Friday, September 23, 2016

Green Team Talk: Friday of Pentecost 18

January 2017: I've tried to reconstruct my talk from my scant notes that were all I needed at the time... and I'm publishing this on the actual Friday of Pentecost 18 date.

Isaiah 25:6-9

6On this mountain shall the Lord of hosts
make unto all peoples
a feast of fat things
a feast of vines on the lees
of fat things full of marrow
of vines on the lees well refined

7God will swallow up the covering that hovers over everyone
the veil stretched over all nations

8God will swallow up death forever
God will wipe away all tears
God will remove the remove the reproach of the people from the earth
For the Lord has spoken

9On that day we will say,
"This is our God we've waited for
so he could save us.
"This is the Lord we've waited for.
"Let's rejoice in God's salvation."
feast of fat thingsThis passage the canon places in First Isaiah is the appointed text for Easter Evening RCL years A, B and C. We find it amidst writings mostly from Isaiah of Jerusalem, yet it's probably at least a century afterwards—with its sense of optimism, probably exilic or later. This is the Hebrew scripture reading for Easter evening, but six months have gone by since we celebrated the Day of Resurrection, over four months since the Great Fifty Days concluded.

Here in the northern hemisphere the wheel of the year has been in meteorological autumn for close to a month; in a couple days we'll be in astronomical fall. Ripening root crops, leaves falling from trees then decaying on the ground, shorter days, longer nights, all remind us of God's gift of the agricultural cycle, God's gift of land. These natural events in the browning time of autumn anticipate the arrival of the apparently quiet, still, and silent season of winter that in many respects is similar to the stillness and quiet near-silence of the surface of the desertscape.

These imaginative words we find in First Isaiah remind us the God of Israel is God of all people, God on the side of everyone. They promise God will swallow up death and the shroud of death – a veil that hides the light of life, anything that lessens our joy – into God's own being. God will obliterate tears of grief; God will prepare and serve an amazing spread of a covenant meal shared by God and people. That eschatological feast – as we called our extravagant potlucks in divinity school – will be God's sign that death and dying are no more!

But six months have gone by since we celebrated the Day of Resurrection 2016, over four months since the conclusion of the Great Fifty Days. We look around us and still see, still experience hatred, poverty and injustice. Illness, death, and dying. Grief. Tears. We know the agricultural seasons' periods of tilling, planting, growing, and harvest keep cycling continuously, yet our theology tells us how Easter, the event of Jesus Christ's resurrection, that eighth day that's also the first day of the new creation, marked the end of death and dying, concluded ongoing cycles of poverty, illness, injustice.

These promises we find in First Isaiah describe God's action of new birth from death, the start of the new creation. Despite the dawn of the new creation on the day of resurrection two thousand years ago, that renewed, restored natural creation and righteous society has only begun, still waits for us to help finish it as God's hands doing God's work. Theology of the cross emphasizes Saturday, the interstitial time of winter-like quiet when apparently nothing happens yet everything happens, yet God calls us to live as people of the cross who now are fully alive, resurrected, and redeemed. The third day aligns and unites nature and history; filled with the Spirit of the Day of Pentecost, the fiftieth day of Easter, we become God's hands, God's voices, agents of God's justice, inclusion and freedom for all! Let's all follow Jesus into the resurrection, into the next six months!

Can I get an "Amen"?!

god's work our hands tshirt design

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