Musical Prelude and Service.

 

Isaiah 49:1-7
So, I am a fan of JRR Tolkien. Considering some people I know – some family members really –
I actually feel a little inadequate in using the word fan for my enjoyment of Tolkien’s works.
I haven’t read the Silmarillion or other since-published books. I can’t automatically quote sections
of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. I can’t tell you much at all about the canonical history of Middle
Earth chronicled in a host of associated books and writings.
But what I have read and viewed I enjoy immensely. It has influenced my taste in literature and
entertainment in a great many ways, and I find some profound wisdom in Tolkien’s writing that gives
me pause and thought.
For those who are unfamiliar with Tolkien’s works, The Hobbit is the story of a Hobbit – a small
person – who is recruited to accompany a band of Dwarves and a wizard on a journey to steal a
treasure from a dragon. The Lord of the Rings tells the tale of another Hobbit – the nephew of the
character from the first book – who along with a few friends ends us embarking on a journey with a
collection of heroes, dwarves, elves and other warriors to destroy a powerful ring. It is a story of
good versus evil and discovering what you have inside to contribute to the struggle.
One of the things that stands out for me in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is an incredible sense of
nostalgia that is part of the society Tolkien writes about. The stories and legends of those who came
before are many. They are powerful stories and people revere the heroes and kings recounted in
them. They are from an age of heroes. The people occupying the world today can’t possibly live up to
the examples set by the men and women of these stories and legends. Warriors and kings who did
battle with the forces of evil and created the world the characters now occupy. The implication is that
humanity is in decline. There are no longer any great men or women. People live in the shadow of
these mighty heroes.
For me, reading these incredible books, I was struck by a tale of people who were taking on a
perilous and perhaps hopeless task, while not at all convinced they were up to the challenge set
before them.
I don’t think this is a spoiler, but of course, they prevail. They save the world. They are part of
remaking Middle Earth one more time.
Our reading this morning comes from the middle part of Isaiah. It is generally called Second Isaiah.
Scholars believe the prophet wrote it after Babylon had invaded and conquered the Southern
Kingdom of Israel, or Judah. It is written for the people taken into exile. These are people struggling
to come to terms with the tragedy that now dominated their lives. How did they as a chosen people
come to this? Who are they, if not protected by God? What is their relationship now to God, and what
now is their purpose?
Finally, are they able to live up to the challenge of carrying on the heritage and the expectations
placed before them? Powerless, impoverished and displaced from their home.
There is some speculation about who the servant in question is. Is it the prophet who writes this?
Or is it the people of Israel? Either way it points us in the same direction. God calls people to a task;
to a mission if you will. God offers us a purpose. However, all too often we are left feeling unworthy
of this call. We look at ourselves and can’t imagine being capable of what seems to be placed before
us.
When I came to the realization that I was experiencing a call to ministry, it left me a bit shaken.
I experienced a great many doubts. What would this mean for my life? What would this mean for the
lives of those closest to me? And was I truly capable of the work of ordained ministry? Early in my
discernment, a number of people around me were offended on my behalf that I had to go through a
lengthy process of discernment, including meeting with committees and being interviewed by various
people in positions of authority, before being approved as a candidate. All I can say is that I
appreciated the process as it helped me come to grips with my doubts and anxieties.
But I certainly experienced them. I wondered if I would be capable of some of what seemed the
more challenging parts of ministry. I asked if I had the talent and the intelligence of so many clergy
people I admired.
It was only over time I came to realize such comparisons, such doubts were not fair to myself.
They blocked me from being the person God saw me to be.
God knew you before you were born.
We are called to trust God; to have faith in the work God does. But on top of that, we are told over
and over that God has faith in us. We are not perfect. We keep making mistakes. Sadly, we seem to
be in the habit of making the same mistakes repeatedly. But all the same, God continues to hold faith
in us. God does not give up on us, but keeps returning to offer us chance after chance to follow God
and fulfill the work God puts before us.
So, what is God calling us to do?
We can speak in generalities. We can talk about the call to work with God towards creating a world
of love and justice and of mercy. We can talk about the commandment to love one another. To love
our neighbour. But are we as a community being called to something a bit more concrete?
Are we experiencing a sense of estrangement right now as we come through this challenging time of
pandemic? Are we feeling a little bit lost? Perhaps?
Is it perhaps time to take some time to listen for God’s voice in our midst? Is it time to consider what
it is that we have and what role we can play in the world around us? And can we dedicate ourselves
to playing a part; however small, in making a difference? We may feel too small for the task, lacking
the might and the training of those around us or who have come before us; perhaps like a few
hobbits we have read about. Perhaps we compare ourselves unfavourably to our ancestors.
But can we agree God sees us as being so much more than we see ourselves to be and stand up and
say, Here I am God? Send me.
Blessings
Rev. Warner Bloomfield

 

 

Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789