St Matthews Digital
Advent and Christmas
08 December 2019
Helen Jacobi explores the concept of hope brought to us by Isaiah
Rev Cate Thorn
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It's kludgy, we're not supposed to have favorites. Fresheners.
But Tom is one of my favorites.
Tom can't make it to church anymore and so every month or so I taken communion at home and home for Tom now is a small room in a rest home. His life is getting narrower and smaller, he says can't read anymore which is something that he really loved. He told me several times how books were his university.
Last month, when I arrived for our service, he was looking out the window and he said, see that tree out there. I've been sitting here every day watching the tree come into leaf and he said, did you know that the leaves start at the top of the tree and gradually work their way down each day? Another layer appears and he said I didn't know that about trees before.
And then he said, isn't it great that I can sit here and watch God's creation at work and learn something new?
Tom 896 years of age modeling for me. What Advent hope is all about.
Advent is a season of Hope and writer. Hannah Malcolm says feeling hopeful has very little to do with being hopeful, we identify ourselves as hopeful people by the choices we make. And by the decision to live as though we are bringing in a new creation, it's not about feelings. It's about living.
The people of Israel and about the 700s BC had little reason to feel hopeful as Kate explained. Last week, Isaiah began his life as a prophet preaching. In the turbulent times of King ahaz who has no choice, but to collaborate with the Assyrians and the Babylonians, Prior to, the more hopeful passage that we heard read today. In chapter 10, we read that God will destroy the Assyrians and the land of Israel with them. God will wield an Axe and the remnant of the Trees of his Forest will be so few, that a child can write them down. The remnant of the trees will be so few that a child could make a list of them.
And then it's and that's what it would have. Felt like for the people as they suffered under foreign rulers and eventually was sent into Exile. 150 years later.
Yet still from this destroyed Forest, Isaiah says a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse.
Now, Jesse was the father of King, David Jesse was not a king, but a shepherd and his youngest son.
David was chosen to be the first king of Israel.
So, Isaiah is saying that the forest of Jesse, the kingly line has been laid waste. And yet from the stump, the remaining stump. Isaiah says, a new shoot will grow a new tree, and on this Kang, or this new leader, the spirit of God will rest a spirit of wisdom, understanding knowledge, and fear of God.
And the world will be changed. So much that even animals that would normally eat each other will live in peace together.
And as Kate also said, last week, we Christians tend to Leap Forward, 500 years and apply these descriptions. That Isaiah gives us to Jesus, we claim the description of Isaiah for our own picture of Jesus.
but this Narrows Isaiah down and to one track of thought and can limit our vision somewhat It is true that John the Baptist from Matthew's gospel picks up the same imagery to describe the coming of Jesus. Even now John the Baptist says the axe is lying at the root of the trees every tree. Therefore that does not bear. Fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
But of course, Matthew as a gospel writer, has access to the prophet, Isaiah just as we do. And so is inspired by the same imagery, but that doesn't mean that Isaiah was only talking about Jesus.
Isaiah was addressing the people and politics of his time. And if we can use the imagery to address our time, then we can also follow in the prophets footsteps with Jesus alongside us.
Walter Brueggemann sees, as much as any of the prophets of ancient Israel. Isaiah is the voice of an insistent public Theology. And insistent, public Theology, and assertion that yahweh's rule matters, consistently to policy and practice the demands of God can or should be seen and heard and the way that we make policy together and our societies, the way we Act, Towards each other, the way we look after the vulnerable.
In Isaiah's day, a Calamity or a natural disaster was seen as a direct intervention of God into the lives of the nation's. If the land of Israel was invaded, well, it was clearly a judgment of God against the people. If an earthquake struck, the people must have sinned but we don't see war or earthquakes in that way today.
And yet things like storms and Rising temperatures which we know are a consequence of climate change caused by human actions. Could indeed be seen as judgment upon us. Our actions do have consequences sometimes on the whole Earth.
They must be many Samoan parents. Today feeling abandoned by God as their children. Die one after another in the Dreadful measles epidemic.
Those children are suffering and dying because of our inaction as a nation and maybe the inaction of Samoa and leaders as well.
But I think the Judgment, they're really falls on us as a nation.
How we long for a world where 50 plus children just up the road? Don't die of measles where Isaiah's vision of the wolf living with the lamb and up child playing with the snake. Would not be a crazy one. We're swords are turned into plowshares and Spears into pruning hooks.
Hannah Malcolm says, I don't believe that the people of Israel were convinced that lying Lions, lying down with Lambs or the end of all war were sensible. Things to expect prophetic hope insists that a different world must be possible and then insists, we live as though, it must be possible even if it seems totally unreasonable.
It is also the prophetic task. She says to declare peace while telling the truth about the daily reality of violence. It's not just kind of, you know, dreams in the sky realism. She sees is an important component of prophetic work, but it can't end there. We must both Express the material truth of the danger, we are in and the truth of the hope that we cling to And the church should be better at this unrealistic. Hope after all we believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Despite our overwhelming experience that did people stay dead?
feeling hopeful has very little to do with being hopeful, we identify ourselves, as hopeful people by the choices we make, By the decision to live as though we are bringing in a new creation.
So, how we doing it? Living with hope this Advent?
Well, nurses and doctors have gone to Sam or to care for the sick.
some of you are living with illness or disability and living well anyway, Others of you are missing loved ones. This Christmas and you're still looking forward to Christmas.
We are changing our ways for the sake of the climate, as best we can. The City Mission is getting ready to feed 2000 people on Christmas Day.
The housing first program is housing, people who are homeless one person at a time.
A couple of weeks ago, I was at a conference where I went to a workshop led by three men who had previously been homeless. They were part of the original design group for the housing first program and they described going to their first meeting with government departments people, people, from the city Mission people from lice LifeWise and they said that they were astonished when they realized halfway through the first meeting that if they said something or offered an opinion, it would get written up.
On the Whiteboard just like everybody else.
And that was the moment. They said that things changed for them because they felt valued.
And now three years on they are housed and working for LifeWise helping to house others. And I could tell you, they could lead a workshop with all the social design jargon just like all the professionals at the conference.
When they were listened to, they began to live with hope.
So how are we doing? Living with hope this Advent.
Tom can't walk very far now or read or do most of the things that he once did.
But Tom lives were lives with Hope by watching the tree come into Leaf outside his window and giving thanks to God when it does.