Walking in the Light – Dec. 1, 2019

Walking in the Light

A Communion Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes

Isaiah 2:1-5

Dec. 1, 2019

Main Idea – God calls us to the light.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

Advent is a season for visions and dreams.  In our wider culture we are surrounded by images of happy holidays.  In the church we read and proclaim the visions from prophets of “the days to come” when all is made right with the world.  Advent can be a time when our hopes and our realities don’t line up very well as we struggle to observe, enjoy, or just survive “the most wonderful time of the year.”  During this Advent we will be envisioning and dreaming with the prophet Isaiah. This is the First Isaiah who proclaimed his message to Jerusalem and Judah between 742 and 687 BCE during a time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was overrun by the Assyrian Empire and the Southern Kingdom of Judah lived uneasily in that Empire’s shadow.    Isaiah spoke to a kingdom that was divided by social and economic injustice and that lived daily with the threat of war.  Into those dark and uncertain times Isaiah proclaimed a message of hope which shines through the ages to us in our dark and uncertain time.  God calls us to walk in the light of God.

Our text begins with “The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.  Usually we hear words, we don’t see them but Isaiah sees this word of God.  The Hebrew verb used in the sentence means  “to envision” and Isaiah describes this vision with breathtaking beauty.

In the days to come, the holy mountain of the LORD’s house will be raised up higher than all other mountains.  It shall be seen and acknowledged by all.  And all of the nations; all cultures, all ethnicities, all language groups,  will stream to this place; saying to one another “Come let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; so that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” (2:3)  The Hebrew word to stream, naharu, means “to flow like a river” or “to shine in joyful radiance”.  So as the people travel toward God they will shine in God’s light.  At this high place they will gather together and look out at the wide horizon, seeing beyond their own concerns.

The way of God is that of justice and the path of God is one of peace.  From this holy mountain, Zion, will come the LORD’s instructions.  God will adjudicate and mediate between nations so there will be no more need of war. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”  Because God will bring people together “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”(v.4)  All of humanity shall be converted from war and conflict to peace and justice.

The text ends with an invitation to join in this holy procession.  We too are invited.  “Come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

What a vision!  During Advent we proclaim this vision of peace as we prepare for the birth of the Prince of Peace, Jesus. In the vision of Isaiah we see the kingdom of God about which Jesus proclaimed.  Just like the people of Isaiah’s time, we are tired of war, corruption, and injustice.  We want to see the whole world stream toward God and live in peace, justice, and without fear.

Okay, but do we really see this happening?  Is Isaiah’s vision a real plan for the future or is it just like some feel-good Christmas special we might watch on TV?  Our world is full of violence and division. Our own nation is bitterly divided.  Protests have broken out around the globe, bringing down governments and provoking violence. Families and communities are broken and hurting.  In the midst of holiday merrymaking, there is real grief and disillusionment. How do we make a bridge between Isaiah’s vision and our reality? 

[First we can go up the mountain to gain a wider perspective.  From a mountain top we can see beyond our own concerns to the needs and perspectives of others.  We can learn from others and be joined in common cause. ]

The key is the invitation at the end of the text.  “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!” (v.5) Anne Lamott, in her book Traveling Mercies writes about her pastor Veronica who preached that “when she prays for direction, one spot of illumination always appears just beyond her feet, a circle of light into which she can step.” (Traveling Mercies p.84).  When she takes that one step then another circle of light appears.  She cannot see the end of her journey but she knows that she is on the right path. 

God is at work in the world, whether we can see it or not.  And we are invited to participate with God in bringing about Isaiah’s vision of peace.  As we walk in the light of God, stepping from one circle of light to the next we are transformed. “In the end, what Isaiah offers is not only a vision of global transformation, but an invitation to live toward that day.  “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!” However hard it may be to believe that a new and longed-for reality will take hold some day, there is power in walking in God’s light now, one step at a time…. The future belongs to God, but the first step toward that future belongs to those who have glimpsed God’s light and are willing to trust that enough light lies ahead.”  (Stacey Simpson Duke, FOTW)

As we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, let us look for the light, let us see the word God has for us.  As we wait for the birth of our Savior Jesus, let us walk in the light of God step by step.  As we walk we may become light to others, inviting them to this wonderful procession toward God.  Advent is a season of visions and dreams.  Let us walk together in the light of God.

Let us pray,

God of the ages,  we thank you for your light, your instruction, and your work in our world.  We want to walk and work with you in bringing about the glorious future when all shall live in peace.  We thank you for your child Jesus whose birth we will celebrate in a few short weeks.  Through Jesus we pray, Amen.