Called to Grow

December 11, 2016
Lindsay Small
Isaiah 61

Early Friday morning, our daughter Madeline came into our room in a bit of a panic…”Mom! It’s student council today and we’re supposed to be there by 7:30.”

This was not new information to us…Kyle and I had made the plan the night before to get both our kids to the meeting at 7:30. And I thought I had set my alarm…but as I looked at my clock through bleary, un-contacted eyes…it said 7:15.

How did this happen? How did I not set my alarm? And why do I feel SOOO groggy? I lay there as all of this sunk in and then rolled myself out of bed. Madeline was in her room, lights blazing, searching for her student council shirt. Our son Micah was still last asleep…a rarity for someone who is usually up in the 6:00 hour.

As Madeline continued getting ready, and as I prepared to wake Micah and Kyle…something still didn’t feel right. It was too dark outside…I was too tired.

I went back to our room and this time, looked at the clock with glasses on.

It wasn’t 7:15. It was 1:15…am.

I got Madeline back to bed and lay back down in our bed…and tried to convince myself adrenaline was a sleep aid.

As I lay there, I thought about the four-part miniseries I had just put myself through…

All told…this middle of the night episode was no more than 10 minutes…but in that 10 minutes…the roller coaster of drama I had spoken to myself was enough to earn me as Oscar.

-I should have set my alarm!

-I should be more prepared!

-I should be more attuned to details!

and ultimately…

-I should be a better mom!

This is not an original episode…I’ve been starring in this rerun for years.

And perhaps you have to…I think we all have recurring scenes like this with familiar lines.

-Lines that we speak to ourselves sometimes without even realizing it…lines so ingrained in us that these silent monologues play continually in our minds…

I should be this…

I should do this…

I should, I should, I should…

Some of us even utter the even more tragic…

I should have…Placing ‘should’ like a mantle over past situations we can do nothing about…

This morning, I think its time to throw these scripts away, to cancel the miniseries and all its drama…

No more.

The shoulds in my life are getting way too much airtime. And perhaps you feel the same way…

Perhaps you don’t say the word…but when you think about what motivates you and dictates what you do…and what you think of yourself…the SHOULDs are never far away.

But this script of shoulds…has been written by us, not God.

And so this morning is an invitation to pick up a new script…and new lines…

This morning, they come in the form of a prophesy. A promise. A future of hope and joy.

Listen to these words as they come to us from Isaiah 61.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
 because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
 to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
 and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
 and the day of vengeance of our God;
 to comfort all who mourn;
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
 to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
 the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
 the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
 they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
 the devastations of many generations.

This passage has been preached and preached many times. It is so preached that I even preached it in my last sermon. But it is worthy of over-preaching…partly because it has the unique quality of being past, present, and future.

It is written for present circumstances in Israel, while at the same time harkening back to the past promise of Jubilee, and looking to the future when we know Jesus will read this portion of the scroll in the synagogue.

It spans time and space, economic class and circumstance, good news and bad news.

But notice, there’s not a ‘should’ in sight.

Instead, it is meant to be an encouragement. A breath of hope in the midst of despair. A vision of the future that draws us out of the dreary present…

——

Isaiah utters these words in the post-exilic period. Here’s a three sentence summary of what that means:

-The Israelites were given the promised land.

-In 605 BC, the Babylonians invade Israel…this begins a 19 year period of turmoil in Israel…with three waves of massive deportation of Israelites to Babylon, culminating in 586 with the Babylonians destroying Jerusalem and the temple. (ok, that was a run on sentence)

-47 years later, Babylon falls and Cyrus the Second allows the Jews to return…

And it is after this return that this prophesy is given…

They are back home! This is what they’ve been waiting for! They had been dreaming of returning to their homeland for years!

Once we get back to Israel…

-things will return to normal.

-life will be good again.

But, the problem is…things weren’t as great as they thought they would be…

Because this land that they longed for did not match their memory.

its a little bit like returning home after you’ve been to college…things just aren’t the same. And the treadmill got moved into your bedroom…ok, its a bit of stretch but hopefully you get the point.

