Monday, October 08, 2007

Isaiah 61: redeemed & reclaimed

All: This is NOT going to be the "Sonny's-thoughts-on-preaching-for-the-first-time" blog entry. That's coming later. This is just going to be the outline of the sermon I gave this past Sunday. ...yes. I said "sermon." It's about time I owned up to this.

So, get comfy, 'cause this is kinda in-depth. Grab some java, or another beverage of choice and read on. NOTE: sadly, the recording devise malfunctioned, so there is not an audio copy of this available. ...which SUCKS, because I know that I went into greater depth and detail than what this poor outline shows. Some things from this were cut, other things were added. Oh - and the running time of the sermon was 42:01, in case anyone cares about such stuff. :)


MOSAIC NOTES – 10-7-07: ISAIAH 61 – redeemed & reclaimed

Kevin first asked me to speak a few weeks ago. He knew exactly how to sway my opinion and get me to agree to this by asking me while we were in Starbucks. I would ask that you bear with me as this is my first time speaking to “BIG KIDS;” I’m much more accustomed to speaking to a high school youth group or college age – so, if I start to lapse into slang, or throw out some arcane pop-culture reference, someone please just remind me of my age. It’s always a nice slap of cold water in the face to bring me back to reality.

While I have been studying about what to say and how to say it, there have seriously have been moments where I wanted to just stand up here and talk for an hour about something pointless – like the history of cartoons or something else nonsensical. Mainly because it’d be something I’d be comfortable with and I doubt that anyone would call me on the finer theological point of Bugs VS Daffy, but also because this subject has hit a little close to home. While I’ve been wondering about why I am supposed to say what I want to say today – I’m finding out that the message is as much for me as a speaker as is for you guys as listeners.


We’ve been studying Isaiah 61 @ Mosaic for last few weeks – in-between Sundays a few weeks ago, I was listening to a Podcast that used a turn of a phrase that really hit me, and this is where we’ll launch today’s lesson from. Last week we wrapped up detailed study of IS 61, so I’m not going to re-hash or repeat – much – of what’s already been covered. This is kind of a “bridge” before the next series.

Please understand that I am not a fan of clichés or catch-phrases; things like “three point sermons” or “five points to salvation” really bug me, because last time I noticed, God could not be quantified. However, this comment really challenged me to begin to re-think how I personally saw redemption and grace: God makes all things new, not all new things.

Couple of things about me personally – I’m from the South (MS/GA), but never been really stereotypical – not so much a “good ol’ boy” – only really understood Legend of Ricky Bobby through cultural lens and not from first-hand experience.

I was raised to appreciate the “nicer things” in life – roots aren’t so much in the home w/fridge on front porch. Used to want to exclusively shop in stores like Pier One/Crate & Barrel/Pottery Barn (because CLEARLY, for example, wooden spoons are BETTER if they’re bought from a high-end market). This was the culture I was immersed in, and no matter how much we try to shake it, we always view our lives through the cultural lenses we’re given.

To illustrate history of culture – we had room in front of house no one ever used. EVER. It was the first room people saw when they came to our house, and it was used as a display room. Shut off by large glass doors – as a kid, I used to crack the doors open and put my bare feet on carpet just to see if mom would notice. The kicker was that my grandparents had same kind of room in their house. So, this was not just my mom being weird – she came by it honestly. These rooms had china cabinets, and the “good” furniture in them – I can’t recall EVER using that room in grandparents’ house. Even after they both died and we were getting ready to sell the house – felt weird to go into it to clean it out.

Once I graduated college, I wanted my apartment to look like it did in the catalogs or store floors. Pristine. Immaculate. Not really lived-in. Now? Feel sort of weird in expensive stores like ones mentioned. Not just b/c can’t really afford the stuff in there (no debt), but it’s so shiny. So new. Not earthy; no history to it.

Ever walk through a store w/really expensive BREAKABLE stuff w/a kid? Do you have that terror-filled moment like at any second, the bag of Skittles they ate last week will kick back in and they’ll just go nuts? Don’t you feel like you have to monitor them the whole time? How I feel now. Like I am afraid I will hit the shelf and something will break and the store manager will escort my ragamuffin self out. Not that I will go on a rampage like bull in china shop and intentionally break all kinds of stuff in these stores, but the shininess, the newness, the expense of it all intimidates me a bit. Not reflective of what I need in my life now/at the stage I’m in. I have grown past the “need” for the nice stuff, and have a deeper understanding/appreciation for the earthiness of life. Life is meant to be lived, not studied. Apologies to all the sociologists in the room, but it’s true.

