keep awake.
Waiting with what we know of what has been. And from what, we know, what we expect is to come.
In these four, Sunday's of Advent, we have decided to pay attention, attention to the readings of Isaiah, to return them, to their own context. And to hear them speak, hear what they have to speak to us without necessarily appropriating them entirely to our Christian narrative curiously, as I have explored a bit of Isaiah and these texts before us the potency within the context of its time, and place is renewed and interestingly Potency continues from them to us now.
But all of, you know, a lot about the book of Isaiah I'm assuming is that right?
No, no I wouldn't say that off myself either so I confess that I have borrowed some words and some ideas from from a chap called Gordon mcconville. Who knows a lot more about these things than me. So taken some advice from him.
As we hear from today's opening past the opening of today's passage, the book of Isaiah is attributed to his Isaiah son of Amos, according to the introduction to the book. As I worked in the reins of Hosea, joatham Aid has and Hezekiah, but mainly in ahaz and Hezekiah that's when Isaiah's main activity took place. So we're talking about 735 2687 BCE The relationship between Isaiah and a has who was the first one that's formed. We hear a little bit later and it happens when a has is at a crisis Point. Not only is he under threat of the Assyrian Growing Power in the area, but the, the nation of Judah has recently been attacked by an alliance between Israel and Syria. This was when, of course, Judah and Israel was separated one from the other and as was choice for self-defense, as to turn to.
Assyria, which seems to be going quite well. But one of the other things that he does and making this decision is to introduce some Assyrian Temple, worship practices into the Jerusalem Temple. And this is where Isaiah and a has do not agree on things. And so at this time, Isaiah begins one of his major themes that the king and people should not trust an alliance with a foreign power for survival and prosperity, they should trust in God.
This theme continues through Isaiah's work with Hezekiah who was a has a son.
And this threat of Assyria forms, the background of Isaiah's Ministry. This threat from the superpower is a setting for which Isaiah calls for faithfulness.
But when you consider the whole Corpus, the whole work of Isaiah, the book of the concern for faithfulness winds threatened, by dominating power at this not limited to Assyria Babylon appears as a much more dominant that Focus later on. And in historical times Babylon, succeeded Assyria as a leading power in about 605 BC. And then, as we know, Judy fell and went into Babylonian exile, and that was about 587 BC.
And that's by this time, Isaiah had been dead for about a century.
But we know that Isaiah the chapters 40 to 55 concern, the people of Judah and exhale and the beginning of Isaiah, 56, and Isaiah 65 to 66 address a community that has returned from exile to Jerusalem.
So these are storico events that inform the backdrop of this whole Corpus of Isaiah suggested simply can't have been written by one person however much scholarship. Much modern scholarship has come to think that the book of Isaiah has been deliberately shaped as a hole in its present form over a very long period of time.
And so, they interpreted Isaiah as having a unity and coherence and its themes and its theology.
Of course, there is no way to work out the message of Isaiah and who would want to reduce it to that. But once we assume that Isaiah didn't write the whole of it, not all of it. Are his words. Then there's There are some common themes. There are some common thoughts. People have the scholars have these things that there's some common ideas about what Isaiah is saying. And as I want to produce, introduce a few of those Gordon mcconville has space, for suggestions about some common themes. And I want to invite you to consider how these things impact, our own understanding of faith, and how to live it out these Scholars. Assert, that I saw his messages based on a single foundation and that single Foundation is the belief that Shockwave God of Israel is the only one who was high and lifted up that no other Earthly power can challenge, Yahweh nor any other God.
Mcconville argues that the shapes Isaiah's thinking in his politics and ethics and the future of Judah and Jerusalem. As we've already heard politically is a consistent argument that in crisis rulers, should trust in Yahweh.
Because Yahweh has power over all of history, authority over, Kings of Judah and of all Nations and authority over the forces of nature.
