Sermon 25 Pentecost Yr C

25 Pentecost Yr C, 18/11/2007

Isa 65:17-25

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson,

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 

“The Future, Dream or Reality?”

 

Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo tells the following story: A friend of mine tells the story of having counselled a man who was falling out of love with his wife. My friend advised the man to think of all the ways he could make life happier for his wife and then do them. A few days later my friend received a phone call in which the husband related the following:

“Every day I leave for work, put in a hard day, come home dirty and sweaty, stumble in the back door, go to the refrigerator, get something to drink, and then go into the rec room and watch television until supper time. After talking to you, I decided I would do better than that in the future. So yesterday, before I left work, I showered and shaved and put on a clean shirt. On the way home I stopped at the florist and bought a bouquet of roses. Instead of going in the back door as I usually do, I went to the front door and rang the doorbell. My wife opened the door, took one look at me, and started to cry. When I asked her what was wrong she said, ‘It’s been a horrible day. First Billy broke his leg and had to have it put in a cast. I no sooner returned home from the hospital when your mother called and told me that she is coming to stay for three weeks. I tried to do the wash and the washing machine broke and there is water all over the basement. And now you have to come home drunk!”1

As humorous as this story may be for us, there is an important truth that it underscores, which is quite sobering. The truth is that change is often difficult to accept or believe. The husband had gone all out to try and change for the better, yet his wife had a hard time accepting or believing his changed ways. This truth that change is often difficult to accept or believe may also be true for you and me. The change may seem so unrealistic, so out of the ordinary, so shocking that we struggle to accept or believe it. I think we’ve all had this kind of experience in life, haven’t we? Especially when we think of what is life going to be like in the future. How many of us have been surprised by the future becoming a reality? I think the answer to that question is that all of us, at one time or another, has been surprised by the future becoming a reality. It is sometimes very difficult to see or understand what is going to happen to us in the future. It is also difficult to comprehend how the world can change. Today change is moving so fast that it is very difficult to predict what life might be like in ten years from now. When someone speaks to us with certainty about the future, we find it difficult to accept or believe them because what they are telling us seems more like a dream than reality. We, like the wife in the story, might think that they are drunk, and fail to take them seriously.

When the audience of our first lesson from Isaiah heard this important vision for the future, I wonder what they thought. Did they accept or believe the prophet or did they think the prophet was crazy or drunk? Was the prophet’s vision of the future more like a dream than a reality? Of course, the prophet’s vision never has become a reality in a final, complete sort of way yet. So does that mean it is only a dream and should not be taken seriously? NO! We all need dreams for the future. The Jews coming out of exile from Babylon needed a dream for a better future. They had to rebuild their homes, and nation. They had struggled with despair and wondered whether God was still with them. They probably lacked confidence or hope in a better future.

We too need a dream for a better future. Maybe at times we too feel like the ancient Jewish people living in exile. There are so many doom and gloom visions of the future. Such visions may have squelched our dreams and made us more despairing and sceptical. We may be struggling to accept or believe the prophet’s vision for a better future. Our focus on the way things have been in the past and are right now in the present may make us feel and believe that the prophet’s future vision is too idealistic, too much of a dream to become a reality.

Rev. Dr. Richard A. Jensen tells the following story about a bishop who had met a scientist who spoke at a meeting for bishops about the future. Here is what she said: (The bishop) reported to his staff on that conversation as well. “She told me,” the bishop began, “that she had been very carefully observing our group over our five days together. And she was impressed. ‘These are wonderful leaders,’ she told me. ‘As a group you are incredibly bright and talented. I’ve never heard any group that is so knowledgeable of the kind of issues you discuss with each other. I’ve been listening in on your conversations and I am thankful that my church has such dedicated leaders. But,’ she said, ‘everything you talk about is in the past. It’s the past that you are so expert in discussing. It’s the church’s past that you are so knowledgeable of. But I don’t think I’ve heard anyone discuss the future. Where is your church going in this exciting time? What kind of new future are you going to create? Surely in the church you have language to talk about the future. Surely you have language in the Bible which can hold out a vision of hope for a new world.’ “2

Yes, indeed, that scientist was correct; we do have language in the Bible bursting with a vision of hope for a new world, a better future. What a wonderful new world the prophet describes in today’s first lesson! A world where there will be enough of everything for everyone. People will no longer be homeless; everyone shall have a decent place to live. People will no longer be hungry; everyone shall have enough to eat. People shall no longer be afflicted with premature death or suffering or grief—they shall all be blessed with long, healthy, and meaningful lives. Prayer requests shall be answered immediately, or even before they are asked, God promises: “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.” Then, the prophet ends with that wonderful verse, which we have seen pictures of in works of art, which fill us with a hope beyond what we’ve ever seen or experienced yet: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.”

Do you accept or believe this hope for a new, changed future? Or are you afraid of such a future? The prophet, speaking the word of the LORD, provides us with these comforting, hope-filled words. We do not have to live in fear. The future is going to be wonderful. One day, God, through our Messiah Jesus will act to usher in his eternal reign of Perfect Shalom—everlasting peace. This is God’s Good News for us today. Amen.

 

1 Cited from: James S. Hewett, Editor, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1988), p. 52.

2 Richard A. Jensen, “A Vision For The Future,” sermon for Proper 28, on the following web site: <www.esermons.com>.

 

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About dimlamp
I am, among other things, a sojourner, a sinner-saint, a baptized, life-long learner and follower of Jesus, and Lutheran pastor. Dim Lamp: dimlamp.wordpress.com gwh photos: gwhphotos.wordpress.com

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