Generally speaking when I’m writing my sermons, I read through all the readings, I think about them, I pray for guidance and clarity of meaning, I look up some historical information about the time period of the readings and then in most cases, I go with the Gospel reading as my main source of inspiration.
But today, I wasn’t inspired by the Gospel, instead, it was the Old Testament reading from Isaiah that I couldn’t stop thinking about. It has nearly been a year, since our lives were turned upside down and this pandemic took over all aspects of reality. All of our lives have changed forever. No one has been spared from the Covid-19.
That being said, this isn’t the first time a pandemic has happened and it won’t be the last. Just as tragedy and adversity has always existed since the beginning of mankind. Tragedy and adversity will continue to exist in the future.
In our reading today from Isaiah, we hear some pretty beautifully written words about hope and inspiration. These words were in response to some people in some pretty difficult situations. These words by Isaiah were shared with the people of Babylonia in the wake of their great exile probably around the 530’s BC. Now I’m not going to bore you with all the historical details, but keep in mind, that Isaiah’s words were given to a people, whose lives were placed on hold, as they lived in Exile.
Exile. An interesting word. One of the earliest meanings of this word is from the French, and it meant to banish.
This past year, I have often felt banished. Banished to the four corners of my house and yard. Banished from shopping at Ross or Marshalls. Banished from setting foot inside a grocery store or movie theatre or even a restaurant. Banished from seeing my friends in person. The worst for me has been the banishment from worshiping in community within our beloved St. Marks with all of you.
It has been like we have been living in Exile from the rest of the world. I have been fortunate to have a safe bubble of close family. I have been able to see my Grandson and Granddaughter on a regular basis, and My Children. But like many of us, I wasn’t there to say goodbye to a close friend who died. Or there for the birth of a child. Or there to give my students a supportive hug. Or there to celebrate all those birthdays, anniversaries and other joyous times.
We have all been banished into Covid exile.
So when I read the first lines of Isaiah today, the beauty of the words, the Poetry really of the words, filled my heart. It filled me by reminding me that God is the one in charge. God is in charge.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
Isaiah is reminding us like a parent would or a teacher would of what God is to us. He is the Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end. He is our Creator and protector. God is in Charge.
Isaiah then continues with these beautifully crafted words:
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to live in;
who brings princes to naught,
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
God is our creator and our provider. He can tear down governments with a snap of his fingers. He nurtures us like a seedling in the fresh soil, but can blow us over at his beckoning. Pretty powerful words that remind us that we are powerless over God. We are like dust in the wind. He is the one who made us and is ever present to help us live our lives.
To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God"?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Isaiah is reminding his people who have been living in exile and banished that God is still with them, even when they think he is not. He is reminding them, that God knows each and every one of them and US by name. He remembers each and every one of his children by NAME. These are words to give us great comfort today and every day in our own exiles that we are experiencing. Even in our darkest Covid hours, God is right there. He knows me. He knows you. He knows all his children and knows them well. God is in Charge. In charge. In charge.
The words of encouragement continue:
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
These words are so powerful in their meaning and in their truth. God doesn’t stop. The older I get, the longer it takes me to do things which is understandable. But here Isaiah, he says that even Young people will get tired and exhausted, but not God. In these words, Isaiah reminds us that God gives us strength when we are powerless and tired.
And then Isaiah finishes this poetry with this beautiful metaphor:
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
Wings like eagles....They shall run and not get tired...They shall walk and not become exhausted.
Powerful words. Powerful meaning. Powerful encouragement. Powerful Hope.
If we trust in God. Recognize that he is the one in control not us. We will find peace and strength to carry on.
I can’t speak for anyone else but myself. But I am exhausted. I am so done with being exiled and banished.
I have been depressed. I have been lonely. I have been filled with anxiety. It has been a very difficult year.
But then, when things seem their darkest, I am lead to read God’s words like these in Isaiah, and I am once again, reminded, that God is in charge not me, and I will get through this and we will get through this and the reward will be great.
So today, I ask you
Have you not known? Yes, I know
Have you not heard? Yes, I hear
Has it not been told you from the beginning? Yes, I have been told.
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? Yes, I understand.