Jerusalem was in shambles. It had been destroyed…it was not the beacon of a city it had once been. And their rebuilding efforts did not match the blueprints.

It was a simple, devastating case of reality not matching dreams…

A super smart OT scholar says, “The mourning in Isaiah 61 rises out of frustration and humiliation over the failure to rebuild the city and the temple to match its former glory. The reality of life in Jerusalem was nothing like the expectations for a restored Jerusalem and a righteous community as proclaimed by the prophets and as envisioned by the returnees.”

It is likely that none of the those who returned had even seen the original Temple…but the stories and description of it had grown and grown.

They had seen features of it on HGTV throwback episodes and had dreamed about its square footage and open-concept design.

Now that they’ve returned…the reality of the ramshackled temple has sunk in.

It was a little more DIY than Property Brothers…

The beauty of the temple destroyed, the infrastructure of the city in shambles, and the economy starting over from scratch…

This was not a part of the their dreams…this was not how it should have been…

‘We should be happy”
‘We should be content”
“We should be better.”

 

But we’re not.

God sees their shoulds. He sees their despair. He sees that their hopelessness.

And so he tells Isaiah to give them a new script…

Poverty is rampant, and Isaiah says
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
 to bind up the brokenhearted,

 

The people are depressed, and Isaiah says
he has sent me to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

 

The city is in shambles, and Isaiah says…
They shall build up ancient ruins,
They shall repair the ruined cities.

Notice how God’s script is different…

 

In the first seven verses of this prophesy there is one word repeated seven times…the simple verb “shall.”

Shall, “Should’s” kinder cousin.

Shall instead of Should…I had never thought about the difference between the two.

But I am more and more convinced that these words, though closely related on the grammatical family tree…point us in two different directions.

Should points us towards guilt, and belittling, and shame.

Shall points us towards hope, promise, and determination.

The people who had returned from exile were carrying the weight of should…We should build up the ruins…we should do this…

But here it is again…

“They SHALL build up ancient ruins, They SHALL repair the ruined cities…”

Do you hear the difference?

Should implies duty and obligation.

Shall implies determination and invitation.

Listen to these two sentences:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And you should love your neighbor as yourself.

Do you feel the difference?

Sadly, I believe as Christians we are known more for our shoulds than our shalls. Our Good News has become Okay News and Agreeable news, our motivation for service is faintly disguised obligation.

Nope. This is not our call.

When we take a script of shall, instead of should…our posture changes.

Instead of the weight of should on our shoulders (a word, by the way, where first six letters, spell should), we are offered in verse 3, the mantle of praise that comes with shall.

To proclaim GOOD NEWS to the captive…to join in God’s work of justice and righteousness…NOT BECAUSE WE SHOULD…but because we shall…

Once adorned with this mantle, Isaiah continues the prophesy with more ‘shalls’…
6 but you shall be called priests of the Lord,
 you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
 and in their riches you shall glory.
7 Because their[a] shame was double,
 and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
 everlasting joy shall be theirs.
8 For I the Lord love justice,
 I hate robbery and wrongdoing;[b]
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
 and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

 

The people had not returned alone.

The same God that had led them to the Promised Land the first time was right there.

The same God that had directed Solomon to build the temple was right there.

The same God that had been with them in exile was right here.

Their circumstances were dire, but they had been here before…and God promised to be with them.

And he promises again and again…to make an everlasting Covenant with all of them…and all of us…

Not a promise of nostalgia…not looking back to a temple that should have been…

But looking forward to a Savior who shall be.

A Savior who shall take all our sins away…

What then, shall we do?

Living into the eternal covenant with God means taking on the humble mantle of service.

Not because we should, but because we shall.

We are invited to be God’s hands and feet in a world…to proclaim Good News!

To be known by our love, our service, our grace, our embrace.

Not because we should…but because we shall.

This morning, I invite you to take the card ___________________.

Let go of the script of should's in your life…no more reruns.

How then, shall we live?

 

Renee Krueger