Here is Our God The Sunday Sermon – November 8, 2015

Look At This  Isaiah 40:6-9

 Hear the audio:  

contactos mujeres en alagon Here is Our God

Stewardship Season … (Larry did a little of this is his opening Minute for Mission, but …) let’ recap just a bit … Week One:    ‘Tis the season to be giving, Stewardship is here but don’t be sad!

Time and talents, tithes for living, Stewardship is here –that’s not all bad!

Opportunities, opportunities, Stewardship, Stewardship, Stew-ard-ship

Five full weeks of deep thanksgiving, Stewardship is here, let’s all be glad!

Week Two:   The book of Joshua confronted us with the necessity of choice in a world that is always changing and always seeking to claim our allegiance.  But … “As for us” in this season, on that day we proclaimed that we “will serve the Lord.” We are witnesses against ourselves that we chose – once again – to serve God.

Week Three:            We acknowledged our own joy as Doorkeepers in the house of our God!  Accepting that title means accepting its duties, and the duties of a “doorkeeper” include, at least, two things:  That we ourselves wait at the door to enter the sanctuary and that we encourage and enable everyone who desires entry to cross the threshold.  We are doorkeepers in the house of our God.

Week Four:  (Last week)  We are SOTMOGs: Stewards of the Mysteries of God, nothing other than the gospel message itself.  What has been entrusted to us by God in Jesus is unconditional love – the greatest mystery of all to those of us who just can’t seem to get it.  We are stewards, keepers, guardians of the hidden wisdom of Christ’s saving love.  How do we begin to understand that call, let alone live it out?

Week Five:   This morning … Pray with me … And listen for the Word of God … Read Isaiah 40:6-9

This morning we will bring our tithes for this morning as well as our pledges for next year, forward, before God and one another.  Whatever words I have spoken, whatever stories we have remembered, whatever pleas we have issued, whatever promises have been made, have been in service to this day.  More than (almost) any other week in the whole year, I find myself uttering the inquiry in the very first verse of our reading this morning over and over again:  “What shall I cry?!” What shall I cry … ?

We were guided to these verses in Isaiah, verses most often heard during the church’s season of Advent, by a prayer.  The prayer of dedication this morning, that Jenna will offer on our behalf later in the service contains words from the 40th chapter of Isaiah, from the opening speech of the second major section of this Book.  These words are part of a larger message in Isaiah that welcomes Israel back from their Babylonian exile.  This section, beginning with these verses, is filled with drama, mystery, and hope.  That description fits perfectly with the messages we have shared, that have filled our ears, and hopefully our hearts for the last month!  The drama, the mystery, the suspense, and the ultimate hope that is a part of any stewardship season at any church in any part of the country.

The question that is asked in our opening verse, “What shall I cry?,” and the questions that our Call to Offering will ask more rhetorically in a few moments, “Who are we to declare our loyalty?  Who are we to promise our love?  Who are we to dare to hope?” are what led us to this passage, but as I explored it a bit deeper, it exploded into this day.

As the chapter opens, God is speaking to a “divine council.”  That’s a difficult idea for you and I, a “divine council,” but the verbs in the first five verses of chapter 40 are plural.  God is talking with “them” and God is issuing them commands.  The first command is to “comfort.”  “Comfort” my people who have suffered incalculable loss and shame in their exile, but who have returned.  “Tell them that peace has returned and that our relationship with them has been restored.”

Then, in verses 3-5, a second command is issued:  All those attending upon the Lord, this divine council, are to prepare a way for God in the wilderness.  God’s way will not be cleared, God’s restoration with humanity will not be restored, by human endeavors, but by God’s will that it may be so.  (We hear our Christmas story in these verses, the “crisis” of God-with-us” that we will anticipate again in only a few weeks.)

But then … then … a third command, heard in the first verse of our reading this morning: “Cry out.” Now, unlike the first two commands, in which the imperatives, the verbs, were plural, directed to the “divine council,” this imperative, this command, is in the singular, directed at some one.


