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Musical prelude and Sermon

 

Sermon

Isaiah 65:17-25

In recent weeks, perhaps months, it has become clear a great many of us, I must include myself in this number, are craving a return to the way things used to be.

We want to go back to 2019, to return to how we had always done things. Take in live theatre and sporting events crammed close together. Go out for dinner without so many hurdles and concerns. Travel without testing and proof of vaccination.

And of course, returning to how we used to worship and how we did church.

It would certainly be convenient. And it would make things so much easier, and it would be a comfort.

But I am not sure that is very realistic. We are hopefully at the end of a global pandemic that has upended so much of what we took for granted. Millions of people have lost their lives or been profoundly affected by this disease. How we look at the world around us has been transformed.

Which brings me to this morning’s scripture.

I think I have mentioned this before, but biblical scholars are of the opinion that the book of Isaiah is in fact three separate books. The first part of Isaiah is warning of the coming invasion and the destruction of Judah. The second part is written from exile and is a promise of a return to Judah and Jerusalem. It is a call to not lose hope.

The final part of Isaiah is written to those returning from exile and to those who are in Jerusalem and the rest of Judah already. Those who never left.

You see, not everyone was taken into exile. The elite; the royalty, the court officials, the religious leaders, and teachers; they were taken away. Those who worked the land; the ones who do not write histories; they stayed behind.

On top of that the Babylonians and the Persians who followed, sent their own people to settle the land. Over the course of 70 some odd years they learned to live together. They married one another and had families and developed their own ways of doing things.

So, when those who have lived in exile return, they are expecting to come back to the wondrous promised land and city that they have heard about and spoken about. They will return to the religious traditions and the privileges that were theirs before the invasion. There is this assumption or expectation that what was lost will be returned, encased in glass, ready to be opened and put to use once again.

And Isaiah says no. Things have changed. You can’t go back to what was. You must look forward.

Isaiah explains that God says there is something new being built. This is an opportunity for something new and more just. Something that is more life giving and more inclusive of all of God’s children.

God also manages to point out in this poetry that perhaps things weren’t all that wonderful for everyone under the old system. Children died in their infancy. Not everyone lived to an old age. Many built homes and grew vineyards for the benefit of others and never enjoyed the fruits of their own labour.

That can and must be different in what we build now, Isaiah essentially says.

We are coming through a painful time of loss and anxiety. It is natural to look back with fondness to the way things were. But we are living in a new world. We have an opportunity to create something new. We are offered a chance to work with God in envisioning what that might be.

We are being offered a reset. A chance to acknowledge that the old world did not make room for everyone. That many were left on the outside looking in.  That many in our world were, and still are, exploited and oppressed. We can and must demand better and do a better job of making room for all voices; of making space for those who are left out of the prosperity so many insist is a part of this society.

We must create new relationships based on love and justice.

What kind of world does God see for us? What kind of world do we desire for God’s creation? We have endured something of an exile for the last few years. As we prepare to return, what are we going back to and how can we rebuild or reset our community to reflect God’s vision of what we might be?

Thanks be to God.

 

Rev. Warner Bloomfield

 

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