We're thinking about ethics and the future of Jerusalem and Judah. The claim is made that in Isaiah, God's overriding aim is to establish righteousness and Justice. And this was the imagery, we heard of Jerusalem that dominates, The Poetry of Isaiah, the assertion is that this idea of righteousness and Justice comes from the nature of God is a characteristic of God God who is Holy desires, a certain kind of order because that is what God is like I thought this particularly interesting, the idea that God's power to save to save the people is for the purpose of making. Them are people who show Justice and righteousness.
Isaiah's message is a vision and unfolding unfolding of view of what Society could and should be like it declares God's intention to make God's chosen people into such a society even if they consistently fail.
One of the things I was interested to learn although it is not mentioned in the book of Isaiah, that doesn't record the fall of Jerusalem. That happened in 58, Seabees 587 BCE but this question of God's plan for Jerusalem as worked out in the light of the fact that Jerusalem gets destroyed so this hope is happened after it would seem all hope is lost So put this into our time. These ideas of a twin version of this idea of what could be and what isn't yet.
In our time, do we not hold a vision of being God's people? People of righteousness, and of Justice. We plowshares dominate over guns.
Do we not think that it is our call to Incarnate this righteousness and Justice this nature of God, which might seem a big claim. But this is the revelation of Jesus, is it not of how humans can live and to be and we know we fall short, it, the vision of hope that this can be made real remains with us.
So, I size twin Vision still challenges us.
We still look back for such words or future. Hope they join. Those gospel words of our Christian tradition that we say stands and continuity that one of Isaiah And it's still speaking of Future, Hope.
Yet we live now.
In this time.
when things are not aligned according to what, we imagine Divine vision is Who's come to impact? What we expect of God in real life?
We look back, we can trace the Arc of our scripture and we can see how God has been on the life of the faithful, and in the world.
and we look forward as we hear promise of God's, restoration of the world that is to come We look around our world today and find it hard to imagine. God is with us.
Surely, this world is too broken and hurtful and too messy and complicated to coexist with God.
We humans are too overrun with our own importance bent on the destruction of our creation for it to be true that divine presence is with us.
Do we find it hard to imagine some divine presence, as actor as real and tangible, and provably able to make any difference?
You see easily this idea of divine activity. In the world becomes an optional extra a nice accessory, but not a fundamental requirement for end of life.
It is this because we have come to fit God to our expectations of what right to living and of justice. And of righteousness will look like and because we don't see the things the way we imagined they would be if God was with us here, then we interpret this to mean that God is largely absent because surely when everything is made good and beautiful and bountiful and full of life then it proves that God is here.
But what if God is here?
And it is, we who fail to recognize such presents because it isn't what we think it should be.
I was struck by a poem that Malcolm greet wrote. He's an Anglican priest in England and apart he wrote it for last week's Feast Day Christ the King and I apologize in advance for the mail language.
It is taking the the image of the Man of Sorrows from Isaiah.
Our King is calling from the hungry. Pharaohs, whilst we are cruising through the aisles of Plenty. Our Holdings screen us from the Man of Sorrows our Centrex doubt, drown. His murmur. I am thirsty.
He stands in line to sign in as a stranger and seek a welcome from the world. He made. You see him only as a threat or danger.
He asked for clothes and we stripped Stitch him instead and if he should fall sick, then we take care that he does not infect our private Health, we lock him in the presence of our fear, lest he unlocked, the prison of our wealth.
But still on Sunday. We shall stand and sing the Praises of our hidden. Lord and King.
Now in between time, how we come to hold lightly to the possibility of God and real time.
Maybe in this meantime, we wait and hope for God to make our world, right?
Begun to wonder with this vision of things. Hoped for a future. Hope of divine restoration has come to lull us to think no matter how badly we act, or what the things we do wrong. Ultimately we can't destroy them because, you know, God's and church sort of like a get out of jail free card. So quietly, we absent our responsibility to grow into the stature.
Of divine creation of us in like children. We expect someone else to provide for our someone else to clean up after us. Someone else, to make things all better.
If we were to dig deep enough and inquire close enough, might this be a little bit of what we think, maybe we're just a little bit parent, God hung up.
You see, it affects how we understand who we are. It affects how we understand. Our place in creation, our role, our responsibility in life, and our responsibility, for the life of this world.
It affects what we expect to find in life now.