Although it’s been a bit of culture shock moving from GA to Miami, I finally don’t stare slack-jawed at all the palm trees. Since I work at the university, the biggest comparison for me have been culture among students @ Univ of Miami, which is sort of similar in some ways to students @ UGA. For the most part – and although this is VERY stereotypical of the student body – thankfully not the ones I am fortunate enough to work with – but the newest/best/most $$ seems to be prevalent – (FOR EXAMPLE – TALK ABOUT my saggy-roofed & dirty Jetta VS immaculate Hummer on the highway @ red light).

JETTA: to look at it, wouldn’t know that it’s kind of new – wrecked over ago – VW commercial “Safe Happens” – new windshield, hood, front grill, bumper, etc. Only about $300 shy of being totaled. Wouldn’t take ANYTHING for that car – has character – I can see the newness of it and not the wreck that it was only a little over a year ago – I really can’t remember what it looked like beforehand (dents in hood, cracks in windshield, them the wreck) – God’s the same way – takes & recreates that which some would say has no worth or intrinsic value & sees the true value in it.

ISAIAH 61:3-4 (NASB): To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.

God makes all things new, not all new things. This is sometimes difficult for us as Christ followers to “get.” We’ve been talking about in this in Life Group about the book of Acts – specifically in Ch 1 – how the people who were closest to Jesus (physically) for three years just didn’t get what He was talking about a lot of times (from the restoration of the kingdom – they thought military, He thought holy). The Twelve had the luxury of the benefit of not having the Spirit of God (the comforter) with them yet. How is it we sometimes don’t get the true essence of what the Bible says? Or that we buy into the misinterpretation that we’ve been told & sold throughout the years?

One of the reasons it’s hard to understand – we want a new start – new life – want to literally interpret 2 Corinthians 5:17 (compare NIV to MSG) – in Greek, the “new” is Kainos – means “qualitatively” new not “out of nothing” new. Many of us want, at the moment of salvation, to be able to take the life that existed beforehand and forget it. For example, if you were a murderer before your conversion, you might want to be able to think that everything you did before salvation can be erased. In God’s eyes, yes. He can and does make all things new, meaning your salvation – your spirit – is restored to that moment in time when sin didn’t exist in the world. You have been made new by the blood of Christ. But – your life is not a new thing. You’re not “Sonny 2.0,” where your life before did not exist. This isn’t like the FBI Witness Relocation Program, where you’re given a completely new identity and there are no ramifications of your life HERE.

Eternity has been secured, but the reality is that we can’t escape our lives here on earth.

2 Cor 5:17 (NIV): Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

2 Cor 5:17 (MSG): Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!

Take a closer look at a couple of key words found in verses in Isaiah: IS 61:3 – oil of gladness. Oil is SHEMEN in Hebrew - richness. In the midst of a passage talking about dealing with the oppressed, God is offering richness. Not RICHES, but richness. Something full. There might be something deeper there – we look for the literal, but God grants us more than what we normally would look for.

IS 61:4 – devastations. Word used is Shamem – the word used to describe Tamar after she was raped by Amnon (II Samuel 13:20). It is something so horrible that it can leave a person speechless. (Job 21:5)

Imagery in this passage is just immensely powerful – richness in the face of a people who’ve lost everything, and few words have a more commanding emotional gut-check than the word “rape.” But God is willing to state He will raise up and rebuild after a devastation like that.

Many of us have been there – some of us have hit walls of desperation, some have truly had those moments of where we feel stripped of our worth, our dignity, our essence of who we are. Sometimes it’s the circumstances of our lives that spiral out of control, sometimes we’re the architects of our own undoing. And we need to own that. Regardless, life can devastate. Life can tear us/wear us down.

No matter how together we think we might be – no matter how much of a veneer or façade we have on our life – we are all, in some way, broken.

