Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

The Answer

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December 7:

December 7, 2014
Call:       Mark 1: 1-5
Reading:    W&S #3
Text:       Isaiah 40: 1-11
Closing:    2 Peter 3: 8-9, 14-15

            The Answer

"O that you would tear open the heavens and come down ..."

Twenty five hundred years ago
Those words began   a prophet's prayer
That prophet was the third version of Isaiah
And last week we adopted his prayer as our own.

We used that prayer to kick off Advent
    To start our preparations
    And to recognize what these four weeks before Christmas
        Are all about

For in our prayer, like Isaiah,
    We beg and we plead that God will come to earth
    To fix the mess that we have made of God's world.

We need to keep that prayer in mind
Not just on November 30 - but on each day thereafter.

The answer to that prayer came in the birth of Jesus Christ
    And in the life, death, and resurrection that followed

And that answer continues to come to us
through His Holy Spirit
which was sent and received on Pentecost
- And every day since.
But just as we continue to receive the answer to the prayer
    Part of the answer was already there
    By the time Isaiah spoke those words
        To God
        On our behalf.

And this morning it is the part that was already there
    That will instruct, teach, and guide us
        As we prepare for that holy night in Bethlehem.

And we find this already existing part of the answer
in the very same book in which we found the prayer: Isaiah.

But whereas we found the prayer in chapter 64
This part of the answer was two dozen chapters earlier.

We found the prayer itself at the very end of the exile
    As the Jews were allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem.
We find today's part of the answer at the beginning
    Of the portion of Isaiah spoken during the exile.
        In fact, in the first 11 verses of that portion.

What, in essence this morning's text does is
    To remind us            that God loves and cares for us
To inform us            of the need to prepare
To give us instruction      as to how we should prepare
    To assure us               that God's word will stand forever
    To help us understand   what God is like.

It begins with love, care, and concern for us       [40: 1-2]

It begins, in other words, with God telling the prophet and heavenly host to
    "Tell the people whom I love
that things are about to get better."
    "Tell my people to relax,
for their penalty has been paid."
    "Explain to the people that I am the one who punished them,
        but that their punishment has been completed"

And thus God tells them to alert God's people to begin
    preparing the way for the Lord's coming
And     instructs them as to the necessary preparations:
 [40:  3-5]

The "construction" of this highway
is the part of the text on which we will focus today

But before we do, we need to finish the passage.

We resume with
    A heavenly voice again commanding the prophet and others
        This time the command is to "Cry out! or "Proclaim!"

We then hear the prophet muse and wonder,
    [40;6b-7 beginning with "And I said, "]

and then the heavenly voice again speaks, [40:8]

This exchange reminds us of a difference between people and God
People are fickle.
Like grass and flowers
Their determination, their obedience, and their loyalty
wither and fade,
But in contrast,
    God is not fickle.
God's word can be counted on because it doesn't wither or fade, but instead is forever.

And finally the prophet, speaking   for God to the people
instructs them and us to proclaim God's presence from the highest mountain,
    and concludes the proclamation with an interesting pair of descriptions, telling us,
        That when God comes it will be with might
        But also with the care and tenderness of a shepherd.
[40: 9-11]

This passage is a treasure trove.

We could explore the first command
    And talk about God's love and forgiveness.

We could explore the exchange between the prophet and God
Discussing the difference between
The steadfastness of God's word
and the withering and fading of human promises

We could explore the prophet's instruction
to go tell it on a mountain
and his accent on God's coming
with caring as well as with might.

But the part of this passage that fascinates and captivates me is the instruction to God's servants
    "In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord

    make straight in the desert a highway for our God

    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.

    The glory of the Lord shall be revealed
    And all people shall see it together
    For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

This passage recognizes that human beings have allowed
    Their relationship with God
        To become   so barren and   so without life
    That it can only be compared to a desert-like wilderness.

And you and I - and all servants and all representatives of God
    Are to build a highway to God
    Connecting us
    Allowing us to get together
and to cross that desert wilderness
as if it were no obstacle to our relationship with God.

And you and I - and all servants and all representatives of God
    Are to lift the valleys up
    Bring low the mountains and hills in our relationship

We are to make the terrain of our desert-like wilderness highway
    A plain
without the mountains and valleys
    That so often separate us from God.

With those mountains flattened and those valleys filled
    We can move more quickly and more easily to a proper relationship with God

With those mountains flattened and those valleys filled
    We will remove obstacles that we put up to keep God from us.

This is a marvelous image
    We are expected to build a flat highway
across the dead and barren wasteland that separates us from God.

God wants a loving, living, and powerful relationship with us
    God has wanted such a relationship with us
since before Isaiah's prayer
    God has wanted such a relationship with us
Ever since Isaiah prayed that prayer.

God's wanting that relationship was demonstrated beyond doubt
    In the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And yet, even today
    We allow a barren and lifeless desert wilderness
        To separate us from God
And We allow or actually construct
        Mountains of selfishness and self-centeredness
        And valleys of indifference and indulgence
            To interfere with our crossing that wasteland.

And so this Advent,
let's flatten out those mountains
    let's fill up those valleys
And let's build the highway across that desert wilderness.

Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed - through us
    And we can go up a high mountain
    To cry out and proclaim
        That the mighty and caring Lord has come.

Advent is our chance to pave the way for God to be in our lives.