December 11, 2016    Advent 3        Isaiah 61

You can listen to the sermon here:

Or, you can watch it here:

Or, you can read it here:

The people have come home. Their exile is over. That’s the context for today’s reading. They’re home. But the romantic notions fall away pretty quickly as we remember that most died away from home, dreaming of home. Those returning were mostly children when they were exiled or were born in exile and so only have the stories and visions from their parents of what home is like.

None of it is as they’ve imagined. They didn’t anticipate that their homes would be gone. They hadn’t thought what it would feel like to go back to a home where there was no temple, no center of the community, no holy place. That was gone. The home they longed for was a city of ruins, a desolate place. Their faint memories, their dreams of home were shattered.

It was a dark time for the Israelites. They were broken, they were in serious need of repair, of their hope, their faith. Their city was in need of repair.

And here is this voice, crying out that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him. We are not sure it is the prophet Isaiah at this point in the book, but this servant of the Lord is crying out to the poor, to the brokenhearted, to the captives. His message is sure: he preaches good news to the poor

Doesn’t he see the state of things? Doesn’t he hear how ridiculous his message sounds, echoing off of dilapidated buildings, bouncing off the tender and brokenhearted people whose disappointment only grows? How offensive this racket of hope, of deliverance, of a future they can’t see or imagine must sound in this desolate, lifeless place.

It’s easier to stay in the dark. Just leave us be. We can’t do the things you suggest – we are broken.

I wonder, who has come shouting hope to you when you’ve been in deep darkness? When has someone entered into your city of ruins and suggested repairs, started knocking on load-bearing walls and dreaming dreams that just sounded too risky? Was it offensive to you? Did you tell them to go away, did you pull the covers further over your head? Did you insist they were talking to the wrong person?

It was close to this time in December 2009 that my Uncle Bill died by suicide. It was just a week later that my aunt, his wife, died, from a heart attack. And so darkness settled in upon me and my family. I was in seminary at the time and had decided to take a class called Genesis to Revelation in January. It’s a veritable romp through the Bible and Professor Craig Koester brings it to life in astonishing ways. This professor, not unlike me, gets loud when he gets excited. You might say offensively loud. Especially when you’re in the dark. Especially when your hearts gone cold. Turns out, there was no better medicine, no better repair for me than to have the story of God’s love as told in the whole of scripture yelled at me for a good 2 weeks straight. It shook my heart awake to the promise of God’s everlasting love for all of us, my aunt and uncle too.

That’s Isaiah 61. Tromping over felled buildings and broken dreams and declaring what God will do, can do, is doing. And Isiah 61 is not blind to the landscape. In fact, he’s taken it all in which only makes what God will do that much more blaring and ridiculous.

It can be hard to put our hope and faith in the fact that the imprisoned will go free, that the brokenhearted will be wholehearted, that those who mourn will be comforted that the devastation of ruin will be repaired. It is hard to believe this some days, isn’t it? But it is the truth proclaimed by Isaiah and it is what we’re waiting for to be born in Jesus Christ.

We wait for repair even as the good news rings off our broken hearts.

Thanks be to God.




without the change it sounds like he is telling them what to do, but as I read the text it sounds more like what he is doing/offering them… not asking them to do for themselves. Am I reading it wrong?