Damariscotta Baptist Church
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

12/11/11 Sermon

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

 

Well Christmas Day is only 2 weeks away. For some of us who havent yet done our shopping or have other loose end to tie up we would prefer to push December 25th back about 2 more weeks.  But from a childs perspective Christmas Day cant come soon enough. They can hardly wait for Christmas morning to open up those gifts.

Its funny how your perspective can change depending on how you see things.  And Christmas is one of those times that over our lifetime, can seen a change in our perspective.

As a child, Christmas was a time of excitement and anticipation waiting for the receiving of gifts. I can recall how I would be all consumed -- the new bicycle---Schwinn Continental.

But as we get older most of us experience a change in perspective where we understand that its more blessed to give than it is to receive. We find joy in the giving.

We grow up out of our need for receiving things to the more mature way of giving to our children or to those less fortunate.

Our perspective is different; its a grown up perspective.

But what about our perspective of faith? Does our perspective of Christianity experience a maturity; a growing up?.............

One of my favorite Christmas songs on the radio is a song written by David Foster titled My Grown Up Christmas List.

Its a song about a changing perspective of what one would ask of Santa Claus when sitting on his knee. Listen to the words: 

Do you remember me

I sat upon your knee

I wrote to you

With childhood fantasies

Well, I'm all grown up now

And still need help somehow

I'm not a child

But my heart still can dream

So here's my lifelong wish

My grown up Christmas list

Not for myself

But for a world in need:

No more lives torn apart

That wars would never start

And time would heal all hearts

And everyone would have a friend

And right would always win

And love would never end

This is my grown up Christmas list.

When we read todays scripture from Isaiah what were looking at is similar kind of grown up Christmas list.

The prophet is pointing to another a day that is to come.  A day when a Messiah would come to bring good news to the poor, when the brokenhearted would be comforted, when captives would be freed.  Isaiah was pointing to the coming of Jesus.

Jesus in fact referred to this scripture, centuries later, when he was asked by John the Baptists disciples if he was the long-awaited Messiah.

Jesus told them to tell the imprisoned John:   The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosyb are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.

But notice that Jesus wasnt saying yeah thats me, Im the MessiahNo he points to what he was bringing about. A new way; He identifies himself with a way of goodness and justice, life and freedom and peace.----a way that deep in our hearts we long for.   And thats what we see Isaiahs prophecy talk about. It doesnt simply point to the coming of Jesus.  It  points to what Jesus was bringing about. He speaks of a redeemed world in verse 4 where ruined cities are repaired.

Isaiah often pointed to this new era to come. In the 11th chapter he spoke about a day when the wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the young goat and the lion will lie with the calf. And of course a little will lead them.

In the 65th chapter he speaks of a new heaven and new earth; a new Jerusalem where there will be no sound of weeping or distress.  What we see here is that the coming of Jesus on Christmas is not simply about Jesus coming, but more importantly what Jesus was bringing about; his mission, his kingdom that he began; the redemption and transformation of the world of which were a part.

 

And with this understanding of what Jesus came to do, our perspective of Christianity and our faith is also affected.  You see what can often happen to Christians is that we can be a lot like little children when it comes our faith.

Its about whats in it for me.

We live in a culture, especially here in America where its all about us.

Like a child we see ourselves at the center of the universe; everything revolves around us.

Self-improvement in our culture is a multi-billion dollar industry.  And because we swim in it everyday, its easy for us to turn the gospel message into a whats in it for me, self-improvement theology.

Our perspective of the whole complete gospel is that God sent his son first and foremost for our personal salvation.

Therefore when people are invited to become Christians, they are being sold on this premise that as you give yourself to Christ, he will come and give you lots of presents.   If you give your life to Christ you will get peace. If you give your life to Christ you will get satisfaction. If you give your life to Jesus you will get joy and fulfillment.

