Sermon Preached November 17, 2013
Texts: Isaiah 65:17-25; Luke 21:5-19
“If I Only Had a Brain”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nauLgZISozs
I could wile away the hours
Conferrin’ with the flowers
Consultin’ with the rain
And my head I’d be scratchin’
While my thoughts are busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain
Oh I could tell you why
The ocean’s near the shore
I could think of things I never thunk before
And then I’d sit and think some more
When I was a child, there were certain annual television events that we anticipated. There was the “Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin Halloween Special.” There was the “Charlie Brown Christmas Special,” from which I still love the music. There was “Rudolph the Red-Noised Reindeer,” narrated by Burl Ives. And once a year, one of the three television networks would broadcast “The Wizard of Oz.” In our day and age of streaming movies and Net Flix, it seems strange to think that people would wait a year to see a movie or show, but that’s the way it was then.
If you were watching the Wizard of Oz with theological eyes, I would guess that for many people the Wizard of Oz himself, that stern, disembodied, rather frightful image might capture something of one’s image of God. God is Spirit, that seems to fit. God is often portrayed in human discourse as stern, demanding obedience – “Silence.” There may be some kindness there, but you have to get beyond a lot of fear first. I think there are a lot of people alienated from the church because that is just how the church has sometimes described God.
I think there is a better image of God in “The Wizard of Oz” and my sermon title leaves little room for wondering who I think it is – “God the Scarecrow.” I don’t mean the Scarecrow who sings, “If I Only Had a Brain.” I am thinking of another image of the Scarecrow from the movie. I will let you know which one in just a bit.
But I want to get to that image of God the Scarecrow through our Scripture readings for this morning.
God is up to something. That is a clear message in Isaiah 65. God is up to something. For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth…. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating.
God is up to something in the world, and this is the direction of that new creating. No more shall the sound of weeping be heard… or the cry of distress. No more shall there be… an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live our a lifetime…. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit…. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox…. They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.
Don’t you just want to say, “Yes!” This passage reminds me of part of a Seamus Heaney poem (Chorus in Philoctetes):
History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
God is at work creating a tidal wave of justice. God is at work creating a newer world where hope and history rhyme. God is at work toward a world of peace, reconciliation, beauty, harmony, care, tenderness, wholeness for all, a world where all are safe and all have enough.
And God is doing this work in the midst of our world - our volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous world. Part of the world we live in is well-described by Jesus in Luke 21. We live in a world of wars and insurrections. “Nation will rise up against nation, kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”
It is important to read Isaiah and Luke together, and to think of this as the on-going work of God in the world, not simply as words meant for some future time. The world is just like the world described by Jesus sometimes. All we need to do is read the newspapers. But it is in that very world that God continues to work toward a newer world. In the midst of this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, God is creating a newer world, a new heaven and a new earth.
And, and… God invites us along. That’s where God is like the Scarecrow. With the sight of the Emerald City in the distance, the Scarecrow leads the way, running. “Come on. Come on.” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG2keYgBiZc] And that’s just what God does in our lives. “There is a horizon where hope and history rhyme. I am creating a newer world. Come on. Come on.”
I think of a Robert Frost poem, “The Pasture”
I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I amy):
I shan’t be gone long. – You come too.
I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan’t be gone long. – You come too.
Here is the good news of the Christian faith. God remains at work raking the leaves of the older world away, in tenderness caring for all creation, creating a newer world where hope and history rhyme. Like the Scarecrow God is out ahead of us, waving God’s arms, “Come on. Come on. You come too.” And that means you and you and you and you, and every “you.”
But there is more good news. This newer world that we are invited to journey with God toward is a reality where not only is the world made new, but we are, too. In God’s newer world we find for our own lives heart, courage, our right mind, the way home. In fact, we begin to discover these on the journey itself. That’s the promise of the Christian faith. That’s the adventure of the Jesus way. God is waving, God’s arms beckoning us forward to a newer life, a newer world. God continues to create. You come too. Amen.