Go, Walk (Isaiah 9:1-7)Joan MacPherson, November 19, 2017
Part of the Sunday series, preached at a Sunday Morning service
Download AudioGo, Walk.
David: “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace” Oh Joan, these words make me all goose pimply, and I think that Christmas is just around the corner. Oh, I can’t wait to start singing they carols, going to all those parties and nights out. Only 36 days to go!
Joan: David, I hate to burst your enthusiastic bubble here but...
David: What? Have they decided to do away with Christmas? Are we going to get a referendum about whether we should have Christmas, or a really, really, great winter festival? Tell me Joan, please tell me that we are keeping Christmas?
Joan: Of course, we are keeping Christmas David! Its all about the reason for the season after all, its all about Jesus.
David: It is all about the “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” Its all about Jesus.
Joan: That’s right, but those words you used have not always been about Jesus.
David: What do you mean, Joan, they were not about Jesus? Everything is about Jesus.
Joan: Well, that’s right in a way, for Christians everything is about Jesus, but when the prophet Isaiah first wrote them he was not thinking about Jesus ( it was some 700 years before Jesus was born). He was thinking about the current political situation he and his people were facing at that time.
David: What are you trying to tell me?
Joan : Biblical scholars tell us about the complex situation Isaiah and his people were facing.
David : Challenges and complexities like we are facing today? What do the Biblical scholars tells us?
Joan: Historically the country we now call Israel, was divided into two kingdoms. Israel was to the north and Judah to the south, Judah included the capital city of Jerusalem. Ten tribes made up the northern part and two the southern. It is in the southern part, Judah, in which Isaiah lives and prophesies. The northern kingdom, Israel, was at this time at war with Assyria and Judah refused to get involved. Judah was then invaded by Israel so Judah asked help from Assyria (Israel’s enemy) who came to their aid and beat off Israel. To pay for all of this, Ahaz paid the Assyrian king money from Judah’s coffers along with giving him holy items from the temple. He also let the Assyrians build idols in the holy places of Judah.
David: What happened next?
Joan: Well, Isaiah was not pleased with what Ahaz had done - he didn’t like the giving away of things or the inviting/accepting foreign objects into sacred spaces. Isaiah had warned Ahaz earlier not to fear Israel, and instead of getting himself worked up Ahaz should seek a sign from God. Ahaz ignored Isaiah’s advice, so Isaiah went ahead and sought a sign from God anyway.
David: So the country is plummeting into chaos and Isaiah turns to God for direction?
Joan: Yes. Isaiah was one of those prophets that kids get so excited about and have trading cards for. He was one of those who, in the mess and confusion of all the worlds fragility, looks to the light and love of God to figure out the way ahead. And this is what happened - in the court of Ahaz, there just so happened to be a young woman who was pregnant. Isaiah said that this woman would give birth to a son who would be called Immanuel, which means God is with us, and he would be a “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” In other words, before this child is born into the world, there could be a better way of living for everyone if they came to God rather than fought each other!
David: Nice! So, in the end, they all lived happily ever after?
Joan: Not quite. Ahaz didn’t listen and plunged his country into war. Isaiah was saying God was giving us a way out of conflict, but so often leaders want to show they are strong and powerful, and to be strong and powerful means that they must stand up and fight, even if they know they have no chance of winning.
David: Sounds like nothing much has changed in the past couple of thousand years when it comes to our leaders. They see no other way but their own way, and they fail time and time again to trust in God to deliver a new way.
Joan: Ahaz could have seen the child as a sign of peace rather than a child of war. but it is hard to see life in a culture of violence. This is why Isaiah is teaching, reminding, cajoling, inviting - God shines a light of life in the dark - a light of love, peace, justice, generosity, compassion.
David: So, Joan, is this passage not really about Jesus at all?
Joan: Originally, no it wasn’t. But you can see how the symbol of a child who will bring peace and a new way of living fitted Jesus perfectly, and why, when the church looked for signs of the Messiah, they turned to this passage in Isaiah, just as this passage speaks to us today. God’s light is always present and with God there is always time and ability to choose a new and better way of living.
David: So are you telling me that the world is always going to be in a mess in the hands of the powerful few?
Joan: No, I am not saying that. I am saying that in every moment and in all times God is shining a light in the darkness. In every moment and in all times there is a path and a way of healing present. Through out time there have been communities of people that have seen that light and trusted in it. - the church is one of those communities that have done that. Every generation can join in doing things in the peace and justice centered way of God. God has a peculiar way of being and doing. It isn’t about our politicians or world leaders alone being able to fix these problems. Isaiah, and many of the other prophets looked for contemporary signs of where God is active, and used such signs to encourage and help people to see God’s ways could be at work in the world if they chose to listen and follow these signs.
David: A sign like Katie and Carlos making promises to teach Javier and Carlito about the love and hope of God.
Joan: A sign like our congregation making promises to support and encourage them as they teach their sons about the power of love and wisdom of God’s way of life.
David: A sign like people giving their money and time to Main Street Church that we might be a light in our community and the world.
Joan: There are signs of hope present, they matter
David: Isaiah proclaims the presence and power of God’s light which is real and which shines in the darkness which is real.
Joan: We gather in worship to be reminded of that light that we might focus our eyes on it and let it matter in our lives and let it reflect from us into the world.
David: That light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.
Joan: Go, walk in the light. Amen
Main Street Congregational UCC
November 19, 2017
Note: This manuscript was prepared for oral delivery only.
It is adapted from Spill the Beans and has excerpted material not properly cited.
Please do not redistribute without permission.
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