“Yes – All is Possible!”

Isaiah 65: 17-25, November 13th 2016

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

 

The Scripture:

Hear the words of the prophet, as recorded in the book of Isaiah, chapter 65, verses 17 thru 25.

17 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.  18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.  19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.  20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.  21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord – and their descendants as well.  24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.  25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent – its food shall be dust!  They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

May we come to understand more fully the ways of God as we ponder the message from these words from the prophet Isaiah. 

 

Pastor Tim:

We are passing through a turbulent time in the history of our great nation.  It has been and still is a time of upheaval as the very fiber of American Democracy has been tested yet again.  As we scroll back the pages of history, we shall be forced to look deeply into the very integrity, character and soul of our form of government.  This is not the first time we have faced discontent and conflict; nor will it be the last!  Yet, we are called upon to reconcile ourselves to the realities of this moment in history and decide how we shall move forward!  We are called upon to cross the barriers that divide us, one from another, and work together as we move into the future.

Today, in this fellowship of faith we are also called upon to grapple with the need to come together, as a faithful people, and support the very basic needs of our structure as a self-supporting religious institution!  No government agency, no higher entity of our National Church is going to reach out and hand us the resources we need to continue our day-to-day operations as a church.  No, the vision belongs to us and therefore we must make the hard choices which it will take to be a viable and vibrant church in this community, into the future!  And yes!  All, is possible, if we trust in our abilities to make the covenantal commitments we are called upon to make!  Make a faith promise today… one that will make your heart pound and your toes wiggle as we are now called upon to look to the future!

The end of the church calendar is upon us.  Next week we will begin to celebrate and give thanks for all that has been accomplished during this past year.  We shall reap the harvest of the seeds we have planted.  Store up some provisions for the coming year… and set our sights upon the new beginnings in front of us.  Today, the prophet Isaiah is inviting us to set our eyes on the future.  We are called to consider all that can be.  We are invited to see the vision as God has seen it, so that we might live into it!  We are the people of God!  We are called to be the faithful people of God!

“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent – its food shall be dust!  They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord” / Isaiah 65:25/ What a dramatic prophecy, seemingly natural predators eating and sharing food together!  Just imagine putting this into a present-day reality!  Through the words of the prophet, visualize a day, see in your mind’s eye with renewed hope… picture a time when people of every race, creed, color and sexual orientation shall sit at the same table, breaking bread together in the presence of our Holy God; intolerance, bigotry and racism shall be no more!  The spirit of the words which Isaiah spoke, unto the oppressed people of Israel, can and do transcend the span of time; they do apply to our time.  For the words of Isaiah come from the God of the ages – within a sphere of infinite time that exists and spans beyond our comprehension as mere mortals.

The prophet Isaiah was prophesizing in the name of the Living God of what was and is yet to come.  His message was meant to be uplifting and hopeful to a people who had endured more than their share of dismay and forebodings.  “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.” /Isaiah 65:18/ Today, is only the first day of the rest of our lives.  Yesterday’s prophesies now belong to the present time and tomorrow comes with infinite possibilities and potentials yet to be imagined.  We need to think less of yesterday’s losses, misgivings and failures; setting our eyes on the expanse of new opportunities and potentials of the things which can still be accomplished.  There is a deep and thought filled writing that opens the heart to all that we as individuals still can do… no matter what the situation or circumstance in our lives.  Hear now its uplifting and challenging words.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.  As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.  Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.  Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.  If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.  Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.  Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.  Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.  But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.  Be yourself.  Especially, do not feign affection.  Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.  Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.  Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.  Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.  Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.  And whether-or-not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.   Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive God (Him) to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.  With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.  Be cheerful.  Strive to be happy.  The Desiderata written by Max Ehrmann in 1952.

