Advent 1 Service of Nine Words, Ocean Forest Sunday November 27, 2011.
Friends, every year we run into this Advent theme of waiting and every year this grand vision of Isaiah appears on our horizon to reassure us that there is a grand plan in all of the goings on of our life and our church.
This picture of God’s enduring reality that is meant to carry us through whatever we are experiencing, particularly doubt, fear ad anxiety about our future is beautiful and needed.
I wonder whether this Advent of all of the last 8 here at Ocean Forest is the most full of these realities of fear, doubt and anxiety about waiting and pondering what is going to happen to us.
I feel this fear and uncertainty as I pull away from you and feel your sadness and anxiety. I sense that you sense that you are now going to be waiting in a way you have never waited before as a congregation of followers of Jesus.
When will we be able to organise ourselves to do what we need to do and call another pastor to come and lead us? When will another Pastor come and live with us and lead us? When will we feel like we are “normal” again as the new year begins and a pastor joins us and we pick up where we have left off before this strange time of loss and waiting came upon us?
All very expected questions and very human feelings attached to these questions about how things will be.
It always amazes me that these beautiful words of hope from Isaiah were spoken into a situation full of doubt and fear. These words of God were spoken into a situation of being totally cut off from what had been. These words were spoken to a community in forced exile from their home land. They had lost it all, not unlike those families who have lost it all in Margaret River.
These words speak into complete loss – Loss of home, income, status, identity and faith community. God’s people are in a hostile and foreign place that is eating away at their hope in a gracious and faithful God.
Where is the God of those great and mighty acts of salvation and love? Where is Moses? Where is the sea parting and the enemy dying? Where is hope and faith and future and peace and belonging and life as God promises?
These are the human questions we ask of each other, the church and the Lord and they are questions meant to be asked with a view to hearing a response.
For God’s people, there is questioning and there is listening. Sometime I wonder whether we do all the questioning but can’t seem to do the listening. The questioning of God’s presence and faithfulness gives us something to talk about. The listening takes our own words away and requires an open heart and a still mouth with big ears – and of course, PATIENCE.
Can we hear the still small voice of God now….
1 The desert and the parched land you are pondering now will be glad; the wilderness of no pastor, little music and sense of well-being will rejoice and blossom again.
These worrying days will burst into bloom at the right time; You will eventually shout for joy at hat God has done for you. You will see a glimpse of the glory of the LORD, the splendour of our God. To troubled people God then calls for a response in these Advent days of waiting:
3 Strengthen those feeble hands and steady those knees that give way; (not just your own) 4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come and deliver.
Isaiah was sure against all insecurity. he was form against all wavering and doubting. So am I. The Lord will deliver and in the meantime, he will shape you individually and together in ways that have never happened for us here. We are in new ground again – but it is God’s ground.
I call you with Isaiah to be there for each other. Say things to each other. Say things that encourage and build up like never before and in new ways. God will be in your speaking and doing. This is his promise today. Amazingly, through this trusting and encouraging and doing good things for each other, your eyes will be opened to new things. Your blindness to God’s presence in your life will be taken away and life will look different when the new road is in place ahead. 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
There is a new road ahead for this congregation in mission. There is no getting around it now. But again, it is God’s construction. It is a people road and we are all people under construction.
8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way.
But only the redeemed will walk there, 10 and those the LORD has rescued will return.
This road of the next months is ours and it is the Lord’s and it will be a means through which he affirms in you your “set apartness”, your “specialness,” as his uniquely gifted and faithful people in this place.
Even now we can at least imagine the end of this new road of faith in Jesus. Isaiah does. We can too…
They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Wait by questioning
Wait by listening
Wait by speaking encouraging words to each other.
Wait by practicing patience: the patience of faith; a trusting patience that the road is the Lord’s and he has placed you on it – you who are holy and blameless in his sight through your baptism and through the Living Word, Jesus Christ that you serve and love.