Sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship
Sunday 15th December 2013
Isaiah 35:1-10 and Matthew 11:2-11
‘“Vengeance is mine” saith the Lord’ - how many times have we heard those words spoken as an excuse for someone enacting their own. Here in Isaiah vengeance is revealed not with a sword but with the transformed world and a homecoming that will be explored in more depth the later chapters of 40-55.
Here the prophecy in Isaiah, prophecy in poetry asserts God’s dream – his will, his life, his presence over every zone of reality. All creation will be restored to well-being, to shalom and where there is shalom there is well being; where is a lack of shalom, there is poverty in every sense of the word: the desert, the dry land, you think you may have seen fruitfulness before, but you wait!! It is coming in abundance. The very land will sing with fruitfulness that will herald a new creation, a new beginning.
There is a new story to be written. There is a new narrative to live by. It will not be one of exile but of coming home. No longer will they need to look back at a better time to escape from their present suffering, but they can look forward to a richer time, to help them live in the now. The narrative is one of what is to come rather than what has been. This is what will inform the lives of the those suffering the pains of exile now.
Isaiah moves on from creation that was arid to humans who are enfeebled. They are tied down by all sorts of things and are not living life as God intended – just like creation – but when He comes it will be different. The blind see, the lame dance, the deaf hear the dumb sing: all things which have robbed life will be overturned.
When Jesus replies to John’s disciples we see these words used as examples of God’s reign beginning on earth. The answer to John’s disciples “Are you the One’? is ‘see what is happening’. The ripples of the new era are beginning to be felt. These ripples will test your perceptions of reality. They will dislodge your assumptions. They will begin to shake your securities. Jesus identity is bound up through his deeds.
The poet prophet Jesus, the one who will bring to light the dreams of God, the very Word of God made flesh bringing a renewed creation, a renewed humanity, comes to us now. His life is expressed in us. When people ask today - ‘who is Jesus?’ in part the answer will be seen in us. This is a high calling and one which affects the way we are with one another. It affects the words we use of each other. It affects the attitudes we hold towards our neighbour.
John is the Vicar of St Paul’s, Tupsley and St Andrews, Hampton Bishop in Hereford Diocese. He’s also currently doing Doctoral Studies at Kings College London.