“Taking a Step toward Peace!”
Isaiah 2:1-5, November 18th, 2018
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now a reading from the Old Testament, found in the book of Isaiah, chapter two, verses one through five.”
1 The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 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!
“Having heard this prophesy from the Prophet Isaiah let us now open our hearts in anticipation of this message which is contained within it.”
“Taking a Step toward Peace!”
On this Thanksgiving Sunday, your pastor ought to have picked a scripture like Psalm 100, to help us all get into the spirit of thankfulness. “Make a joyful noise to all the earth. Worship with gladness; come into the presence of the Holy One, with singing. Know that our God is with us. It is by the hands of the Creator by which we are, and therefore we belong to the maker of all the earth. Enter the gates of paradise with thanksgiving, praising God with all your hearts. Give thanks, blessing the name of the one who watches over us. For God is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever and ever to all generations.” /Psalm 100 adapted/ Amen.
Let us begin this Thanksgiving week by reflecting upon thankful celebrations not that long past. When we consider the age of the Psalms and words of the Prophet Isaiah, our current human life spans are but a blink of the eye. Therefore, when we look back into our childhood memories, they really were not that long ago. As a child we all have some memories. Let us raise up those precious few moments when our hearts were filled with thankfulness and joy. How many of us can remember waking up to the fabulous aromas of that Thanksgiving turkey as it begins to heat up and cook in the oven? When mom or was grandma or aunt Helen or Uncle Ted who came bringing that freshly baked pumpkin pie or was a pecan pie? Sometimes it was freshly baked apple pie! As the family, the friends came together there was a sense of thankfulness that everyone was home. Even cousin Johnny got a leave from his post in some far-off place to be home! What blessed memories come if we allow them into our hearts once more.
I do know that memories fade and present times invade those precious spaces in our hearts. The horrific accounts of innocent members of loving families shot down, murdered while they worshipped. Sweeping infernos of flames overtaking whole communities. Our hearts go out to those whose lives have been so dramatically altered forever. Now how do we prepare for our Thanksgiving feast this season? Many of us are involved in providing fresh turkeys to families in need, others of us may be donating to a soup kitchen that will serve huge numbers of needy folks across the county this Thanksgiving. Perhaps, invitations to those who live alone will be extended by others that can add a plate at their own tables. So, so many possible ways we can make someone’s life a bit more thankful as we share with others this season.
What we cannot do, as we prepare to enjoy our time of thanksgiving this year, we cannot forget those whom have suffered losses. We cannot forget the homeless or the hungry; the migrant, the immigrants who have left their homeland because things have become hopeless there… do to wars, famine and devastated economies. Each with their own sad stories to tell; and for far too many… their tale of woe has not yet reached a peaceful ending. The least we can do, is remember them in our devotions and in our prayers. Even in our own country, areas of California have been wiped away, whole communities burned to the ground with death tolls still rising. The survivors, they are now homeless having lost everything they possessed. It is the words of the prophet Isaiah to which they must turn. Praying for the visions of restoration and wellbeing. They, like the families living without a homeland, they are lost and need the hope that Isaiah proclaims!
Their prayers are enhanced by the words of Isaiah. “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.” /Isaiah 2:2/ Meaning of course that the kingdom of God will be established in a high place where all nations would eagerly seek to come together as one! What a hopeful vision! Can you look through the dark skies? Can you see past the harsh borders of isolated countries, whom have forgotten the visions of the Prophets of old? Can you see beyond the flames of destruction? Let us look beyond the ragging Blizzards of a northern winter or a torturing dangerous trip along a roadway engulfed in a Santa Ana wind, in the midst an out of control fire storm! Let us look with hope to a future vision of peace.
