March 24, 2019 Sermon
March 24, 2019 Sermon
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:1-9
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you
because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
New Testament Scripture: Luke 13:1-9
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them — do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did."
Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, 'See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"
Sermon: “Weird Logic”
As I mentioned last week, Lent is the season in which we are invited to examine our lives, to examine those things in which we put our trust. We are challenged to view the way we do things through a different perspective, a heavenly perspective. We are challenged to trust our lives to the hand of God.
It’s not easy to trust. We live in a changing world, a world in which doing the right thing is rarely rewarded, in which being open is seen as being vulnerable, in which good Samaritans are played as suckers. The idea of trusting in the good intentions of those flesh and blood people all around us is hard enough.
It’s even harder to trust in the abstract idea of God, especially when the circumstances of our lives call into question the power of God, the love of God, even perhaps, the existence of God. For those imprisoned in death camps and prisons during World War 2, the presence of God was hard to trust. In the dark nights of our lives that there was no reason to hope. In times of grief and pain, it’s hard to see the logic of God’s plan.
It can seem sometimes even that the hand of God is against us, and that the best thing is to just batten the hatches, hunker down, and wait out the storm. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to hope. It’s not rational. It’s not logical. Because it looks like we’re on our own.
And the people that are being addressed in today’s scripture know this reality all too well.
Isaiah is writing to a people in chains. Some of the chains are visible. Some of them are not. Some of them are recognized as chains. Some are not. Isaiah’s people have been exiled in Babylon for so long that some of them were born in Babylon, went to school in Babylon. They’ve heard stories of the greatness of Israel, but for them, they’re only stories. They’ve never seen their home country.
They’ve heard about God, but they hear about a lot of gods. The gods of their captors, the Babylonians seem to have the upper hand right now. It appears that the one God, the God of Israel has been silent.
In fact, it appears that their captivity is not just a result of God being silent. It appears that this is God’s will. That God is punishing them for something. Evidently, they have sinned so badly, for so long, that God had no choice but to exile them. They are exiled, not just from Israel, but from the love of God itself.
There is no bridging the gap between them and God. They have finally done it. They have broken the covenant. God has disowned them. They are no longer Children of God. They are homeless, orphans, immigrants, aliens, destitute, ruined. They have forgotten their God. And they have been forgotten by God. At least, it sure looks that way. For some of them.
But not all of the exiles have forgotten their homeland. There are still those who remember the greatness of the temple, the patterns of life in the Holy City. They remember their worship of God, they remember the High Holy Day of Atonement, when their sin was taken from them, and they were made once more one with God.
But they also remember the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple. They are still those who remember the long walk from Israel to Babylon a journey of over 700 miles. They remember the bitterness of leaving their homeland, the taunting of the captors, the blasphemous things said about their God. “Sing us a song of Jerusalem,” the Babylonians would shout “Sing to us about your mighty God.”
And they can’t help but wonder if maybe their captors were right. They’ve been in this foreign land for so long now. They’ve had to adapt to foreign customs, foreign food. They’ve had to take up a new life in Babylon. Some of them have even become respected in the community, tradesman, craftsman, shopkeepers. They might not be in the power structures, they may have to keep their heads down, but they’ve made a life for themselves in exile out of nothing.
But now, there’s something stirring in the air. They’ve heard something new. Their Babylon conquerors have themselves been conquered. And the pagan King, King Cyrus of Persia has decreed that the exiles from Israel can return to Jerusalem, to reclaim their lives and their land.
They have been freed from their captivity, freed from their bondage, from their lives under the thumbs of the Babylonians.
But the question is, do they want to go home? Do they want to go on a dangerous journey that could take months, to what? A devastated city, a ruined temple? To start over, to rebuild, yet again your life?
It is a daunting prospect. I can hardly blame anyone for thinking twice about leaving their home in Babylon, of moving their family, uprooting their children from the only home they’ve known in pursuit of a what could be just a dream, a vapor from the past. This kind of complete trust in God is hard to imagine. To let go of what they know, even though what they know is limiting and oppressive, is a huge decision. To step out into the unknown path of God’s call for them to return seems like a request that is just too much. Too far, too hard, too scary, too late.
And it is to these people that Isaiah is writing. To those who are facing West, wondering if they are ready to trust that God is waiting for them. Wondering if God will be with them on the road, wondering if God will provide for them, if they leave the comforts of captivity behind.
Because we trust the confines of our self-constructed prisons. The walls that we erect around us might keep us in, but they also keep the unknown out. They may be constricting, but they are also comforting. We hate our private jail cells, but we trust them to keep us safe. The exiles have seen their prison doors thrown open, their chains are gone, and they are free to go.
But will they go? Are they ready to come home? Will they walk through the open gates, and return to their homeland, to their faith? Are they willing to let go of what they know, and come home to God?
“Come,” Isaiah says. “Eat what is good. Come to the waters, never thirst. Listen, and hear the words of life. No matter where you’ve been, you can come home again. No matter what you’ve done, you can come home again. No matter your fear, your confusion, your uncertainty, you can come home again.
“For God has not forgotten you. God never left you, even in the midst of your darkest nightmare. God has been with you in the desert, in the loneliness, in the anger, in the hurt, in the shame. Because God has promised his people to never leave them. To never forsake them. That no matter the divide, God will mend it. No matter the sin, God will forgive it. No matter the distance between you and God, God will bridge it, and will bring you close. Trust him. Go to him. Because God is near.”
We can’t always say why bad things happen to us. We don’t know why evil exists, why tragedy strikes the very best of us. We don’t know why we are ourselves are prone to bring destruction down onto our own heads, to say things and do things that are just plain mean and stupid.
We don’t know why there exists in our hearts a breach that we cannot heal, a breach that infects our lives and our relationships. We don’t know why we are this way, why humanity is so flawed, so full of potential, yet so broken. None of this makes sense. None of it is logical.
But we do know that we are not alone in our humanity.
Because God continues to call to us, over the breach. And this is the strangest logic of all. Even when we can’t keep up our end of the covenant, he does. He continues to love us, continues to care for us. We can’t pay for it. We have done nothing to deserve it. Yet, God continues to keep his promises to us. And that’s heavenly logic. Because his ways are different than our ways.
Regardless of our own separation from him, he comes to us, and invites us to return to him, to trust him enough to take that first step back to who we were meant to be.
And he doesn’t just call to us. God personally shows us the way to come home.
On this table before is bread that cannot be purchased, wine that cannot be bought. There is life and forgiveness at this table that cannot be earned. It is here, free for the taking, for anyone who is hungry for hope. It is here, free for the drinking for anyone who thirsts for acceptance.
Come home, and trust that God is waiting for you here.
Thanks be to God. Amen