Worship Start Time: 10:30am
Worship Leader: Rev. Erin Klassen
Theme: Do You Not Know, Have You Not Heard? Have You Been Listening All This Time?
The coffee is hot at 10:00am, come in and get comfortable. Service begins at 10:30 and is followed by coffee and conversation in the Memorial Hall.
Come and explore what we are being called to. Are you listening? We will be celebrating communion this Sunday. All are welcome at the table.
Next Sunday is our Annual General Meeting. The 2017 Annual Report is now available here and under Resources / Governance / Annual Reports.
Do You Not Know, Have you not Heard? Have You Been Listening All This Time?
February 4, 2018
Rev. Erin Klassen
Friends, this is possibly my most favourite Scripture passage. I love the Hebrew Bible, what we sometimes call the Old Testament, especially the prophets - what they have to say is as relevant today as when it was written. Within the prophets, I love Isaiah - the combination of challenge and comfort, the call to action and the promises of God. I so appreciate Isaiah’s vision for the future and encouragement to live into that in the present. Within Isaiah, it’s this passage. In its entirety, it has so much to say. Then within it, there are so many individual phrases that capture our attention and spark our imaginations. This passage is one that sticks in my mind. It is the one that recommends most in times of grieving, or uncertainty, or hope. It is everything that I do believe and everything that I want to believe.
It is a call to remember who we are as people of God and to remember who God is to us.
This chapter from Isaiah begins with God saying the words “Console my people, give them comfort. Speak tenderly to their hearts”. Just sit with that phrase for a moment. Allow God to speak tenderly to your heart…. What is it that you hear?
What I hear and see in this passage is the beauty and fragility of humanity. We have a description of human effort with all of its potential and its limitations. We hear that even the young and strong will eventually grow tired. Everything that God and the Gospel call us to, following Christ, being love and grace in the world, working toward justice and dignity for all. That’s hard work, it can be exhausting and overwhelming. It can sometimes feel like too much.
And yet, we are assured of this: God is everywhere and everlasting, never fading, knowing everything and everyone – inside and out. God gives power to the powerless and comfort to the desolate. These are words of promise and continuance, an assurance of the strength of Love in the midst of the exile.
Our passage from Isaiah was written in an attempt to answer a crisis of faith provoked by the exile of the people of Israel to the lands of Assyria and Babylon. The words and imagery that we know so well, that provide us with such comfort: the mounting up on eagles’ wings, refer back to the Exodus from Egypt – another exile. We face so much exile in our lives.… mental illness, addiction, chronic health issues, cancer, grief, joblessness, divorce….
We often question, where is God in the midst of exile? of loneliness? of fear? of pain? of mourning? The answer in this passage is “I am here. I never left you.” Indeed, God is always here and will never leave us.
With that knowledge, we are encouraged to wait. Now, to “wait” for God is to cultivate an attitude of hope and patient expectation – essentially, the very definition of faith. The footnotes in my Bible note that usually the Hebrew verb means awaiting for God to act, to bring vindication or rescue. However, in this case, it is more akin to the Taoist principle of wu wei, or non-action. Waiting for God’s empowerment instead of relying on our own resources, provides an inexhaustible source of strength, of hope and of love.
To understand the depth and power of God’s strength and love. We are called back to the beginning, to cast our imagination and our vision all the way back to the story of creation.
Was it not told to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
We are asked to remember that it was God that stretched out the skies like a curtain.
That God will be with us in this life of faith.
That God will help us to turn the world upside down.
When our values, our society’s values do not match, we are called to change, with the help of God. Again, it may feel overwhelming, like too much, like chaos. Indeed Isaiah assures us of this:
God reduces the privileged to nothing
And throws the rulers of the earth into chaos.
But that particular word, “chaos” is in Hebrew word that is used there is the same one that is used in Genesis: tohu. It is is a single phrase that has so much meaning, it can be “formless and void”, or “bewildered and astonished”, even “unseen and unformed”. It is the description of the state of the earth before the Spirit called it into being. As such, it draws us back to the beginning to recall the gift of God’s creative power.
Indeed, this whole passage does, reminding us of God stretching the skies, and making the stars. The word used there: bara, means created or creating. It is only applied to God implying that only God creates, but it is also used only in this chapter of Isaiah and Genesis. Again, it is meant to bring us back to the beginning, back to the basics, which is the word of God.
The word of God that was with God, flows from God, and is God. In the beginning was the Word. As Michael T. Hillier tells us: The word that extended from creation’s first hour, through all the prophets to now, must be encountered again.
This brings me to the Gospel of Mark. I didn’t include it in the Scripture readings. Honestly, I was hoping to avoid it because of this little gem included in today’s passage:
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. (Mark 1.29-31 NRSV)
I mean, what is with these guys? First, they abandon their father at sea. Now it seems that they can’t even let Simon’s mother-in-law get a moment of rest. Now, she has to get up and serve them. What if the poor woman just needed a minute to herself? A bit of peace? Have you seen that meme, it’s a beautiful pastoral scene, a meadow under the stars with an antique bed at the forefront? The words above read, “sleep doesn’t help if it’s your soul that is tired.”
Upon further reflection, I believe that this is the point that the mother-in-law is at. She does need peace. The kind of peace that Isaiah reassures us of, again and again, the kind of peace that Jesus offers. In the moment that they share, he lifts her up. And she goes about her work. The gospel reading goes on to detail city gathering round, bringing to Jesus those affected with unclean spirits. Because of her interaction with the word, this woman was able to continue in her ministry, fulfilling her (our) call to offering hospitality and hope to those around her.
If we are weary while living into our call as Christians, it is hopefully because we are doing the hard work of bringing God’s reign to the world here and now. May we be strengthened as we join God in empowering the powerless, may we have faith, and stay grounded in the Living God that has always provided for us from the dawn of creation.
If your job is mostly emotional labor, it's important to remember that your emotional exhaustion is not a moral failure. It's a workplace injury. (Sam Natale @pubicdefender on Twitter)