Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Mountains Quake - Isaiah 64 - April 15, 2012

Several weeks ago Kim brought me the piece of music that was written by Bruce and sung by our Sanctuary Choir earlier in our service.  She brought it to me because we had a change in our worship schedule opening this Sunday up for a new direction.  She told me that the piece was based on Isaiah 64 and wondered if it might be a good theme for our worship.  I must confess that I had not spent much time with the passage, but as soon as I read it I knew it was right for the day. It is a psalm of waiting and expectation. It speaks to those who live between; between the act of God that first drew them to God’s feet and the next moment of their lives.

As we move away from Easter Sunday we are reminded that we are a people that live between.  We live between the resurrection and ascension and the promised return of Jesus. We live between the moment we first came to a relationship with God through faith and that moment when we are live in God’s embrace forever.  We live between who we are and who God called us to be. We live between our youth and the December of our lives.  We live between our last grand memory and the next moment that will capture our heart and mind.  We are a people who live between. Even as a congregation we live between. We live between the era of the Model T who the community called us “blessed” and the next era where we will live out our faith from the margins. We live between the years when every seat in this room was filled and the days with God that still await us.  This passage brings a word of hope and promise to people that live between.  It brings a word of hope and promise to us.

Listen to the first four verses as translated in the New Living Translation.  Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! 2 As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble.  Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! 3 When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! 4 For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!

The picture he paints is a dramatic one.  The writer calls out to God to tear open and burst out of heaven and come down with such a force that the power of his presence would make the mountains quake and the nations tremble.  The psalmist dreams a grand act of God that would shake the foundation of the world.The psalmist waits for God to do something of scale that would affirm their faith and lift their spirits.  He remembers, When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.  He remembers when God moved in ways that were so powerful and so clearly demonstrative that it blew everyone away.  It exceeded anything they could have hoped or imagine.  This is our Easter language.  We have celebrated God’s great grace gift so powerfully demonstrated on the cross.  We have celebrated the moments the mountains quaked when the stone was rolled away and the power and presence of a resurrected Jesus was on display.  And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!

The Psalmist sings out in between the yesterdays when God’s work was clear and the tomorrow when they expect God to move again.  They found themselves broken and uncertain in this time between.  Over the rest of Isaiah 64 the psalmist acknowledges the spiritual stumbles, bumbles and falls of the people.  The psalmist cries out realizing that they can do nothing about their circumstances without the movement of God. The psalmist cries out, waiting for God to do something to change their story. If we stop with the psalmist’s cry we might lose heart.  But laced within the cry we find the words of hope and promise. Within the psalmist cry we discover that the mountains still quake.

When we use language like “the mountains quake” we imagine that we must wait for God to do something big and dramatic. But, if we are not careful we miss God at work right in front of us.  God’s presence and power is at work in the world. God is doing so much more than we can expect or imagine. Jesus teaches that there is a whole new ways to see the mountains quake.  In Matthew 17:20 Jesus teaches; “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. ”Two weeks ago, just over here (walking toward and pointing to an area of the pulpit platform), we witnessed God at work shaking mountains in our midst.  Here is how Kristin Rogers tells the story;

“On Palm Sunday, as the children’s choir sang, our church witnessed a beautiful picture of how God intends us to love and care for one another. Christopher has been in children’s choir for many years, though he does not sing. Chris is autistic and non-verbal, but he is a part of our children’s ministry and involved in everything we do. Our children have always loved and accepted Chris for who he is. I see visiting children come into a classroom and act a bit startled to see Chris oooing and waving his arms. Without a word, our visitors look around to see how the children who know Chris respond to him. They see that everyone accepts Chris and his behaviors and the visitors also accept that this is normal for us. Everyone relaxes and class begins. Ah, the power of peer pressure! It can be a good thing. But on Palm Sunday, it wasn’t just peer pressure that touched us. In the past, an adult has stood in choir with Chris to help him focus and do the movements. As Chris gets older, he needs this less, but it is still hard for him to focus, especially when he doesn’t sing. But on that Sunday, he stood between his friends, Dalton and Emry. Chris tried to take Dalton’s hand once and Dalton jerked away, as any normal boy would do, until he saw that it was Chris and he held Chris’ hand. But for most of the service, Chris relied on Emry. He held her hand and laid on her shoulder. She gently reminded Chris to stand by her side, helping him to keep in the right place and doing the right thing.”

In seeing Dalton’s and Emry’s love and care for Chris we were witnesses of God at work in our midst.  When Dalton and Emry reached out in love in Jesus name, the mountains quaked.

In the main hallway that runs between the north and south entrances you will find pictures from the cookout and Easter egg hunt. In the pictures you will see our children serving food and our young adults preparing and facilitating the egg hunt.  You will also find people of all ages and multiple nations and languages engaged together in conversation and relationship.  In an era when we hear so much about what divides us, we were witnesses to God at work breaking down barriers and building up people.  Through your hands and heart of service the mountains quaked. 

On Monday and Tuesday nights you can find the mountains quaking when people step outside of their everyday lives and serve in the Good Shepherd medical/dental clinic, in the Food Pantry, and in the Clothes Closet. On Wednesday nights Rosemary Lackey and the other Language Center volunteers make the mountains quake when teach people in Jesus’ name.  On Wednesday night you can see God shaking the foundations of creation as our Sanctuary Choir works to prepare to lead us in worship. When some of you stepped forward to prepare to meals for Jim Hall as an act of love the mountains quaked. 

We hear the psalmist in Isaiah acknowledge, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. (vs.8)The Easter story tells us that our redemption was and is eternally significant to God and that God is ready to be at work in our lives and that His work in and through us demonstrates his power equally with the grand acts of God record throughout scripture. We do not have to wait for God to tear open heaven and come down to act.  God has already torn the bounds of heaven and God has already come down on our behalf.  We do not have to wait any longer.  We are not on a permanent pause between God’s last grand act and God’s next great work.  We do not have to languish, waiting on God to move.  God’s work is on display here and now. God is moving now. Every time we see God’s beloved and redeemed people loving and caring for one another and those in their community and the world, we see God at work. We see it demonstrated every time someone opens their hearts in faith to God through Christ. God is at work in front of us and through us so that we become living witnesses that “no one has heard, no ear has perceived, and no eye has seen any God besides you, who comes for those who wait for him.”

We are also invited to be a part of the story not just as witnesses but as active participants in the work of God.  We are invited to live empowered lives of faith as God’s redeemed people - rooted in God’s power and God’s faithfulness. If you want to see God at work, go to work as His children. If you choose to live in and through God’s grace get ready to see the mountains quake and the nations tremble. 

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