Isaiah 7:10-14 - November 29, 2020 Heartstrings at First United Methodist Church
Sermons are preached. They are not writing. So, above is the sermon. Below is the sermon “plan”.
Advent sermon on prevenient grace
and Isaiah and Ahaz, Mary, Mother of Jesus, and “What would Jesus do?”
Here’s the question…. what would Jesus do?
Years ago, I ran across a
question in a book. Something designed to make us ponder, think. It so sparked
my imagination that I’ve asked it for years. I’ve expanded on it… asked it
again and again.
Let’s pretend you are messing around in the most sacred
place you can think of… and you break a priceless stained-glass window!
Shattered to pieces! In the process you cut yourself. You are laying there…
bleeding to death…and Jesus walks in the room… what would Jesus do? PAUSE
Christ following communities; have answered that in different ways through the
One vein of Christianity,
evangelical Christianity, might say that Jesus would walk in the room and stand
there…do nothing…waiting for us to say a prayer inviting him into our heart.
Another vein of Christianity,
with deep theological history, Lutherans, might say, “Seeing that we are broken
and bleeding, Jesus, would cover us up so God cannot see that we are broken.”
Yet another, might say that “Jesus
would demand some good works… confession and prayer and communion… maybe even
an indulgence or two… then off to purgatory we go!”
Jesus walks into the room, sees that we are broken and
bleeding to death, with shards of priceless beauty broken and scattered all
around us… What would Jesus do?
And we ARE, broken and
bleeding, surrounded by broken beauty… Our hearts grasp-on to ideals as gospel
truth…even with growing evidence to the contrary, we do and say things that
break relationships around us…even when we have the best intentions… can you look
back and see moments where you have hurt yourself and others around you?
Growing up, I was pretty good
at math. Taking advanced classes all the way from middle school on. Then when I
was a junior in high school, I had the coolest math teacher ever! All he had to
do was see our face to mark us present! So, I would walk by his classroom
before class, as he stood out in the hall saying “hi” to all the students, I
would say “I’m here! Going to the library!” And be done with math for the day…
So, I never actually went to class, never did any homework… but it ended up
okay, because he set up the final test in such a way that it was really easy to
pass, AND made our final grade in the class the same as the final test! So,
without showing up to class or doing homework, I passed a fairly advanced math
class with an almost perfect grade… I was so excited! Until, I showed up to the
first day of math class my senior year… More advanced math… With a different
teacher… I was so lost by the end of the week that I had to drop math…
Can you look back and see moments
where you have hurt yourself and others?
When I look back, I can see so
many moments where I caused others pain, where I made bad choices, as a mom…
and as a daughter. As a friend… One of the most hurtful things I still carry so
much shame over was actually when I was in middle school… I wanted to
desperately to be a cool kid… and I thought maybe I would have a chance. So, I
told my best friend in the entire world I couldn’t be her friend anymore
because I wanted to try to be part of the in-crowd. To this day, it breaks my
heart for the pain I caused my friend, for the friendship I lost, for the girl
I was that… Stood there at the
end of that conversation, broken and bleeding, Shattered pieces of a priceless,
beautiful friendship scattered at my feet…Had Jesus walked into that space,
right there, in that moment… what would Jesus do?
Of course, there is something
about the question that has always bothered me… nudged at the edges of my
consciousness… I never really looked at it, never really focused on it until
sitting down to work on this sermon… I don’t believe that Jesus was absent, and
THEN showed up… Jesus did not just walk in the room… Jesus had always been
there… nudging me, calling me, guiding me on the path of his love and grace as much as I would let him…
Standing here… I can look
back now and see in my life, in my call into ministry; in my walk…
Looking back, I can see so many
things I couldn’t see at the time… I can see walking downtown 15 years ago how
I would avoid with my entire being anyone talking from a stage… to just a few
years later thinking that anyone willing to stand up with a microphone in the
middle of downtown Colorado Springs had totally lost their mind… just a few years after that I would be
interested in what they might have to say… to thinking no way could I ever do
that… to wondering if I could… to one day, it being a really easy yes when I
was asked… God working in my life, nudging me, calling me, guiding me…
But I can look back so much
farther than that! My aunt, over and over when I was growing up, “Jesus is
knocking at the door of your heart, you just need to let him in…” The way I
would roll my eyes at the ridiculousness of that… the way I would cringe, hide,
avoid when religious people came knocking at my door. I can look back through
my journals and see time and time again, me reaching for God’s love in
unhealthy, religious communities… but God nudging me onto a slightly different
path… “no, that is not the way…” Then the day I took a nap, and had a dream
that “religious people were knocking on the door” and I needed to go to church.
From a dream, to a church family, to a calling, to standing on a pickup truck
in downtown Colorado Springs, with a microphone…
Jesus, did not just walk into
the room… Jesus was always there. Nudging. Calling. Guiding me… helping me find
But I can look back even
further than that! I can look back past the uncomfortable moments watching
someone preach downtown, past a dream in the middle of the day, past my aunt’s
words assuring me there was more, past the two thousand years of theologians
trying to make sense of Jesus the Christ, to the baby, born of a young woman,
laying in a manger… even past that night so long ago, into today’s scripture.
Here these words from the Book of Isaiah:
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven”. But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” Then Isaiah
said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
I know it can be hard to
imagine… but this conversation happened during an unsettled time… a time of
panic and uncertainty… Ahaz, the king of a land that was being threatened by the
kingdoms that surrounded it… decided that he could do it on his own… But God
kept showing up, “I’m here. I am here. Listen, I can help…” nudging, calling,
guiding… It feels as though God is almost pleading, “Just ask me for a sign. I
will give it to you.” Ahaz, 800 years before the birth of Jesus, says no. I
need no sign. I bet he rolled his eyes when Isaiah told him, there will be a
sign anyway. A young woman will have a son… Immanuel. God is with us.
The prophet didn’t mean that a
young woman named Mary would have a baby and that he would teach, and comfort,
and challenge and die on a cross. The prophet was speaking into his time and
his place… but now? Looking back? We can see that promise, those words spoken
so many years ago… nudging, calling, guiding us… pointing us towards a baby.
Immanuel. God is with us.
God is with us.
In this season of advent we
come waiting… broken lives, anxious, afraid, certain and uncertain at the
same time… we come standing in the midst of a broken world… we come waiting for
Christmas, for light breaking through the darkness, for God with us… but he is
So, let’s reword the question a
little, shall we?
Jesus, with you, nudging, calling, guiding you… yet, you
continue messing around in the most beautiful sacred place that is your life
this world… and you break the priceless, sacred gifts in your life, your world,
your relationships… shattered to pieces! In the process you are broken too. You
aren’t living your life to the fullest, in fact, there are moments that you are
barely living your life, broken and bleeding to death, with shards of priceless
beauty broken and scattered all around you… PAUSE… What would Jesus do?