Advent 2b, December 10, 2017

December 11, 2017

In The Tribe of The Lord

Isaiah 40:1-11


1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 6 A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. 9 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep. 


Don’t worry. I know we’ve already had a good message from the kids and I don’t have another full dose of a sermon for you, but I wanted to share a simple thought with you on this second Sunday of Advent. This is a beautiful text that we’ve heard this morning. It’s a form of poetry that has rich layers of meaning that’s set in a very particular moment in Israel’s history. It deserves more attention that I intend to give it, but I think we all can appreciate the way in which the political dynamics of the times have powerful implications on our understanding of the way in which God is at work in the world.


Without getting in to the weeds of life in Israel 2600 years ago, the interesting thing to me is the way in which Isaiah interpreted the events of their day. What he seems to identify is the way in which the troubles they faced were the consequences of their own unfaithfulness. What an amazing thing Isaiah was doing! He didn’t blame the troubles Israel had faced on their pagan neighbors or their unfaithful friends. Isaiah believed they had suffered terrible failure and loss because of their own failure to follow the ways of God.


And it was because they recognized their own complicity with ungodly agendas and unholy desires they were in a position to become reconciled with God. The people of Israel had lost their self-defensiveness and that enabled them to experience the most supreme form of security – the kind of comfort that comes from God.


The politics of today are being defined by an old word that’s being used in a new way. There have been a number of people who have described our various allegiances as being tribal. These tribes sort of break down along traditional party lines, but what we used to consider to be different ways of being good Americans have become intolerable ways. And while I believe our allegiance as Christians is to a community much larger than the United States of America, but in some ways our allegiances have become much smaller than our sense of being common citizens of a nation. Our temptation is to become political warriors and to do all that we can to promote our own viewpoint and to destroy our political enemies.


I’m saying this because I understand this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called our senators over the past few weeks because I can’t stand this tax bill. I haven’t said anything a preacher aught not to say, but I’ve recognized some ugly passion within myself. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be politically engaged. God knows our senators and representatives need to hear from people who are seeking to love and serve God, but we also need to remember that we are all flawed and frail creatures. Our love can become focused in really narrow ways, and we need to remember how large God’s tribe really is.


The good news is that we are in a tribe that’s larger than the one we are the most aware of. As members of God’s tribe we are not going to be forgotten and we are going to be redeemed. Unfortunately, what God sometimes provides is a period of exile in a foreign nation, but that’s ok. God’s love can find us wherever we are and will come to us in ways that we would never have expected.


Jesus Christ was born in a barn to an unwed mother. God doesn’t do what we think God needs to do – God provides what we actually need.

Thanks be to God.




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