“What a Waste” — Sermon for December 15, 2013 – Narrative Lectionary, Isaiah 55.1-11

Leaving lights on and wasting energy, leaving the water running and wasting water, not finishing dinner and wasting food, people littering and treating our neighborhood like its waste, dillydallying when we need to be going somewhere or getting things done, in other words wasting time. These are just a few of my not-favorite things. These are my pet peeves. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to list them. Looking at them, the thing that peeves me the most is wasting. I don’t like to waste things. But it seems, we live in a throw away world/culture. Appliances only last so long. We waste–time, energy, resources, people. Our culture treats al sort of things and even people as disposable.

This, however, according to the prophet Isaiah in our reading for today, is not the case with God.

We hear these words of the prophet Isaiah, words declared thousands of years ago, uttered hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus which is what we are preparing to celebrate in a short couple of weeks–Micah how many days did you tell me? 10?

The prophet speaks God’s words of invitation, come drink and be satisfied, be filled, come and feel what it is like to be filled with good things. Stop wasting yourselves on the things that do not last, be filled with the life that knows no end, that does not waste away.

The power of this invite is that it is not limited. It is not limited by number, only so many guests may attend, it is not limited by ability to pay, to reciprocate, to earn or deserve it, it is not limited by perceived worthiness. The invite goes out to all.

I am certain that there are those out there who would hear these words, hear what God is saying, inviting each and every one, inviting all and declare, “What a waste,”. Because not only do we waste our precious natural resources, we waste our people. Our culture/society has a way of wasting lives, of consigning people to disposable status. We look around at others and even at ourselves, we see what people do, the crimes that are committed, the abuses that are perpetrated, and it is tempting and easy to just want to throw away the key, so to speak.

Christmas, the coming of Jesus which we are preparing ourselves for, Christmas is not only in the stores but in the news. The war on Christmas isn’t about manger scenes and holiday advertisements. The true war on Christmas is being waged by people who throw others away, who believe that love, forgiveness, generosity, compassion is a waste. Often we see our differences: political, cultural, and ethnic, and experiential and determine well, that person is just not not able, not worthy, of our investment of time and energy. We toss the. In the discard pile.

But God’s call, God’s invitation, God’s love goes to wealthy and the wicked too–whether we deserve it, or not, whether they accept it or not. It’s easy for us to say what a waste. We should conserve our resources, make sure that the good people get what they want out of this life–even in the church.

But God sees it another way. As the prophet puts it well, “
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Where we see waste, God sees opportunity, where we see waste God sees a beloved child. God’s word is wasted on no one.

God invites us to trust, to trust that where we may see waste God sees something different, potential, opportunity,, maybe but definitely a child of infinite worth. God’s love is more powerful than we can ever imagine, that God’s love can do the unimaginable, it can change the human heart.

The examples are all around– from an Isreali mother Robi Demelin whose son was killed by a Palestinian to a Palestinian Ali Abu Awwad, who have claimed each other as family instead of enemy, who travel and speak about peace. Who were here in Milwuakee just over a year ago to talk about their work in Israel and Palesting.

Another, all to timely example is of Scarlet Lewis and her son JT, who just one year ago their Jesse was shot and killed in the Sandyhook massacre. This mother and son, instead of turning inward and bitter, instead of turning to violence, turned to others. JT connected with survivors of the genocide in Sudan in Africa. He has raised money to send a girl their to school. They have done this because they have consciously made the decision to forgive. To forgive the man who terrorized and shot their son, their little brother. These people and so many, many more answer the Divine invitation to life.

Their life, their energy, is not wasted in enmity and vengeance. They choose to give of themselves. Because God’s word, in whatever form it comes to this world is ultimately not wasted.

It is not wasted on us, even here. God is calling us to a new life, a life of trust, a way that looks around at those all around us, that looks within us, and doesn’t write anybody off. Nothing we do, say, give, in God’s name, as disciples of Jesus is a waste, The church, here, us, we are people who have taken drugs, we are people who’ve walked the streets, we are people who have committed crimes, we are people who have been so angry and disappointed, and hurt and yet we hear God’s Word: are people who are answering God’s gracious invitation.

“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.”

“Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.” To you, to me, to all.Thus says The Lord, amen.

Not another Christmas Sweater

Advent 3 – Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11

“Oh no, not another Christmas sweater”.
I never said those words out loud, but that’s what went through my mind. If you know me or more accurately my wardrobe choices you can probably tell that I don’t wear Christmas sweaters. Now don’t get offended; it’s not that I don’t like them. Some are really pretty and festive, but they just don’t work for me. You see, I like to have a sweater that I can wear from December all the way through November. Yes, I am sometimes so cold I’ll pull out a light sweater in the summer months. I like to think of myself as a very practical gal looking for nice utilitarian gifts. I want to get a lot of good use out my wardrobe.
I think that is what God is aiming at in these words from Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11. These are words that are to be used over and over again. In verse 10, God’s “garment of salvation” that we are given isn’t some pretty and delicate thing to be pulled out only for special occasions. God is fitting us for life—a life of good news to the oppressed, a life of binding up the brokenhearted, repairing ruined cities, doing God’s justice, a life of righteousness and praise for all others to see.

O Lord God, send your Spirit upon me. Help me to put on your faith, to put on your strength, to put on your joy. Help me to wear it everywhere I go. Help me to share it with all your children.

Suggested Action:
Using masking tape, a label, or even fabric marker write on your coat (perhaps the inside) these words “garment of salvation” and/or “robe of righteousness”. Every time you put on your coat pray that you may remember to show, share, an work for God’s gift of mercy for all. At the end of the week see how this may have impacted your life and your faith.