“On This Mountain”

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Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer

November 4, 2018

Isaiah 25:6-9

 

It is a beautiful vision.

A table set by God’s own hand, spread with the richest of banquets.  All of your favorite foods are there, all the things you love to make, all the things you love to order when you treat yourself to dinner for a really special occasion.  All of the things you love to drink, too.  The best of everything, prepared to perfection and served up just the way you like it.

A table with room for us all, with more than enough chairs, with plenty of elbow room so no one feels too crowded.

A table—it would have to be a whole enormous banquet hall full of tables—with a seat for every child of God.  No one is left out; no one goes hungry or thirsty; no one is missing.

A table—an infinite sea of tables—where all of humanity, across space and time, is present.  For God has swallowed up death forever.  We, and the ones we love who have gone before, and the ones who will come after—all of us, all of humanity, united at the extravagant feast God has prepared.

No more sadness, no more weeping, no more tears, no more disgrace, for God is right there with the softest hankie, wiping them all away.

 

To be clear, when the prophet Isaiah cast this beautiful, hope-filled vision for his people, he was not describing the scene that was visibly present before their eyes.  Writing several centuries before the birth of Jesus, at a time when the rise and fall of empires brought the horror of conquest down upon the people of what we now call Israel/Palestine, over and over and over again, Isaiah was hardly describing the status quo when he spoke of rich food and well-aged wines and death swallowed up forever.

Hunger was an everyday reality for most people, especially when the latest invading army had raided your cellar and torched your fields on the way through.  Thirst was a constant companion when you lived in that arid landscape.  Death was commonplace.  Life was short and difficult, too often marked by violence and struggle and tragedy.  The world as it was did not resemble Isaiah’s vision then any more than it does today.

 

Isaiah was not describing what was, or what is.  He was pointing to the hope of God’s promises.  He was claiming boldly that what was, what is, do not define what will be.  He was leaning into the claim that the same God who created everything in heaven and on earth and declared all of it good, so very good, has not given up on us, but will, in the fullness of time, fulfil God’s promises of restoration and wholeness to all creation.

And it is a beautiful vision.  Can you picture it?

On this mountain, he writes.  Or perhaps, for us, on this hill.  Isaiah invites us to imagine the realm of God breaking in right here on Woodstock Hill.

He invites us to imagine a world where every one of our neighbors have plenty to eat and drink, where TEEG and Daily Bread are no longer necessary, where food insecurity no longer exists and poisoned wells run clean.

He invites us to imagine a world where those who have more than they need expand their tables and invite others to share in their bounty.

He invites us to imagine a world where no child goes to school hungry or comes home to a house where no one is available to help with their homework.

He invites us to imagine a world where every person has access to the care and resources they need, regardless of immigration status or socioeconomic standing.

He invites us to imagine a world where every person can worship in safety, go to the grocery store in safety, open their mailbox in safety, go to school in safety, go home in safety, where no one need fear violence or harm because of who they are.

He invites us to imagine a world where no one dies of opiate overdoses.

He invites us to imagine a world where no one suffers in the throes of addiction.

He invites us to imagine a world without the school-to-prison pipeline, without mass incarceration, without a need for domestic violence shelters, without a need for weapons of any kind.

He invites us to imagine a world where the powers that be speak thoughtfully, and govern justly, and wield their influence for the common good.

He invites us to imagine a world where every disgrace, every shame, everything that would separate us from one another, from our truest selves, and from God, is wiped away.

He invites us to imagine a world where even death—both literal and figurative—has been swallowed up by life.  Where the ears are wiped from every eye.  Where our loved ones who have gone before are no longer absent, but present with us again.  And where all the forces that prevent us, or any child of God, from living abundant life both here and now and in the hereafter, have been vanquished forever by God’s love.

 

Isaiah held out this vision to a people who struggled with the gap between rich and poor, with the exploitation of those who are vulnerable by those who hold power, with violence and terror that seemed to be unstoppable, with the cold, hard reality of death.  He offered them a word of hope that would lift their hearts.  And he offered them a word of inspiration to guide their lives, to remind them of how the world could be, to empower them to make it so.

Me he do the same for us this day as we share communion at God’s banquet table, as we call to mind the names and memories of our beloved dead, and as we commit ourselves and our resources to ongoing life of this community of faith, where we live together into the very vision Isaiah promises.

May it be so.

 


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