From ‘Uh-oh’ to ‘Ah-hah’Top Highlights, Where's the Faith? Thursday, December 15th, 2011
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
Do you remember the very first time you changed the oil in your own car? For some of us, it was a big deal.
One hot summer day, a young pastor decided to change the oil in his car for the very first time in his life. He had purchased five quarts of oil, a filter wrench and a bucket to drain the used oil. He carefully and gently drove the car onto the new, shiny, yellow ramps and eased his way underneath the vehicle.
Unfortunately, lying there on his back, all he could see when he looked up was a confusing mass of hoses, wires and unknown metal objects of various sizes and shapes. “Uh-oh. I’ll never be able to get through this,” he moaned out loud. “I can’t even find the oil pan or the plug. This filter wrench doesn’t look like any other wrench in my tool box. Everybody’s gonna laugh at me.”
Suddenly he heard a tiny voice saying, “I won’t laugh at you, pastor. Let me show you something.”
The startled pastor quickly looked around and saw seven-year-old Melissa, his neighbor, crouching down beside him. (He didn’t even realize he was talking out loud to himself.) “My daddy lets me help him work on his car. This is what he showed me,” she continued talking as she edged her way beside the pastor. She then pointed out the plug. She showed him how to place the filter wrench. Then, with wise confidence far beyond her age, said, “Now, you do it yourself.” And he did. “Ah-hah.” From uh-oh to ah-hah.
In the midst of a mess, “a little child shall lead them” proclaims the prophet Isaiah. In the midst of a hopeless, chaotic mess, often of our own making, God provides a vision of what God’s promised salvation looks like. For the pastor, that vision took the form of a wise little girl.
For some, in this season of Advent, that vision of salvation looks like a manger, a baby, a cross and an empty tomb. Christ has come. Christ is coming. Christ will come again. Advent is a time to prepare for God’s promised vision of a new reality; a time to prepare for the birth of the little child who leads us.
Isaiah 11:1-10 is a wonderful and poetic description of God’s glorious vision of promise to a people trapped in the midst of a frightening, terrible mess. Political and moral corruption, were common; religious leadership was weak, and business was conducted dishonestly. Pride and arrogance characterized a false belief that God would protect the people no matter how they treated one another. Governments wrote laws to oppress the poor and needy. The people were left in confusion. Uh-oh.
In the midst of our incredibly crowded schedules, do we ever experience the feeling of chaos, confusion or even impending doom … that everything might come crashing down on us with no time to stop the madness from destroying us?
So then, where’s the good news in all this doom and gloom? Where is God’s promise? Where is the “Ah-hah?”
Isaiah says, God promised to destroy the turmoil and chaos in our own lives and in the lives of all people. It happened. Christ has come. Christ is coming. Christ will come again. Here is the Advent promise. Here is God’s “Ah-hah.”
Yes, fear was still tangible. Enemies still surrounded the people. Discouragement was still a common experience. Nevertheless, God was still a very real and guiding presence in their midst.
Today, God gives us a vision of God’s promised love as we view hope and love, and see God’s peace surrounding us. “Ah-hah.”
From out of that stump of Jesse, Isaiah reminds us, will come a shoot, a king from the line of David. Do you begin to see the Advent promise here? Can you begin to see God’s vision of a new reality taking shape? Just what, or better, just who, is this shoot, this branch? Is it the remainder of God’s faithful people in Judah? Is it to be an unnamed future king of Judah? Scholars are uncertain regarding Isaiah’s specific reference. Nevertheless, this new shoot is the vision of new life sprouting from a mutilated, devastated, and discovered people … in the midst of a mess.
Today we see, in these words of Isaiah, the vision of God’s promised upside-down and inside-out reality in the hope of the season.
For Isaiah, this leader and all descendants will be bearers of the Spirit of God … a spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, of knowledge and the fear of God. These are not simply qualities of character. The gift of God’s Spirit is intended to result in practical actions.
Look on in this text as Isaiah describes the new order – God’s upside-down and inside-out order of the coming realm of this righteous branch. In the new creation, natural predators will live in peace with their usual victims; wolves and lambs, leopards and young goats, lions and calves, bears and cows, babies and poisonous snakes, will live together in peace. Now what kind of world is that? When is this ever going to happen? Aren’t our lives, our communities, our economy barely hanging on in the midst of one giant mess? Are we not living in the midst of so many “uh-ohs” that any “Ah-hahs” seems few and far between?
Indeed, at the beginning of verse 10 Isaiah uses the phrase, “on that day.” The Advent message, God’s Advent message for us, is “that day” has already dawned. The shoot from the stump of Jesse has grown into a mighty tree of life, a sign to all the nations that God’s new creation has already begun with the birth of a little child who leads us into life in God’s upside-down, inside-out new realm.
You are invited to attend an evening of celebration in music at The Met. Saturday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. Also, mark your calendars to attend our traditional Christmas Eve candlelight services at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. See themetchurch.org for more info.
Rev. Dan Koeshall is the Senior Pastor at The Metropolitan Community Church (The Met) in San Diego, California, themetchurch.org.
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