And while we do experience peace and joy and fulfillment, when the premise and perspective begins with this whats in it for me mentality instead of Jesus' kingdom first; Jesus becomes what Max Lucado called a rabbit foot Jesus:

"Hes a good-luck charm whose specialty is getting you out of a jam.  If you cant find a parking space, just ask him.  If you need help quickly, just rub him like a genie lamp and whatever your wish is his command.  Hell give you new jobs, pink Cadillacs, and improved spouses.  And when youre done with him, hell go back into the lamp".  (Lucado)

When our perspective begins with Jesus being sent for US first, (to save me to give me peace, to give me joy, to give me fulfillment and satisfaction) we lose sight of what Jesus purpose and mission was and therefore we lose sight of what our purpose and mission is in this life.   When our persepective is that Jesus was sent first and foremost for us/ME, as if he's our own personal bell hop or caterer, we make his kingdom way secondary.  And as a result we become self-centered little me and my Jesus bumper cars whose main purpose is to feel good. (this shows in how poorly Christians can treat one another) But Jesus primary purpose was to bring about his new kingdom of which were a part. Jesus had a grown up Christmas list that he was putting into action.  The feeding of the poor and hungry, the comforting of the broken hearted, the freeing the captive, the bringing about of justice and goodness, peace and salvation were about this way.

And when we get this as the foundation of our Christian faith, it changes our perspective. Its no longer about God revolving around usits about us revolving around God and God using us to bring what Tom Wright says Gods wise, glad and fruitful order to this world. (Justification)

You see, this world that we live in is important---it is not a throw away.

Thats another thing that happens when we start from the premise of me and my salvation.

We throw away this world and the call to be working to bring about Jesus kingdom because were just passively waiting at the bus stop, looking at our watch, waiting to be whisked away to some far away place called heaven where we can be in an closer, feel good relationship with me and my God.  But this self-centered theology forgets to read Isaiah, the letters of Paul as well as the closing scenes of Revelation where human beings are NOT about us being whisked away to an intimate relationship with God but rather about heaven coming to earth.  This earth that God created as good, will one day be completely redeemed as we will be. This world is not a throw away............

Now what does all this have to do with this season of Advent?  Well as we have been talking about over the last 2 weeks, Advent is a time of active waiting, not passively waiting for the time when we die and all go to heaven.

How we wait is important.

As Christians we are waiting for the second Advent, when Christ comes to bring about the fullness of his kingdom that he began right here in this world.

So as we wait for Christ to come we are called to be intentional and active in helping to bring about what Jesus began.  We dont throw away what Jesus started.

And so as we wait we do so by revolving around God, playing a part in Gods larger purpose and plan to remake this world.

While our salvation is VERY important, our perspective is not to be about God revolving around us and our wants and needs but rather us revolving around God and his  purposes of bringing good news to the poor, of comforting the brokenhearted, of offering freedom for the captives, of redeeming this community and this world by shining the light of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.   This isnt optional. Its our purpose.

This change of perspective changes everything.  It changes who we are as individuals, it changes who we are as a church and it changes the world we are engaging with.  It changes our witness as we invite people to a complete salvation where they not only experience peace, fulfillment and joy but they do so as a result of becoming a part of a coming kingdom where light conquers darkness, where there will be no more war, or disease, where there will be justice and goodness.  Were inviting them into this way----not to some personal genie Jesus........

I have to say I am so blessed to see that our congregation is embracing this perspective and the impact that this perspective is having on us and our community.

Our intentional focus of being a part of Gods kingdom plan is so evident.

Operation Christmas Child and its global mission to help children in need.  Our involvement in the Holiday Wish Tree calling families to help provide them with toys for their children. The prayer shawl ministry and card care ministry, and singing Christmas Carols at Coves Edge; these are offering comfort and hope to the broken hearted.  The Divorce Care ministry and Kairos ministry are giving freedom to the captives. The Harvest supper and Food pantry are providing food for the hungry and concerts like Friday night can open the door for people to hear the message of the Gospel.  All of these are active ways of waiting; of living out our purpose and playing our part in Gods plan of redemption plan.  And as we do it from this persepective first, we do experience a true joy and peace and fulfillment; just not a self-centered one.

Today on this 3rd Sunday of Advent, Isaiah is calling us to actively wait by changing our perspective and our purpose.

Like a child who grows to learn the true joy of giving over receiving, were being called to this grown up Christmas list where we truly live out the Christian faith by giving ourselves to Gods plan to redeem the world.

Jesus came with a purpose and a plan. As we wait this Advent season let us wait with a focus on his coming kingdom. Let us revolve around God---not looking at what God can do for us but instead seeking to find--- what we can do for Him.

 

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen