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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2007-11-18 Isaiah 65:17-25 “Yours and Mine”

James McTyre

Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

In the sermons these past weeks, we’ve been talking about one word – “mine” – and how it relates both to scripture and to stewardship.

This week, the title is “Yours and Mine,” and draws from the prophesy of Isaiah in chapter 65, verses 17-25.

Last week, the prophet was Haggai, from around the year 520 BC, arguing for the physical reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

This week, the prophet is Isaiah, arguing a couple of years after Haggai, for spiritual reconstruction.

Isaiah wants the whole city, the whole community to be reconstructed.

Haggai wanted a place, a Temple, where the people could go to see glory; Isaiah wants a whole city, a whole world, where everything is glory.

What would make your life… glorious?

I thought about this question last week.

I made a list, not to share, but as reference material, in case someone in real power – God, Anderson Cooper – should ever ask.

I realized most of the items on my list involve someone else NOT doing something.

Or something NOT happening.

For example, the girl in line in front of me in Krystal NOT talking on her cell phone while trying to place a complicated order, like, a bag of 10, with cheese, no onion.

You have no idea how much longer this order takes when you’re simultaneously arguing with your boyfriend.

I’ve noticed a lot of doctors’ offices now have signs that say, “Please do not talk on your cell phone while the doctor is examining you.”

I agree this would make the doctors’ lives better, maybe even a little glorious, especially if they’re dentists.

Anyway my list of things has a lot of “thou shalt not’s,” kind of like the original Ten Commandments, but more lengthy.”

I’m guessing your list would, too.

We spend so much time dealing with irritations and annoyances, or buying things to distract ourselves from them.

We get so used to being annoyed at annoying things or annoying people that we delude ourselves into thinking all it would take to make life glorious is some sort of big, red zapper button to make them all go away, or at least put them on “mute.”

Then, with all the other irritations removed, we could concentrate on the really important things in life, like, ourselves.

The problem with this scenario, or at least the most prominent one of several, is that if everyone had their own big, red irritation-zapper button, it wouldn’t take long for the human population to reduce itself back to Adam and Eve, and then pretty soon, just Eve.

Glory based on the absence of annoyance isn’t glory; it’s lonely.

Taken to the extreme, our twentieth century, North American visions of glory are both lonely and selfish.

Listen to the news.

The underlying message so much of the time is, “Life would be just glorious, if it weren’t for the…” you fill in the blank.

The Iranians.

The Pakistanis.

The Bush Administration.

The Democrats.

O. J. Simpson.

And while it’s especially hard to argue with the last one, the list and its tone shows how far we’ve sunk into the hole of equating glory with the absence of irritating devices, people, regimes and celebrities.

We’re like children who think that if they can just fish all the lima beans out of their vegetable soup, then it’ll be worthy of consumption.

So when we hear prophesy of a new Jerusalem – a new city, a new church – like the prophesy of Isaiah’s today, it all sounds a bit too glorious to believe.

Isaiah isn’t just promising that God will pick out all the annoying lima beans from Israel’s life.

Isaiah says God’s going to replace the soup entirely.

Instead of merely a life free of irritations, God’s going to bring Jerusalem, and us with it, a rich banquet of life so abundant, so truly and completely glorious that not only the irritations, but the part of us that gets irritated at the irritations will be zapped away, gone.

In Isaiah’s vision of glory, it’s not just that the things on our lists WON’T happen, it’s that God will take away the need for the list entirely.

Listen to how revolutionary Isaiah is:

I [God] am creating new heavens

and a new earth;

everything of the past

will be forgotten.

there will be no more crying

or sorrow in that city.

No child will die in infancy;

everyone will live

to a ripe old age.

Anyone a hundred years old

will be considered young,

and to die younger than that

will be considered a curse.

My people will live

in the houses they build;

they will enjoy grapes

from their own vineyards.

No one will take away

their homes or vineyards.

