So a couple weeks ago we began to try to break down the basic work and move of the prophets. We started by saying that the prophets work begins among people who are numb to reality, who are practiced and proficient at insulating themselves from pain and fear and brokenness – both within and with out themselves. And I don’t think the question is, are we a people a lot like that… practiced at numbing and insulating ourselves…
Rather the question seems to be, what’s your drug of choice when it comes to numbing or insulating?? denial, busyness, alcohol, a Netflix binge, making sure we’re never alone or quiet long enough to really have to deal w/ anything, …
And here the prophets show up and feel and bring to the surface w/ great anguish and passion what we refuse to feel. They put their finger right where it hurts.
And these are always the hardest and most difficult experiences and conversations. When you and I are being told we have to wake up to the fact that whatever we were holding onto is done, it’s gone, it’s over, it’s dead. That the thing we were trying to squeeze life out of isn’t really life. It’s the call to stop pretending, stop trying to fool yourself, stop propping the thing up.
When we’re talking about the scriptures we call this part of the prophets work “pre-exilic.” It’s the work that has to be done that forces our hand to come to grips w/ the pain and despair in our own lives and in the world around us.
But this is only 1/2 the task of the prophets. Once exile becomes reality, once we find ourselves in a strange and foreign place, where nothing makes sense and the wheels all fall off… when you find yourself sitting in the rubble of your life… what do you do?
It’s here that the Prophet’s work gets really interesting. Cause it’s here, when everything else is stripped away, that the prophets come among the people in exile and declare that in the face of all the things that seem stacked against them, all the powers and forces and circumstances that seems immovable and permanent… they come and say, “God is and has always been the one who calls forth life and a future out of the places that seemed empty, ruined and dead. That there is in fact no power or reality or circumstance that has any real or lasting sway when God breaks in.
So it’s when we are convinced of our inability to maintain optimism and to solve our situation by positive mental thinking, it’s here that the prophets announce to us in our exile, something new that we cannot generate or produce on our own by our own efforts and energy – they declare to us the heart of the gospel, the good news – that calling forth life and hope where there is none – that this is exactly what God does.
This is exactly what the second 1/2 of Isaiah – Isaiah 40-55 is up to… (this is why we read a ton of this part of Isaiah during Advent)
It’s in the middle of the mess that God calls forth something new, something we couldn’t do, something we could not have strategized or planned. It isn’t a move back to the way things were. It’s something that moves you through exile into something brand new… and the call of the prophets among the people in exile is to begin to let that way of seeing take hold, to let singing and thanksgiving well up in their hearts and lives again… even while they wait in the place of exile.
Because their God hears their cries – And the God their dealing w/ – this is the God who created from nothing all that is, and this is the God who took old Abraham and barren Sarah and out of them made a great people, and this is the God who heard the cry of a people who were slaves in Egypt and led them out w/ a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
See, this is WHO God is.
And so it just seems to me that the gift of the prophets is that so much of our lives are lived in these kinds of places that can look and feel a lot like exile.
And so tonight I hope that the good news can reach you right where you are – in the places where the wheels have all fallen off, where the thing seems to have unraveled, where you feel like you’re sitting in the rubble of your own life…
Right there may you hear, as if for the first time, that the God we’ve got is precisely the God who calls life to spring up out of the rubble. That this was never supposed to be a story about how you were able to preform flawlessly and make a life for yourself. But instead it’s a story about the God who even now is doing a new thing. And the invitation comes to you: Can you perceive it??