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The Kind of World God Dreams of

Pentecost 26, Common Lectionary Year C

Isaiah 65:17-25

©2013 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

“Watch me! I’m about to create a new heaven and a new earth!” Begins the Seer. God’s Poet Laureate, some have called Isaiah. One with an acute eye and an attentive ear to the often elusive, always mysterious, ever just beyond our grasp, Dream of God.

Dreams cannot easily be put into words, unless they are poetic and visionary. Dreams can’t be reduced to a three point sermon, or a 12 step strategy. Dreams need to be captured by a poetic imagination.

And Isaiah, if this book is anything to go by, was one such poet. Isaiah it was who ‘saw’ God that day in the Temple, when the pivots of the great stone pillars shook as the golden glory of the hem of the cloak of God swept through the temple, accompanied by a chorus of fierce seraphim with hawk eyes and blue wings.

Isaiah is the poet who, instead of haranguing or cajoling a nation to imagine peace not war, cast the Dream of God with an image unforgettable: the re-forging of swords and spears into pruning hooks and ploughshares.

Isaiah was the one who could see the promise of God, peeping like a tiny green shoot from the chopped down stumps of a decimated olive grove, “A shoot shall arise from the stump of Jesse, a branch that will bear fruit, and stand as a banner to the nations.” He wrote.

Isaiah manages to convince a cynical world through the turn of poetic phrase that when God’s Dream comes true, enemies can feast at table together, lions and lambs will share the feed trough without devouring one another, 100 will be young, and no mother will ever have to bury a child.

There is perhaps no finer poetry, no richer sacred imagination than can be found in the pages of this book.

But here’s the startling thing: These poetic castings of the Dream of God were written not by one Isaiah of Jerusalem, nor even two, but three! This book, given the name of one prophet, is in reality a collection of poetic imaginings spanning 250 years.

Think about that for a second. It’s about 8 to 10 ancient generations. How many of you know much about your ancestors who lived in the 1760s? Where were they living? What did they believe? What did they do? How different was the landscape of the world in the mid 18th century, compared to now?

250 years is a long time. In the 250 years that fall between the first and last pages of this prophetic book, nations rise and fall; after centuries of success, the independent kingdoms of Israel and Judah were obliterated in that time, the people wiped out or carted off to exile by the might of Assyria and then Babylon. And those two mighty empires also fall in that time span, crushed under the boot of a new empire, Persia.

In the midst of all this chaos and mayhem, when generations of God’s people were enslaved to other masters, planting other people’s vineyards, and taking care of other people’s houses, burying too many  of their children, and too few living beyond their capacity to pull a plough, in the midst of all this, prophets, Seers, poets, kept the Dream of God alive in successive generations, each putting their own contextual spin on the Dream, imagining, seeing the contours of God’s love, mercy and judgment, rescue and redemption through the particular lenses of their generation, but always, holding before the people a word picture of the Dream of God, of a world restored to God’s initial creative delight, of a world broken yet blessed, healed to be a healing world.

It’s this feature, the one book, three singers, ten generations, all returning, turning, reshaping, renaming, reliving the One Dream of God for a healed world, that is of particular relevance to us today at Cedar Park. This the day we baptize our newest saint of God, with the generations of his family, and the generations of this faith community, all gathered around this newest incarnation of the Dream of God.

When Michael and Alison began this part of their faith journey with us earlier this fall, with the Church 101 study group, they shared with us how, the creation of a whole new world happened to them eight months ago with the birth of this much longed for little boy. Their world changed, it will never be the same again. They came here looking…. for a place where the ultimate questions, of values, how to create a family, a community, a world where Benjamin can inherit his birthright that is his as a beloved child of God.

Thank God they came seeking. Thank God we were here as a place for them to ask those questions! Because this place is just the latest generation in a long line, stretching back two millennia to Jesus, the Dream enfleshed, and another five to eight hundred years, to the three Isaiahs, all of whom have asked those same questions of God and discovered a persistent, ancient, yet ever new Dream.   Today it’s our chance to repeat the Dream, to let it take on flesh and bones in us, as we pass it on to Benjamin Michael Stephen Norris, the newest inheritor of the Dream of God.

We pass on to him God’s Dream, and ours, that he will live in a peaceable human community, where enemies are no longer at war with one another, but where we share the abundance of creation justly, equitably with all, regardless of skin colour, gender identity, language, religion, ability, mobility. Where creation is restored to a sustainable equilibrium; where habitats for tree frogs and polar bears are protected from the predations of our lust for more, cheaper, now.

And in good time, little child of God, it will be yours to pass on this Dream of God to those who come after you. You get to live the dream of God in your flesh and bones, you get to be one in whom God delights, you get to be the bringer of joy, health, justice, especially for those who are sad, sick and oppressed. You get to add your own verse to the poem of the Dream of God, and we can’t wait to hear it!

Thanks be to God.

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