Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-14
Sermon: “Hope in This Mess” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
Does the world seem a mess to you this Advent?
What with the Deficit Reduction Committee stalemating, and leaving us with $15T of debt!
What with the Penn State fiasco tarnishing a great coach and leaving many, broken victims!
What with illnesses like cancer taking the life of a fine person like Mike Pfeifer way too early!
What with the Wall Street Occupiers making some valid points, but in an invalid (violent) way!
You can add your own examples of a mess, but is there hope for our world’s mess?!
The Jews were in, what one of my bosses called, a melluva hess. During the exile in Babylon and Persia, prophets like Jeremiah preached, You are homesick because you worshipped other gods, and exile is the consequence! So during the decades in captivity they learned their lesson by developing the synagogue to devotedly teach the law, so that when God returned them home, they worshipped God alone. Their ritual was flawless (v. 2, 3a)! But now Isaiah’s prophets are preaching that it’s not good enough to keep good ritual; i.e., repeat nice prayers every Saturday, but ritual must be wed to the restoration of society. How we worship God must effect how we live during the week (vv. 3b-5)! God wants ritual to restore society! So Isaiah preaches a three-point sermon here: WHAT IS (vv. 1-5); WHAT SHOULD BE (vv. 6, 7), and WHAT WILL BE (vv. 8-14). If WHAT IS is worship without justice then what should be?
You want more proof that there is a God? I doubt sometimes. Here it is. You know deep down that our world is not right. That it was designed to be a just place. You know that because when you solve a problem fairly, like, we’ll go to your family on Christmas, if we can be at my family for Christmas Eve that you feel right. So fair design evidences God: (vv. 6, 7).
Do you want any more proof that things SHOULD BE the just way? Jesus. This Advent we prepare for the One who, in Paul’s words, though he was rich, became poor for us. Born in a barn, he suffered the injustice of a common criminal on the cross. Only Jesus, of all religious leaders, identified so completely with the mistreated. That’s how he gives hope for justice.
And Jesus ushers in WHAT WILL BE (vv. 8, 9). Isaiah coins four if-then clauses to show how we can be part of God’s justice toward the new world under shalom’s rainbow. Then:
Our gloom will be like noonday, …our bones will be strong, …we will be like a watered garden,.. we shall be called [cf. broken Jerusalem] repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in!
Even though it’s common to complain today of the church that let’s pedophile clergy run free and the church that hates gays, the truth is our history is different. In the ancient world when there was a plague, the doctors would leave that town. But the Christians would stay to help until they got sick and died. Why? Because Jesus identified with the poor. In 16th century Geneva our Reformation forefather, John Calvin, taught people to wash their hands, and he introduced the sewer system to Europe to reduce contagion. Jesus was giving hope to the mess!
So today how do we give hope in justice? 1) Justice: NBRC rolls up our sleeves to assist God through our 3 homes: Sunrise and Kirkside to shelter the vulnerable homeless and seniors, and Hope House for counseling. 2) Charity: The Buurstra kids are a little disappointed because when we gather with the Grand Rapids family on 12/26, they decided not to give presents, for the first time, but to contribute to an Ecuadoran charity. Great, my kids say, we finally get there for a big Christmas, and our presents are going to charity. 3) How do you give hope this season?
Believing that God is working through us to make the world right one day, I invite you to live in hope. To connect ritual and restoration, I invite you to sing _____________ confidently.