Theologians, Progressive Pastors and even Evangelical Conservative Christians will proclaim writings containing words such as these spoken by Pastor Ben Cremer. “We all see dark places we long to see light invade. We turn on the news, talk to our coworkers, and look at our family. We do not have to look far to find the dark corners of our life in desperate need of light.” All Christians, at every end of the theological compass, we all seek the Light of God to overcome the shadows of darkness that plaque our country sides far and near! This is true even if we misunderstand each other in the doing! Christianity speaks of the coming light of God in the form of God’s mercy and grace portrayed in the image of the chosen one, the Messiah! Other world religions, not Christian, yet, God fearing people like ourselves whom also long for the light of God! They also see the dark shadow of evil that is hanging over humanity and they too long for the Light of God to overcome it!
The prophetic vision of Isaiah is a powerful one! “Nations, 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 anymore.” /Isaiah 2:4/ One theologian approaches these words in this way: “This vision of weapons of war turned into agricultural tools, images of death-dealing turned into food-producing is a promise for ‘the days to come.’ Biblical visions in both testaments come to us from the future, longing to shape the days in which we are living.” /Barbara Lundblad/ This vision blows the tops off the foolish words of all the dictatorial self-proclaimed egotists that think their understanding of humanity is better than the wisdom of the ages going back to the beginning of time!
If we are to find peace, we must begin with ourselves. Peace shall begin when we commence to allow the love of God to fill every aspect of who we are and what we hope to be. No one can help others find peace until we ourselves experience it. Peace is a gift which we all are offered. All we need do is open our hearts to find where God has placed it! Isaiah, he was at peace as he proclaimed the vision which God put into his heart. Yes, he saw the plight of his people and yes, he saw the darkness of hatred, and all the other verbs which describe the evil which resides where the light of God does not exist. Yet, he endeavored to continue to write and give the hope of God’s vision to those he served. The writing we read today is that vision. Let’s us lift it up once again, asking God to bless these words and helping humanity to keep persisting and living into their meaning.
As we look all around us, taking in the human nature of all humanity, let us not be discouraged. Rather, let us continue to look to all the good which has been brought to bear in a world, a world so filled with the dark side of our nature as humans. I look to this church and we the people in it, as-well-as all those whom have been a part of this fellowship over the years; many whom have passed on into Heavens gates, and others whom have moved out of the area. Let us look to their examples, many of whom did great things to propel this church ever forward to where it is today. With these thoughts in mind, let us continue to be the church that God has envisioned it to be! Let us continue to look for the good in all things and all people. Let us look for the hand of God in the community, the country, and the world we live in. Remembering always, that peace comes from God, thus as we strengthen our personal relationships with our Creator, so also, shall we strengthen our contribution to a world that sorely needs the peaceful hand of God.
Looking forward into the week ahead, let us live in a way, a way in which when the next generation looks back at us, we will have left them some good examples to follow. Perhaps some of us will cook a turkey or something specially that someone else will remember with joy many years from now. How we choose to mark the celebration of a good harvest, big or small, let us be ever mindful that those around us are watching. May they see our acts of kindness and compassion as-well-as our faith in God’s faithfulness. Maybe they will remember how you taught them to take the core, the pit out of a fig, replacing it with peanut butter before rolling it in powdered sugar. Then offering them as snacks while the turkey cooks to that perfectly desired point. Perhaps it will be the bowl of walnuts you left for guests to crack and pick at, that sparks a fond memory. Maybe, it will be the canned yams or the sweet potatoes they enjoyed or the eggnog they indulged in. Whatever the memory, plant some good ones. That may be the memory which helps them in a tumultuous, a turbulent holiday in the future yet to be.
I want to leave you with these uplifting words from a theologian I truly enjoy. “One of the important aspects of looking forward to something better is to look at ourselves. The good news is that the light of God, God’s gracious presence, means we can choose to be the kind of people who are essentially living light, living out of a spirit of kindness and generosity and compassion.” /Alan Brehm/ Thanksgiving without God – it just is not possible. Consequently, let us all be sure we bow our heads in prayer as we consume whatever we call a Thanksgiving meal, even if it is beans and hotdogs! Let us give thanks for all that we are fortunate to have. May we always remember to pray for those whom are less fortunate and to offer a hand when the opportunity presents itself. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!