Michael Barrett brings this beloved – but sometimes mystifying – scripture to life.
New Heavens and a New Earth Reflections on Isaiah 65: 17-26
Brimming with joy and peace and hope and love, today’s scripture contains some of the most beautiful, beloved and hopefully profound verses voiced in the Bible. You may wonder what this specific Scripture is doing here in the middle of Stewardship Sunday.
As we move into Advent, the church wants us to reflect on God’s ultimate plan.
Stewardship is that careful and responsible management of something or someone is part of that plan.
Isaiah tells us of God’s stewardship of us.
Isaiah is one of the greatest of the prophets. Biblical prophecy is not about predicting the future. In Biblical prophecy, God uses someone, like Isaiah, to speak for God; reveal God’s plan and God’s requirements, and tell us what God wants us to know about Him.
Pay close attention now: I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.
It is a new world of relationships – restored, reconciled, and revolutionized. God’s priority on relationship emerges again.
Relationships will be transformed on at least three levels.
1st level – How His creation relates to the gift of life will be transformed.
No more chaos, trouble, or pain. No more weeping, and no more cries of anguish or heartbreak.
No more enmity (like a wolf) or fear (like a vulnerable lamb).
Death will be no more for either infants or the elderly.
We will work and we will plant and enjoy the fruits of our labors.
Humankind, all of the animal kingdom, and the physical world will be in harmony. Nor again will any serpent tempt us to do evil.
2nd level – How His children relate to each other will be transformed.
We will each be satisfied with the job we have and take proud in the work we have done.
We will not steal or envy or lie or resent or rob or even gossip.
Just as we pray that God forgives and forgets each of us for our many transgressions, we will prayerfully ask for forgetfulness to allow God to heal us and to forgive others.
We will be safe, for there will be among us neither outsider nor any enemy.
3rd level – How His children relate to Him will be transformed.
We will know that God delights in all that He creates.
We will know that we each are a singular joy to God.
Before we call, He will answer.
Before we are finished speaking, He will hear.
And on His mountain: no more war, no more violence, and no more destruction.
On His mountain peace and love and life reign. Forever and ever and ever.
As we look around the world in which we live doesn’t Isaiah sound just too idyllic, too utopian, and too idealistic?
For us, it just is too incredible to believe. For us, it would be impossible to accomplish on our own.
And that’s why God didn’t just stop with inspiring Isaiah to write this morning’s prophecy and then send us out to work on His plan after we read it.
God took matters into His own hands and broke into history in the form of one of US whom we call Jesus.
God has initiated His plan, His Son explains the plan, and the Spirit helps us to carry the plan forth.
For a moment, consider how Jesus manifests the stewardship of our Father:
First, he goes to the most broken of people – the poor, the lost, and the hopeless and listens and cares and inspires.
Next, Jesus approaches the supposed incurable – the crippled, the blind, the leper, and the mentally deranged and heals them.
Moving forward he befriends outcasts and the downtrodden, gentile and Jew, men and women, slave and free, Romans and Samaritans, and even children, in a fellowship of radical inclusivity.
Undeterred, Jesus forgives prostitutes, tax collectors, and every sorry sinner crossing his path. Their sin never mentioned again.
He goes on to challenge the powerful – yet he uses the nonviolent means of sermons and parables.
He sacrifices his life for the sins of the world in a consummate act of unselfish and unconditional love.
Finally, Jesus rises to life again, changed completely but still recognizable, transformed into an eternal presence.
So, my friends, how are we to respond to God’s stewardship of us?
That stewardship that Isaiah describes and Jesus demonstrates and God declares?
What is our role? We need to do three major things.
1st – We get right with ourselves.
We make peace with the reality that God loves us.
We realize that our sins are no match for God’s joy.
We each accept that we are a singular joy and a delight to God.
In dealing with a God of both unconditional love and boundless love, God probably treasures us each as the best of His creation.
2nd – We practice what we want to preach.
All that behavior, described in Isaiah and exemplified by Jesus – the inspiring, the healing, the caring, the inclusion, the befriending, the forgiving, the nonviolence, and the transformation is what we practice here in the safe confines of the Congregation Church of Northridge.
Jesus never said, ‘Simon, get out of that boat, I am sending you off to Damascus, today.’ Practice.
Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes possibilities.
3d – We take our show on the road.
As God stewarded us, we strive to steward others – in our families, in our work, in our community, in our world.
Someone, someday, sometime, may say to another – look at those people at CCN – old and young, rich and poor, progressive and conservative, straight and gay, hurting and healed – see they love one another. See how they take care of each other.
Maybe some angry, hate-filled person a Democrat congressman or Republican senator, maybe a dreamer or a denier, maybe Israeli or a Palestinian, maybe a Muslim or a Christian, or maybe a black or a white, maybe some teenager with a gun or an addict with no hope – and simply by witnessing our behavior feels the possibility of God’s stewardship and the peace therein.
One day at a time. One step at a time.
Showing by our lives, our trust in God’s stewardship of us in the creation of new heavens and a new earth. Realizing that we are not the prime movers of this plan. This is God’s plan. We can be witness and we can be models and we can be instruments of God peace relative to God’s plan for we know that God will indeed, bring it to completion.