My chosen people will live

to be as old as trees,

and they will enjoy

what they have earned.

Their work won't be wasted,

and their children won't die

of dreadful diseases.

I will bless their children

and their grandchildren.

I, the LORD, have spoken!

Two things in particular strike me about Isaiah’s vision from God.

First, it totally bypasses the annoyances of life.

Surely there must have been annoyances, just as there are in any society, or any family, where people live in close quarters for more than fifteen minutes.

Let this knowledge temper your expectations for Thanksgiving gatherings.

God just skips right over anything even slightly resembling the trivial.

Anything that would end up making us lonely, or fueling our selfishness, doesn’t even cross God’s mind.

Instead, God deals with the real crud.

In the new creation, there will be no sorrow, no crying, not because sorrow and crying are bad, per se, but because the things that make for real sorrow, things that make us weep, will be gone.

Things like, children dying too young, old people living without livelihood.

Things like property seizures, and seeing your life’s work add up to nothing.

Instead, God says, your children and your grandchildren will enjoy your glory, and be blessed.

In other words, your life will mean something, not just to you, but to your community and to future generations.

This is glory on God’s scale.

The other thing that strikes me about Isaiah’s vision from God is that it’s written entirely in the plural.

God’s blessing isn’t spoken to an individual, or even a collection of individuals, who read it in their own Bibles, or watched it on their own TVs, or downloaded it to their own iPods.

If God’s blessing of glory comes to one person, it comes to everyone.

In Isaiah’s vision of heavenly glory on earth, there is no yours and mine, in that there’s nothing that is mine without also being yours.

Glory is shared.

Not sharing is not an option.

Glory that isn’t freely and equally shared isn’t glory, at least not in God’s recipe book.

Only when everyone thrives, only then is there true glory.

At Thanksgiving, we have this glorious vision of Pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down together at long, wooden picnic tables, feasting on turkey and brown gravy, roasted corn and apple pies.

I don’t know how historically accurate that vision is, but it’s a good start.

At Communion, we have this glorious vision of Pilgrims and Native Americans, Presbyterians and who-knows-what-else, sitting down together at a banquet feast around God’s heavenly table.

That’s an even better start, and, as we believe, our end as well.

Our vision of Communion can start with Isaiah, and be lifted up and expanded even more by Jesus, so that the picky differences between you and me, what’s yours and what’s mine, all gets zapped away and replaced by something more glorious.

Glory IS about the stewardship of us sharing and combining what’s yours and what’s mine.

But more, glory is the divine eraser that erases the line between what’s yours and what’s mine, what’s God’s and what’s the world’s.

Glory erases the irritating divisions and makes everything, “ours.”

If one prospers, we all prosper.

If one cries, we all cry.

If we thrive, God thrives, and so will our children and grandchildren.

At least, that’s the plan.

That’s the prophesy.

That’s the way God intends things to be, and how they ought to be, if we try to live according to God’s vision.

But again, look at the news.

Two thousand years and God seems to have gotten distracted.

The earth isn’t shared between the haves and the have nots.

There’s still war, disease, problems – and the lions and the lambs are showing no signs of lying down together.

God’s Stewardship plan isn’t exactly reaching its challenge goal.

I guess it’s lucky for God we’re not in charge, because if we were, God’s job security might be on the line.

Actually, I think it’s more the other way around.

I can imagine God looking at our annual reports and thinking, “I gave these people the plan a couple of thousand years ago.

What don’t they get?”

But instead of changing plans or downsizing the whole lot of us, God waits.

God sends subtle reminders that glory doesn’t usually arrive all at once.

God’s glory comes one bite at a time, one sip at a time, one person at a time, one church at a time.

But then, after a time of tasting the goodness of God’s plan, suddenly we wake up and realize we’re all sharing something with the same taste.

That quiet moment of realization is when glory – shared glory – becomes not just yours, not just mine, not even just God’s.

Glory becomes yours and mine.

And God says, “Yes. Glory be. They got it.”