October 13, 2019
(click here to listen to this sermon on YouTube)
Isaiah is pretty clear. There isn’t really much room to wonder what he is saying. With the confident audacity of a prophet, he dares to speak on behalf of God and declare that something has to change. It doesn’t matter if you go to church. It doesn’t matter if you say the right words. It doesn’t even matter if you fill the offering plate. Being in right relationship with God means aligning your life with God’s intentions for the world. Don’t come to me with your hands covered in blood, God says, and think that everything is just fine. Everything is not fine. The world is broken and people are being hurt. Until you start doing something about it we really don’t have anything to talk about. You want to call yourself a person of faith. You want to be in right relationship with me. Here’s where to start – cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. I desire justice for the whole world and being in relationship with me means participating in my radical vision for justice – where everyone, everywhere, all the time gets a fair shake. They will have enough to eat. They will be safe. They will have access to all of society’s benefits. They will be cared for and valued and honored. If you want to be in relationship with me, then working for that kind of a world will become your passion. And without that kind of justice-seeking passion your attempts at worship are really pretty hollow. If you are not a part of the solution then you are a part of the problem. Seek justice!
The people who first heard Isaiah preach were squirming in their seats. He was hitting way to close to home. And if we are paying attention at all, then we, too, will be squirming in our seats, because things haven’t changed very much in all those hundreds and thousands of years since then. The world is still broken, people are still being oppressed and abused and ignored, justice is still more dream than reality, and we still need to decide whether we are going to be a part of the problem or the solution. It is still about more than saying the right words when we come to church. Being people of faith still requires that we get out and do something to make a difference. The good news is that change is possible. Healing can take place. Re-alignment with God and God’s intentions for the world is within our grasp. Right after Isaiah cuts loose with his no-holds-barred diatribe against the evil ways of the people, he says on behalf of God, “Come now, let us argue it out. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) No matter how long or how far we wander off in the wrong direction, God still desires to embrace us and lead us back to more life-filled paths. We do not have to do it on our own, but we do have to be willing to participate in the process.