Monday, November 10, 2014

Looking Forward to November 16, 2014 -- Texts From Isaiah

This week, as we  continue our romp through the Prophets, the Narrative Lectionary gives us a few selections from Isaiah:
  • Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20
  • Isaiah 37:1-7
  • Isaiah 2:1-4
The sermon title is Whose Voice is Louder?

Early Thoughts:  I think I will begin this week with a quote from the Working Preacher commentary (a commentary I read every week):
We can learn from this story some basic dynamics of fear and trust.
1. The Assyrian king’s messenger speaks in the language of the Hebrew people, rather than Assyrian, a strategy to intimidate people on their own terms. Such voices try to “get into our heads,” using the things or people we care about most to provoke fear.
2. The loudest voice gets our attention. In Isaiah’s story, all the people line the city wall to listen to the impressive Assyrian delegation pronounce threats. We, too, are riveted by voices crying, “be afraid!” Even when we know God is faithful, the megaphone of fear captures our attention, quickly dominates our awareness, banishing our trust in God to a distant whisper.
3. We are formed by these loud voices. Just as Hezekiah and his retinue tore their clothes and put on sackcloth, we react, too. The daily barrage from Facebook to cable news is loud. That voice becomes “the way things are,” and defines reality, denying the deep, true reality of God’s life within and among us.
4. In the midst of anxiety, a leader whose gaze is clearly focused on God can make a difference. Hezekiah warned the people ahead of time not to listen to the threats, to keep their gaze focused on the God who had delivered them rather than on these bullies, no matter how impressive their uniforms were. And he turns to Isaiah to help him keep his eye on God. So, too, we need leaders who draw our eyes back to the One who made us, who knows our going out and our coming in, who keeps us and saves us. This One has the final word, defines reality, and steeps us love that casts out fear.
5. God’s first words are: “Don’t be afraid” (Isaiah 37:6). While telling people not to be afraid does not banish all fear, it is the first step to interrupting the false narrative of intimidation. “Be not afraid” is the word of truth in the midst of lies. We must proclaim this word to one another again and again.
6. God’s mission for the world is in contrast to fear, a different frame of reference altogether (Isaiah 2: 1-4). In this frame of reference, God is at the center. Isaiah draws attention away from the gaze on military might and toward the reign of God. Jerusalem is not the beleaguered people under threat, but the center of life-giving teaching, the flourishing of life, and a source of light for all people. When our gaze shifts from a horizon of fear to a horizon of hope, trust in God grows deep roots that sustain life.
As I read these passages with two voices offering contrasting messages the first question that came to my mind was the sermon title.  Whose voice is louder?

Unlike King Hezekiah we may not have an invading army at our gates.  But we have people trying to convince us that we do.  We have many voices in our world attempting to convince us of our dire threat and that the only appropriate response is to strike out/strike back.  But we also have many voices in our world that tell us different things, that share a different point of view.  Which voices are louder?

Really though I think my question is wrong.  The question, when it gets right down to it, is not which is louder.  The question is "which voice will we listen to?".  Will we listen to the voice of fear and destruction (We may think propaganda is a new-ish weapon of warfare but in this story Sennacherib of Assyria uses it masterfully) or will we listen to the voice of calm, the voice which says relax and trust?  Will we listen to the voice of hope and peace?

Well?  Which voice do we want to listen to?  Which voice do we actually listen to?

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