But to whom is it directed? Who is God talking to in this third command?

The answer is contained in the next phrase. (Somebody tell me who this is that is commanded to “cry out,” to “proclaim.”) It is you!  It is me!  We have stood silent amidst the members of the divine council through two commandments, and now, as God talks directly to us, we are asked to respond. Now we must respond.  But we’re not sure how! What shall I proclaim?

Whatever words I have shared, whatever stories we have remembered, whatever pleas we have issued, whatever promises have been made, have been in service to this day. How much more dramatic, mysterious, and hopeful can we get?!

So … What will you proclaim?

Our first response may be like the prophet’s response as he notes his own sense of unworthiness and nothingness. Whether any of us invoke this frailness a bit disingenuously or not, that is, as an excuse not to get involved as deeply as we should, we do recognize the dread this realization has always struck in our hearts.  The “transience of all flesh,” and the “fleeting nature of time” attacks the very heart of human life in all ages.  Why should we bother?  How can we make a difference, here in our church or anywhere in the world?  What can we do?  These are the questions that have vexed us all from the beginning of time!  And ones we too willingly give in to, especially when it means we don’t need to commit ourselves to “uncertain paths and vague destinations.”  But we do … need to commit ourselves … to uncertain paths and vague destinations.  And we are able to do this because …

… There is one group for whom the images of human frailty and fleeting time do contain the possibility of hope, namely, those of us who open our hearts to God as companion: Deliverer, provider, sustainer, redeemer.  We’ll spend much of the rest of the year explaining and exploring how those open hearts do not, and must not, mean that we sit passively by while “God” does all the work.  Rather our recognition that our time is fleeting and that God is in control makes the moments we have here, together, a call to engage assertively in our proclamation!

As part of those who look in faith to God, within us – among us – and far beyond us, we proceed from our only secure basis of hope and promise and follow our command to proclaim. “What shall I cry?” Our answer is there again in our scripture:  In the end we pronounce the words that strikes hope in our hearts and all those who would follow, “Do not fear … Here is your God!” Here – in this place (cover your heart).  And here in this place (spread your arms wide) when we gather together.

There is nothing like beginning a message with basics, and second Isaiah does: God is with you.  There is nothing like ending a season with the essentials, either.  And so we have:  Life with God has a center, has meaning, has a source of healing and reconciliation and great joy:  it can begin right here, in the church, at the church, through the church.  This flawed body of human association.  This incarnation of the divine.  It can begin, again, right here through this church.

We have gathered here this morning because God has called us not just to share but to risk what we have. God accepts our gifts no matter how great or how slight we may perceive them to be, if they are given with a passion and a deep hope for all that we can be in the year ahead.  I encourage you in the moments ahead, or in the weeks ahead, to change your mind about what you’ve already decided you’re going to pledge to the operating budget of this church of 2015.  As you all prepare to come forward, consider one last time the pledge you are preparing to make.  Is it safe?  Does it promise no return?  Or is it a bit risky for your comfortable life?  Does it reflect your faith in a church that is a nice thing to have?  Or in a community that makes a difference in your life and the lives of countless others?

We need not make this day, this moment, too dramatic. But we dare not make it too trivial, either.  At this time of commitment and rededication, let our vows of loyalty to this church, to God’s Kingdom on earth, and to one another be not empty words, but rather signs of lives lived passionately and perilously in the service of Christ’s love.

As we end, we begin … with the basics.  In the weeks and months ahead we will spend much time covering all the obstacles that we have and will set up to remove ourselves from God’s presence and we will engage some of the resistance we muster to avoid confessing that we need one another if we are to be whole ourselves.  But today we accept our call to present ourselves to God and to proclaim to our selves, one another, and all who will listen:  “Here is our God!”  An announcement that can transform the darkest tragedy into the deepest blessing.


Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor

Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / November 8, 2015