Sermon for August 7, 2016  

Preaching text:Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
1The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
10Hear the word of the Lord,

you rulers of Sodom!

Listen to the teaching of our God,

you people of Gomorrah!

11What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?

says the Lord;

I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams

and the fat of fed beasts;

I do not delight in the blood of bulls,

or of lambs, or of goats.
12When you come to appear before me,

who asked this from your hand?

Trample my courts no more;

13bringing offerings is futile;

incense is an abomination to me.

New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—

I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.

14Your new moons and your appointed festivals

my soul hates;

they have become a burden to me,

I am weary of bearing them.

15When you stretch out your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen;

your hands are full of blood.

16Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your doings

from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

17learn to do good;

seek justice,

rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

plead for the widow.
18Come now, let us argue it out,

says the Lord:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be like snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool.

19If you are willing and obedient,

you shall eat the good of the land;

20but if you refuse and rebel,

you shall be devoured by the sword;

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Sermon — this is an oral event, and sometimes what is preached is not exactly what appears on the page.
 

Sermon – Aug 7, 2016“I’ve worked this area for 12 years and didn’t know this was a church.” Said one of the police officers I met one night. I’m pretty sure that we’ve either heard or said about our little building here on the corner of Juneau and Edison that, “it doesn’t look like a church”.


 

Well, isn’t that exactly how we and the folks who came before us planned it? Some of us might be a bit proud that we don’t have the architecture of a traditional building—no stodgy steeple, stained glass or organ. No dusty hard immovable pews. We at Village Church bought an old bar/disco and turned it into this place of worship.

 

We don’t look or sound like a church. We don’t use hymnals; each week our liturgy (the words we say in worship, while following the same basic pattern) each week the words are different, so different that we can’t mindlessly race through the Lord’s Prayer – Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, (you get the picture).

 

Sure we don’t look like a church, still it’s always good to ask, “why are we here?” and now I’m not asking why you as an individual or as a family, but as a church. Why is the church here?

 

As our society changes, lots of people are asking why we are here?

 

Does God need our praise, our songs? No. The prophet Isaiah, 700 years before Jesus was even born. The prophet, the spokesperson for God declares:

 

I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams

and the fat of fed beasts;

I do not delight in the blood of bulls,

or of lambs, or of goats.

 

12When you come to appear before me,

who asked this from your hand?

Trample my courts no more;

13bringing offerings is futile;

incense is an abomination to me.

 

Our God didn’t and doesn’t need our worship. God doesn’t somehow feed off our prayers and sacrifices. Our God is not like some cosmic person who will starve if not fed, who’s ego needs stroking. In fact, a little past what I just quoted. We hear God saying: 14Your new moons and your appointed festivals

my soul hates;

 

God’s soul hating are strong words, but the Hebrew can even be a stronger. It can be an idiom for feeling sick, stomach ache, nausea and what follows—for which we have our various words—puke, barf, get sick, vomit.

 

God doesn’t live off our words—nature (sun, moon, seasons, rains) aren’t the result of our sacrifices.

 

In the prophet Isaiah’s day, God is let’s say—less than pleased because the worship of the people of God did not impact the way they lived. Theirs was a land of economic divides of some “have’s” and a lot more “have-nots”. Of course, Isaiah wasn’t directing his words at the church per se that didn’t exist, but there were priests. Isaiah is speaking to them, and to the people, to the people as a whole, a society, a nation. Perhaps that is why we are here.

 

A different officer asked one night, why are we here, with a bar next door, across the street, kitty-corner from us—two doors down from a gentleman’s club. I responded after a few words about inclusivity, that well this is where Jesus would be. The officer liked what I had to say. And, I was pretty pleased with my self, until I got to thinking would Jesus this is just be sitting here on these oh so comfy chairs at 10am on a Sunday morning, when parking is a bit easier?  

 

Pretty sure he’d be here at 10pm or later, sitting at a bar, or outside, eating a piece of pizza, or talking with Superman who just sold him a hotdog.

 

Perhaps that is why we as a church are here.

To learn and to

learn to do good;

seek justice,

rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

plead for the widow.

 

Not just us, but to remind if our people have forgotten and to tell them if they never new—that that’s what the sin of Sodom and Gomorrha [Gen 13:13; 18:20; 19:13; cf. Ezekiel 16:49]. It was greed; it was violence; it wasn’t homosexuality. To do good, justice, to rescue the oppressed, the orphan, the widow—the take care of the most vulnerable—not just with a bit of charity but with justice that changes the systems that create too many orphans and widows—that is what pleases God.

 

So why are you here as an individual as a family. There sure are plenty of other options and obligations.

 

I was at a bachelorette party yesterday afternoon (did a 5k obstacle course). At the end of our time together, they reminded each other that they had cross fit tomorrow at 10am. Sunday morning at 10am. Crossfit, like some other things creates and builds friendships, support networks; it is community. In other words, you don’t need to come to church to feel that you belong. In fact, I think that with some physical exercise/exertion done together as a group in fact helps build that sense of community, of bonding, and can be spiritually fulfilling.

 

We come to communicate with God. Have you never thought in a time of trouble or distress, I’ll go to church and/so that my prayers will be heard and answered.

 

But is this how it works? Coming and sitting here, does it amplify our prayers, requests, do we connect to some kind of divine network. Do with think we get better reception, more bars than in the bars all around us? The prophet tells us no, just because we give up our Sunday morning, give some money in the collection doesn’t make God listen to us.

 

Instead when our prayers, when our praise, when the words of the prophet change us show us God’s love for all, especially for those struggling, hurting, vulnerable—that is why we are here. To be cleansed from the lies, to free us from the false narrative of violence as the answer to all our problems, to wipe away the words and actions that make us feel dirty, (our sins, our mistakes, our complicity), to know that we are never forgotten. God isn’t distant, ignorant, and ignoring the pain we feel, the joy we glimpse. We are here to be changed, to be washed not just on the outside with a little water at baptism, but inside and out. God’s Word refreshes and renews so that it doesn’t matter what we look like—we are the church of Jesus, our savior, and the savior of this world. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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