Weren’t just born into sin and then kept in a bubble until salvation then isolated from the world after being saved – okay, some were (for example, Donald Miller tells the story that it’s possible that you CAN exclusively go to a Christian elementary, middle and high school, go to a Christian college, work for a Christian business, and exclusively eat Christian food at Chic-Fil-A). But for many of us, we have a very rich, very detailed storyline – that to negate and ignore the history of your life is a slap in the face against the redemptive powers of Christ.

"No one is beyond redemption. A converted terrorist wrote half of the New Testament. We have a God that loves evildoers so much he died for them. Can we look into the eyes of people we don’t like, and see the image of the One we love?" - Shane Claiborne

Ref: woman caught in adultery – today, might not be that big of a deal in society, but to the culture of that time, where women had little to no value socially, was very much a big deal – ever notice how the Bible never states if she was the married party in this or not? To Christ it didn’t matter – John 8:10-11 (MSG). Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?" "No one, Master." "Neither do I," said Jesus.

Cool thing – word used for condemnation in Greek (katakrima) has two meanings: when Jesus asked “Does no one condemn you,” He meant in the present tense, the here and now. When He said “Neither do I condemn you,” he meant in an eternal sense. Reference part of passage where Jesus stood up. Others picked up stones, while Jesus picked up the woman. Saw value in her as a child of His, and reclaimed & redeemed her; saw true value in her where others simply saw a whore.

One of most beautiful prayers – PS 51 – taken from a broken spirit, a true prayer of redemption – v. 10: “Create in me a clean heart oh Lord my God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (MSG – God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week out of my life.)

Words key in that verse: clean heart. In Hebrew, clean meant “Tahowr” (taw-HORE) – ritually and ethically pure – people who were found to be unclean because of who they had been with or because of what they’d done had to be purified (ref: Good Samaritan, and why the Priest and the Levite did not stop)

To be purified – cleaned – in Jewish culture was not just a one-time deal – in battle, soldiers had to be purified after each battle – much like we do after each battle in our lives – not enough to just ask for forgiveness the day you commit to Christ; must make a conscious effort to be ethically pure in our lives. Salvation doesn’t just happen, it is happening.

Ps 51:12 (NIV) – Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant a willing spirit to sustain me.

Originally wanted to call this “God is Green,” mainly because my church/cultural lense makes me knee-jerk think that I have to come up with a catchy or marketable title. However, "green" evoked a sense of recycling to me. VERY much a proponent for environmental issues, but WE are not recycled: we are reclaimed. Restored. In recycling, the original form is not recognizable in the finished product. Recycling is the reprocessing of materials into new products. Restoration is the process of bringing an object back to its original state. Spiritually, we might not INTERNALLY resemble to person we were before, but we still EXTERNALLY resemble that person. God makes all things new, not all new things.

Among the many reasons Ashley and I felt drawn to this church was the facilities. We meet in older building, restored to use. (Used to meet in a warehouse across the street from a beer distributor in Athens, GA.) Like the furniture here: restored to and for a greater use. Heard the comment Mosaic was “progressive” for its use of couches. Kinda had to laugh – not only b/c these couches aren’t really what I think anyone would call progressive, but also because this just layout evokes and illustrates the commitment to community/shared living – shared life – template of what the church is supposed to be about.

Not that Mosaic is the church – has its flaws – but it’s living the idea of redemptive theology in life, in theory and in action. And we’re challenged to take these lessons out into the places that need to hear them the most.

Grace is a renewable resource. Never run dry (never thirst). Living water (ref. John 4:10, 13-14) Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The challenge is can we operate and live our lives based on the hope and the promise of restoration of the destruction of our lives, living life like we ARE restored, and as an agent of restoration in the lives of others.

IS 61:4 (MSG) - They'll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage. They'll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new.



Andy said...

I have a friend / mentor who says, "If you preach longer than 20 minutes, then you are not prepared."

I like to say, "If you preach longer than 40 minutes, then you are a Fundamentalist."

Anonymous said...

Andy's comment is funny you Fundamentalist you! Anyway, I hate that the recording did not work. I wish I could have heard this message rather than just read the outline. However, the outline is deep. It really makes me miss my friend Sonny and the insight that he could bring into my life. Miss you! Ryan