 

           The beauty of poetry is meant to touch one’s heart.  The depth of its meaning stimulates our minds.  The challenge is there for us to respond to – as we accept the wisdom of the one whom wrote it.  We must remember, all poetry captures the essence of its time, in some shape or form.  Its rhyme, rhythm and pros are meant to pass forward to us the insights from another time and place.  It is up to us to savor its flavor and consume its wisdom as we move ever forward in our own journeys.

The unknown author of this inspiring piece is meant to encourage us to believe in all that we or perhaps you, or I, can yet do.

Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve.  Dream great dreams and make them come true. Do it now!  You are unique.
In all the history of the world there was never anyone else exactly like you, and in all the infinity to come there will never be another you.   Never affirm self-limitations.  What you believe yourself to be, you are. To accomplish great things, you must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.  If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost – put foundations under them. 
Yes, you can. Believing is magic, you can always better your best.  You don’t know what you can do until you try. Nothing will come of nothing.  If you don’t go out on a limb, you’re never going to get the fruit.  There is no failure except in no longer trying. Hazy goals produce hazy results.  Clearly define your goals.  Write them down, make-a-plan for achieving them, set a deadline, visualize the results and go after them.  Just don’t look back unless you want to go that way. Defeat may test you; it need not stop you.  If at first you don’t succeed, try another way.  For every obstacle, there is a solution.  Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  The greatest mistake is giving up.  Wishing will not bring success, but planning, persistence and burning desire will. There is a gold mine within you from which you can extract all the necessary ingredients. Success is an attitude. 
Get yours right. It is astonishing how short a time it takes for very wonderful things to happen.

 

It is true, what you are thinking.  No, you cannot cure the problems that face this great nation by yourself.  No one can.  But, you and I, we can stop being part of the problem.  That is within our power.  One person at a time, we can make inroads as we talk about ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ within the scope of our domain.  My good friend Don Horner, whom passed away recently, he and I tried a few things together.  We had totally different views on politics.  Yet, we dared to discuss our views with each other in a safe and private manner.  Did he change my mind?  No and neither did I change his.  Yet, because we talked we both had a more informed view of the issues being discussed.  Amazingly enough, every subject has its pros and cons.  We learned from each other.  We never argued, we discussed.  There is a big difference.  We speculated on many different approaches to topics that it seemed were ‘not happening’ in the public sphere of the ‘subjects’ we chatted about.  It wasn’t half as scary as it sounds either.  When Don died, we were still friends.  His insights are now part of my thoughts as I grapple with my current opinions of things.

Here in our own church, I hear many conversations and get small glimpses into the conversations about which many ‘never bring to me’ for input or insight.  My observation is this: when we openly discuss common issues, in a safe setting, a lot of misunderstandings can be averted and or cleared up.  Therefore, this-is-why each one of us must do our upmost to create safe spaces and opportunities to discuss matters pertaining to the life and wellbeing of this our church.  It is the only road which leads to the will of God.

The ‘wolf and the lamb shall (only) feed together’ if we begin now to cultivate a safe environment for others to get to know each other at much deeper levels than we are seeing in many places within our society.

Our Stewardship Committee has been working hard to create an open dialog with all of us – who are part of this faith fellowship.  Last week’s discussion by our ministry leaders about the missions of each were meant to make us all more knowledgeable about who we are, what we are all about and what it takes to be a church in this setting and place.  I pray that each one of us have been listening and now know it is safe to ask questions and to share in the answers.  Today’s dedication of our faith promise cards is meant to be done with God’s full blessing, as-well-as in covenant, as a God centered community.

Isaiah’s words to us today, were surely meant to be inspirational.  And they were also meant to motivate the hearer to participate in the solutions being lifted-up. If we are to dine together and resolve the conflicts that separate neighbor from neighbor, then actions shall need to be taken.  Today, subsequently, is a call to action!  If we are to believe, as the Prophet proclaims: “all is possible” then we must respond by stepping up and taking the action necessary to accomplish the ‘impossible’.  Yes, we can!  Yes, you can!  Yes, I can!

Amen.

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