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Sun, Dec 03, 2017

In the Days to Come


Duration:11 mins 9 secs

Our scripture readings and sermons on both Sundays and Wednesday nights throughout the month of December will be drawn from the prophet Isaiah around a theme, “The Prophet Foretold Him.” This morning we begin with Isaiah 2:2-5. To set it in context, the first chapter of Isaiah is full of divine judgment upon the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem due to their wickedness and unfaithfulness. While not denying the judgment to come, we find the vision continues with a different “light” in our text for this morning. Let us hear this Word of God.

2 In days to come
    the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3     Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war any more.
5 O house of Jacob,
    come, let us walk
    in the light of the Lord!

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

I know it is always a risk to do so, especially at the beginning of a sermon, but in just a minute I want to invite you to close your eyes. I want to give you a moment to think. Yes, to think about the future. And what I would like you to ponder is this: Considering all that you know about both history and the present what do you think the world will be like in 50 years or even 100 years? Take a moment and imagine the world in which your grandchildren or great-grandchildren will grow up. What do you see? Yes, go ahead and close your eyes and imagine for just a moment.

(Moment of pause)

You can go ahead and open your eyes again. I hope you will find time after worship, over lunch, or in the week ahead to share with me what you saw. Did you see something like a scene from the cartoon The Jetsons with flying cars, a 1 hour a day, 2 days a week work week, and robots taking care of the essential household tasks? It is hard to believe, but if you remember that cartoon it was set in the year 2062, certainly within our time window and even the expected lifetime of many here today.

Or did your mind wander into places related to our current culture of violence, political strife, sexual harassment, terror, race, and class? If that was the case, did you imagine the world making great strides toward unity and reconciliation or continuing to spiral downward into even greater chaos?

Perhaps another option was to think about this church in 50 or 100 years? If so, what did you see? Who will we be as God’s people in this place? What will occupy our time and attention? Do others see Jesus when they look at this church in the future?

Yes, what did you see “in the days to come?”

I am going to go out on a limb here, but I suspect that even after we heard the choir’s moving offertory anthem and our scripture reading from the second chapter of Isaiah that few of us, myself included when I tried this exercise in my office this week, yes I suspect very few of us found ourselves imagining the future that Isaiah saw in our text for today. A vision of all the nations steaming to the house of the Lord for instruction; swords and spears beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks; nations not lifting up swords against nations or even learning about war any more. Is that the vision of the future that you saw?

If you are like me and your vision was closer to extraordinary technology, cultural chaos, and despair than Isaiah’s vision of divine instruction for the nations in the ways of peace, then it may be that we are placing our trust more in the princes and ways of the world than we are in God. We believe that the future is in the hands of the politicians, the scientists, the entrepreneurs, and even the children. We believe that those who appear to “rule the world” actually do. If that is at all the case, then we should admit that putting our trust and our faith in those hands is nothing short of idolatry.

My friends, we need prophets like Isaiah in our churches and communities to shake us out of our slumber and remind us that the future is rooted in the will and resolve of God and not in our present human circumstances. If all we see in the world today is we can expect the future to hold, then we would be right to despair. But the future is in God’s hands. Therefore we might hope.

Yes, we need prophets like Isaiah not to deny the judgment of the Lord upon our unfaithfulness, but to, point us to Jesus and his vision for our future together. That is why we in the church insist on celebrating the season of Advent while the world is already overboard with Christmas. We celebrate that there is value in waiting, in expectation, in anticipation that is lost when we rush to easy fulfillment and grace. As our children reminded us with their musical this morning – we don’t light all the candles of the Advent wreath on the first Sunday of Advent. Each week we draw closer not to the future that we are preparing, but the future that only the light of Christ can bring.

Yes, we need prophets like Isaiah for we need to be inspired to be and to believe something more than we can create on our own. As scholar Dallas Willard once wrote:

“The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes - a time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low."

My friends, we need prophets like Isaiah to keep our eyes on the Lord. We need prophets like Isaiah to inspire us to be heroic in our faith and spiritual character and power. As we prepare for the coming of Christ this year at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church we will seek to both hear those prophets and be those prophets. For there is hope because all “the days to come” are in the hands of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Let us pray:

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