“Going Up To the Mountain of God”
Isaiah 2:1-5 Advent Theme: “What Isaiah Saw”
Belmont UMC—December 1, 2013
Ken Edwards, preaching
Let’s begin today with some thoughts about the theme of our Advent Season and that theme is “What Isaiah Saw!” First let me give credit for this theme to Barbara Lundblad. Several of us had the honor of hearing her speak in May of this year and she introduced the idea of focusing on the visions of Isaiah during Advent. You will note that the words of the doxology we are using throughout the season were written by Barbara Lundblad and the words change each week. She has given us permission to use these words.
The text today begins with these words, “The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. . .” (verse 1) It does seem odd; the idea of seeing a word, rather than hearing a word, but the word Isaiah saw is gathered up in images and visions and ones mind has to see it to capture what it means and where it is taking us.
Throughout the season you are invited to participate by photographing images that relate to the themes of each day. Those are posted on our website and are found in the Advent guides. These images can be shared on social media sites and they will help all of us to engage in spiritual reflection.
I would also encourage you to read the texts each week and reflect on them. What do you see as hear the words that Isaiah saw? Take your time. Use lectio divina, reading each passage three times, pausing and reflecting on one image between each reading. Use this practice as a respite during this season that can become hectic and frenzied. My friends, we need Advent. We need to take our time on the way to Jesus’ birth. We need to spend some time with Isaiah in order to fully appreciate what his birth means to us.
And then, as you read these texts, ponder this idea: If this is what Isaiah saw concerning God’s vision, God’s future, where do you hear God calling you, where do we hear calling us as a church. The text today invites us to follow the vision: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord. . .” (v. 3) “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (v. 5) Are we willing to go where the visions take us?
What did Isaiah see? Isaiah saw that in God’s future there will be a mountain, a high and holy place, and all people are streaming toward it. See them making there way up the mountain, people of every nation, culture, and language—a new community being gathered there. From the mountain they are able to see what God has in store for them.
It is a place of divine instruction—the people of Isaiah’s time are in need of divine instruction and direction and tired of false teaching and false direction from their culture’s gods (sounds contemporary, doesn’t it?)
Marcus Borg suggests that one those cultural gods is individualism, the kind that that says “I am self-made!” but these images from Isaiah are images of a diverse and peaceful community moving and working together. In our culture we are tempted to climb the mountain by ourselves, go to the gift shop and buy a t-shirt that reads I CLIMBED THE MOUNTAIN OF GOD! But in God’s future it’s all about living in community. (Patheos, The Progressive Christian, blog, “The Cultural Captivity of Christianity: The Poisoning of the Church” November 19, 2013, Marcus Borg)
Even during this season we struggle to move toward God when our culture calls us to the gods the marketplace and to rampant consumerism. We are always let down by culture’s lure.
In Tennessee Williams’ play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” the Southern patriarch Big Daddy says, “A man buys and he buys and he buys and the reason he buys is because he hopes one of his purchases will be eternal, which it never is.” (from an unreliable source: my memory)
From the mountain of God we experience God’s justice, God’s arbitration, and all people are drawn toward the mountain. “And they shall beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools and nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war.”
What do with do with this beautiful image of God’s future peace when we live in a different reality? These hopeful words from Isaiah are carved into the wall outside the United Nations Building, but what do they mean to us in a present world where hundreds of thousands have been killed in Syria and central Africa? Even as I speak people are falling victim to the violence of war. In chapter 1 of Isaiah there are images of violence, bribery, desolation and trampling on the poor.
Is Isaiah speaking of something that is only in the far off future, the sweet by and by? They are images of days to come, but the invitation of Isaiah is in the present. Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord, now, come now. We pray for peace and justice in our world and we work toward peace and justice in our world now because God has invited to begin living toward God’s future.
During this Advent Season I would invite you to look for places where God’s vision for the future is becoming a reality. I follow Shane Claiborne on facebook and twitter. Shane is the author of The Irresistible Revolution and Jesus for President and was the Belmont All Church Retreat leader a year or two before I arrived here. He posted photos from around the world of weapons, rifles and pistols, being refashioned as shovels and spades and used in agriculture. He posted images of women, mothers, whose children had been victims of senseless gun violence, using sledge hammers to beat pistols into spades.
Barbara Lundblad reminded us of the killing fields of Cambodia, where in 1996, 4,320 people were killed by land minds. Now dozens of programs are ridding the country of these minds and farmers can be seen in the fields where there are now rice paddies, green and lush.
She reminded us of the work of Marion Wright Edelman and The Children’s Defense Fund and their refusal to be quiet on the issue of gun violence in our country. (Lecture, Festival of Homiletics, May 2013) And a new group, Moms Demand Action, formed in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, seeks sensible gun laws in our country and is unrelenting in their effort to turn weapons into iron plows or into the local police stations. These groups are living toward God’s future vision.
Paul Simpson Duke reminds us, “At St. Louis University is a small Jesuit chapel that is creatively lit. The light fixtures are made of twentieth-century cannon shells, converted. Emptied of their lethal contents, they now hold light for people to pray by. In such light we pray and live. And having laid our own weapons down, we bear witness to the promise of greater transformations in the days to come.” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol. 4, p.7)
What did Isaiah see? What do you see? During this Advent Season look for signs of peace in the world, glimpses of God’s future. And may we together hear God calling us, “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”