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God Sent. Who? Me?

Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11

©2020 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

Intro to Scripture
Sermon

One reason for having Norman
share the text with me
was to show that the passage we just heard
has more than one speaker.
The identity of the middle voice (Norman’s)
is pretty clear, the voice of.
“I the Holy One,” God.

The two ‘bracket’ sections,
both an “I” or “me” voice,
but the identity of the speaker isn’t clarified.
And then of course there’s a whole population of others
who don’t speak, but are crucial to the text:
the poor, the broken-hearted,
the captives, the prisoners,
the mourners,
the discouraged.

Then there are “they” who will,
once God’s justice is enacted,
rebuild, restore, renew, repopulate.

If we were to take a photo screenshot,
it would be full, and confusing!

And Jesus doesn’t help,
because for some of us,
we’re certain we heard him say words
just like this, aren’t we?
If memory serves, there’s something about
Jesus going into Nazareth,
the town where he grew up,
and going to the synagogue
and, opening the scroll of Isaiah
and reading this passage,
and ending by saying
“Today this is fulfilled.”

So, okay then.
The first voice is Jesus.
The second voice is YHWH, God, the Holy One,
and that third, blissfully happy voice,
is presumably someone
liberated or saved by the
heavy lifting of God and Jesus,
set free to bloom like a spring garden.

Nice.
Uplifting.
But what does it have to do with us?
Or put another way;
are we anywhere in that screenshot?

That’s a good, hard question.
The poet who wrote it
knew he was addressing it to
that rag-tag remnant,
the survivors of a half-century of exile
in Babylon,
returned to a waste land.
The people on the bottom.

And, well…. by no stretch of a global imagination
can we, Cedar Park folk, equate.
I know that some of us are mourners this week,
as Pandemic endurers, some of us are weary, worried.
Some are sick, or are caring for the sick,
some of us for the first time are experiencing
the numbing, grinding relentlessness,
the destabilization of relationships
employment, faith,
but for the most part, we aren’t
the poor, broken-hearted, the captives, or the mourners.

I hate to break it to you,
as I did on Wednesday night,
if we are anywhere in this screenshot,
we’re on the receiving end of God’s
‘hatred’ of all that is unjust,
all that works against the Dream of God
reaching the ones at the bottom, the edge.
At least at the macro level.
As one commentator wryly observed,
“the elite are rarely the apple of God’s eye.”
Globally speaking that is us.
Especially if we’re white, employed or retired with a pension,
if we ate tropical fruit, meat, breakfast,
if we have heat and more than one change of clothing..
Without our knowing we benefit from human made
systems that perpetuate inequity,
that take from the poor to keep the rich rich.
I don’t like that position in the frame either.

But, if we linger long enough to acknowledge it,
to see it as God does ,
God who loves justice.

Then we have options.
Right there in the text.
Let’s go back to that first voice;
the “Spirit of the Lord upon me” voice.
The voice that we gave over to Jesus,
(because that’s what Luke did with it).
We abdicate to Jesus,
thinking ourselves not worthy.

But we need to remember that
the fundamental kernel
of our faith as followers of Jesus
is that
Jesus’ life as incarnate Human One
was to be for us
that which we are called to be.
He takes ancient words,
lifts them from the page,
into his life,
and lives them,
to show us how it’s done.
He said it so we can learn to say it too.

So, then, what if the voice, the “me”
is whoever reads it?
Whoever recites it?

All of a sudden we move from
the dark shadows of God’s anger against inequity,
into the spotlight.
We stand in the imprint of the Messiah’s feet.
We stand where the Spirit of the Holy One
will come upon us,
anointing us to become
agents of God’s liberation,
and heralds of God’s joy!

We had a moment together on Wednesday night.
Looking into my zoom screen,
I could see all these anointed ones.

“The Spirit of God is upon Paul Clarke,
anointing Paul to proclaim release to captives.
The Spirit of God is upon Jeannie and Bill
anointing them to feed the hungry,
with persistent donations to food banks,
to CPU’s food security ministry
The Spirit of God is upon Didi,
anointing her to walk alongside the mourners,
with the wisdom of lived experience.

There was no screen un-anointed, no person non-commissioned.
People in lockdown, in recovery from surgeries and cancer treatments,
knocking on 90’s door,
but every one with a piece of the Dream of God
they are being called to live.

If we were in our sanctuary right now,
I’d invited you as you’re listing to insert your name,
and fill in the blank.
I’d ask you to write it on
a heart shaped sticker, and put it somewhere where
you keep precious things safe.

The Spirit of the Holy One is upon….. (you)
God has anointed you… sent you…
to….
call a lonely or a grieving friend,
write letters to the Gazette, MPs,
support food bank, homeless shelters,
to pick up groceries for a neighbour,
to change winter tires,
to cook supper for a tired working spouse,
to cook meals for the CFF
whatever it is you can do
to bind up wounded and broken hearts,
to eradicate systemic poverty, racism, misogyny,
to unbind those hog-tied by systems that oppress.

Now, I can’t see you, but I’m telling you,
if you can’t think of one thing
You are going to call me, and we’re going
to pray and listen and sit until we’ve figured out
what it is that God has anointed you to do,
because I will lay my last nickel,
I will lay my life’s work,
on the certainty that you have been.

And Jesus,
will he mind if we say,
“Move over, the Spirit of God
may be upon you, Jesus,
but She rests upon me too!”

Will he mind?
Heck no!
He will laugh, with delight
excitement, tears in his eyes
because he will know that
in our generation,
in this corner of creation,
the Dream of God will be lived
and the world will be
a little more holy,
a little more loving,
a little more brave and kind, and gentle,
and a little more just.

But it won’t, if we don’t
so, will you, please,
as our act of dedication and commitment,
as our verbal offering to God,
add your voice to that of Isaiah,
and of Jesus,

The spirit of the Holy One is upon me
God has anointed me, sending me
as a herald of joy to the poor,
to bind up the wounded of heart,
to proclaim release to captives,
liberation to the imprisoned,
to comfort those who mourn,
to proclaim a year of God’s favour,
and the day of God’s vindication
the righting of wrongs.

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