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Called to be a Light to the Nations - Epiphany II

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Lord, may the words of my Mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you - our strength and saviour - Amen.

Listen to Me!


Pay Attention you peoples!

A little startling, perhaps….But I think effective?

            Well, I do apologize to those of you that were looking for a quite, contemplative   worship service - But this is how our Old Testament passage starts out

                        And God through the prophet Isaiah wants to makes sure His message is heard

Twice - we are instructed… no, commanded to listen and be attentive in our listening

            Why you may ask why is our attention so important?

                        Why is God so forcefully trying to makes sure we are not napping in our pews?

                                    (long pause)

Simply put God is going to tell us about our purpose - the reason for the church

            And God is going to do it in a timeless fashion

                        Or should I say in a manner that transcends time

It is a message that was relevant to the Hebrew people in living in exile over 2 ½ millennium ago

            It was relevant to the first Christians 2 millennium ago, who saw; in Isaiah’s prophecy;      the messianic fulfillment in the person of Jesus of Nazareth

                        And it is relevant to every church community ever since

IT IS - nothing other then - God’s call and mission for His people

            And it is an ideal message for this Epiphany season

So … Listen to Me! ....Pay Attention you peoples!

It starts out similar to other CALL narratives

            Isaiah’s explains in a way similar to Jeremiah, Amos, Moses, St. Paul …and of course Jesus

                        That God had a purpose for him and by extension all of Israel

            A purpose that was set out before he was born, while still in his mother’s womb

                        I say ‘by extension all of Israel’ because the passage slips between the first                         person in Isaiah and the whole nation repeatedly,

                                    and from that the message is clear - that we are to see ‘the message for                              one’ to be ‘a message for many’

To help understand this message I would like to break the text into two parts:

            First - What does the text tells us about the present situation of Isaiah/ Israel/ the church

The church - the people of God - the new Israel  - terms can be used interchangeably

            Second - And what does God’s word call God’s people to do!

                        … First - The present situation for the people of God:

To God’s chosen people - God says that he is all knowing, all powerful and sets the agenda for the world

            “called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me”

God’s agenda includes involvement in forming us, preparing us, giving us the gifts that we will need to serve out God’s will

            “He made my mouth like a sharp sword”

            “he made me a polished arrow”

God is our protection, and the timing is all God’s

            “in the shadow of his hand he hid me”

            “in his quiver he hid me away”

In God’s plan - we are the hands and feet in this world - We are called to gather the faithful

            “Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him,      and that Israel might be gathered to him”

When we strive for ‘our plans’… our efforts, are revealed for what they are

            “But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity”

The people’s salvation is a gift from God

            “I will give you… my salvation”

God is faithful and comes to people in their times of struggle - in fact at a high point of frustration

            “the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the            nations, the slave of rulers”

In the midst of this message telling us a great deal about the present situation of ‘the people of God’ - and revealing a great deal about who God is

            - God’s vision for His people is expanded with a startling message

                        - our second part: What God’s word is calling God’s people to do!

I think the timing of this message is incredible

            God has placed this “reason for the church” at ‘this time of the year’

                        The time when churches all over the world are considering their plans for the                      upcoming year

                                    The beginning of the calendar year

                                                The start of planning for the year ahead

                                    And in our Anglican tradition - it is ‘the time of year’ for vestries

                                                Annual meetings that consider - budgets, financial planning,                                                staffing, ministries of the church and missions from the church                                           into the world

            …And it is in this time of year that we have God’s call to His people

To this - God says

            “Listen to me - pay attention you peoples”


“Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel,  - who has chosen you.”


He says,…  “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

GOD’S CALL - through Israel / God’s people (spread over the world) - to all the nations

            This ‘call to action’ is none other then: The Great Commission

                        Jesus Christ’s parting words - after the cross - after the resurrection - after the                    comforting appearances and fine-tuning of discipling / teaching

                                    The moment before accession - Jesus instructs us of the same message that                                     Isaiah prophesized centuries before - -  St Mark records Jesus’ words:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”

Or if you like the Gospel of Matthew’s version better


“Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


God reverses their predicament

            Both the people in Isaiah’s time - in exile soon to return to the Promised Land

                        And the people in the time of the Lord’s earthly incarnation under occupation                    by the Romans

                                    reverses their predicament ‘of being under other nations’

                                                And calls them to be for all nations

That “it is too light a thing” to be only for themselves

            And brothers and sister in Christ - “it is too light a thing” - for us too

The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth, among the most influential theologians of the 20th century, is credited for saying:

            “The church is the only institution on earth that exist for those that are not yet in it”

Such is God's will for us - yes first to be transformed into his image, to be made holy.

            And it is not just our church-life that should be transformed: but our family, work,            social, political and recreational life.

                        And when we live the truth we are "a light for the Gentiles."

We can only pray that God will help us pull our heads out of our...navels,

 - look around, and see a world in need of what we have to offer as God's hands and feet on earth

                              The Church is not a business - but a tool for God’s ministry in the world

            Fred Pratt Green writes in a Hymn “When the church of Jesus shuts its outer door, lest      the roar of traffic drown the voice of prayer, may our prayers, Lord, make us ten times           more aware that the world we banish is our Christian care.”

Today the first day of: ‘the week of Christian unity’ - may we be unified to God’s Epiphany

            God’s revelation and gift to the whole world

                        And may we - as we cast a vision for the upcoming year’s ministry

                                    Strive to fulfill the Great commission - trusting that our Lord is “with                                  you always, to the end of the age”

                                                ….Looking with Epiphany eyes - Amen

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