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A Hopeful Vision For Hurting People

October 15, 2017

A HOPEFUL VISION FOR HURTING PEOPLE

New Millennium Church, Little Rock, AR

October 15, 2017 (Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

 

Isaiah 25:1-9

 

25O Lord, you are my God;
   I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
   plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 
2 For you have made the city a heap,
   the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
   it will never be rebuilt. 
3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
   cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 
4 For you have been a refuge to the poor,
   a refuge to the needy in their distress,
   a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, 
5   the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
   the song of the ruthless was stilled. 


6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
   a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
   of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear. 
7 And he will destroy on this mountain
   the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
   the sheet that is spread over all nations; 
8 he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
   and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
   for the Lord has spoken. 
9 It will be said on that day,
   Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
   This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
   let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

 

The people who select the scripture readings for the Revised Common Lectionary don’t know you and me.  They don’t know our struggles.  

 

When the Lectionary Committee selected this passage for our reflection on this Sunday, they did not know what would be happening in the world, our nation, or any of our lives last week, this week, and today.  

 

No, they didn’t know about Hurricanes Harvey, Jose, and Maria.  The Lectionary Committee didn’t know Hurricane Maria would leave our neighbors in Puerto Rico with their roads and bridges damaged. They didn’t know our Puerto Rican sisters and brothers would be without electrical power and without safe drinking water.  

 

They could not have known that the President of the United States would mock our fellow Americans and accuse them of being a burden on the national treasury.  They didn’t know that Congressman French Hill – the Member of Congress elected to represent the Second Congressional District of Arkansas (in the central part of the state) – would vote against legislation to provide disaster relief to people in Puerto Rico, to pay for wildfire management and recovery efforts, and to support the federal flood insurance program (see https://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2017/10/14/french-hill-votes-against-disaster-aid-to-puerto-rico).

 

Isaiah 25:1-9 was not written nor selected by people who know us or our struggles.  Yet, this passage touches issues affecting every soul.  

 

Humans everywhere and in every period of time have been beset by oppressive forces and powers.  The storms of life rage for all people.  None of us is immune from sickness, injury, oppressive people, unpredictable and inescapable weather, suffering, and death.   

 

Isaiah 25:1-9 was written for hurting people like us.  It was written to people like us who live in a hurtful world where powerful people mistreat others who are weak.  We live in a world where comfortable people are indifferent toward others who suffer.  

 

We live in a world where immigrants and strangers are wrongly accused of stealing jobs, being threats to personal and public safety.  We live in a world where white religious nationalists who claim to be “values voters” voted to elect and now praise as President of the United States a corrupt business owner, a bigot, misogynist, personal and commercial cheater, and a pathological liar.   We live in a society where people are routinely abused, robbed, and killed by agents of law enforcement.

 

Isaiah 25:1-9 was written for hurting people.  It was written for us!

 

And what we find in this passage are words of vision and hope.  The prophet opens with praise to God.  O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you.  I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure (Isaiah 25:1).  

 

Our hope is not in crooked politicians.  

 

Our hope is not in marching armies.  

 

Our hope is not in banks and investment companies.  

 

The United States is not our God.

 

Donald Trump is not our God, nor is anyone else who has been or may be elected President of the United States.

 

Political parties – including whatever party you agree with or oppose – are not our God.  

 

Hurricanes and wildfires, mudslides and earthquakes, climate change and global warming, and other natural and human-caused disasters are not our God.

 

Yes, we live in a world affected by these forces and actors.  But they are not our God!  

 

Hurting people become hopeful when we remember that the forces that hurt us and terrorize our living are not God!  They are not supreme.  They are not the final authorities on our lives and futures.  So we can take hope by joining this prophet in the face of all the painful stuff we go through and say, O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you.  I will praise your name…  We can become hopeful when we face our painful situations head-on and say – to ourselves and the world – I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.  O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together (Psalm 34:1-3).  

 

Hurting people become hopeful also by having memories of deliverance and liberation.  We become hopeful by remembering that God has liberating plans for us and by remembering what God has done in the past to liberate oppressed people.  For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.  When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of the clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled (Isaiah 25:4-5). 

 

Remember what God has done!  Remember how God delivered Africans from slavery despite what powerful people wanted.  

 

Remember how God delivered the right to vote, hold jobs, and earn equal pay to women despite what powerful men wanted.

 

Remember how God used prophets and politicians to deliver the minimum wage for workers despite what the chamber of commerce crowd wanted.  

 

Remember how God used prophetic preachers, weary old people, scared students, and energetic children to march, take on hateful police, face down dogs, get blown over by fire hoses, and sacrifice their lives to tear down segregation in public accommodations, despite what segregationists and white supremacists wanted.  

 

Remember what God has done.  Remember how God has worked in the past.  Remember how God made a way out of no way.  Remember how God brought other people out.  Talk about it!  Remind one another that God has record for deliverance and liberation we can trust!  Remember!  

 

Lastly, hurting people become hopeful by catching God’s Mount Zion vision of peace and justice for all!  That is what the prophet has done at verses 6 thru 9 of Isaiah 25.  

 

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.  And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  Then the LORD God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.  It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.  This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. 

 

Hurting people become hopeful when we catch and proclaim God’s vision of peace, justice, and joy for all people!

 

 In God’s vision no group is excluded or favored.  

 

In God’s vision all are welcomed and protected from danger.  

 

In God’s vision all people in every nation, tribe, language, and background all are delivered from the shroud of death.  All people from every nation know about death.  Yet our hurt turns to hope because of a vision of all people experiencing life, love, justice, peace, and joy with God -  together!  

 

In the Hebrew Testament that vision is called Mount Zion. It is a vision that we read about at Psalm 48. 

 

Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God.  His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King… We ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple… Let Mount Zion rejoice, … Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; do through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever.  He will be our guide forever.  Psalm 48:1-2, 9, 11a, 12-14

 

In the New Testament, Jesus proclaimed the Mount Zion his lessons about a banquet where everyone is invited and welcomed – even people who might be considered unfit for royal settings – but where anyone who refuses to take on the garment of divine love and justice is expelled (see Matthew 22:1-14).  

 

Our hope is the God of Mount Zion!  Our faith is in that God.  We live with hurt, but praise God by Mount Zion hope.  Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God.  For this is God our God, forever and ever!

 

He will be our guide.  Not foolish rulers.  Not the shifting situations of life.  Our guide is the God of Mount Zion.  Our guide is the God who sent Jesus.  Our guide is the God who pours out the Holy Spirit.  

 

This Mount Zion vision is about love and justice and peace.  It is about God’s extravagant hospitality and unfailing mercies.  This vision captures us and carries us in every situation.  

 

With this vision, we lift our voices and hold onto our faith.  With this vision, we press on through every setback, every mountain, every valley, every crooked way, and every rough place.  

 

We are people of the Mount Zion God!  We hope because God is great and greatly to be praised.  We hope because we remember what God has done.  We hope.  We will hope.  And we will tell coming generations of this God of Mount Zion love, Mount Zion justice, Mount Zion peace, and Mount Zion joy!  

 

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Amen.

 

©Wendell Griffen, 2017