Summary: Realizing our alienation from God reminds us of our need for mercy and grace... in Jesus.

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20141130 the 1st Sunday in Advent B Web Site

Title: Behaving Badly… but Jesus is Coming

Text: Isaiah 64:1-9

Thesis: Realizing our alienation from God because of our sinfulness reminds us of our need for God’s mercy and grace… in Jesus.


Americans have a reputation for being terrible tourists…

Some dead giveaways that someone is an American as told by non-Americans: (Not all are bad.)

1. Very confident in the way they present themselves. Walk into a room full of different nationalities and the American will be the first to introduce himself or herself.

2. Wearing sneakers with everything.

3. Big smiles and firm handshakes.

4. Using big adjectives generously like “Wow” or “Fantastic” or “Awesome” or “Great.”

5. Prepared for anything… fanny pack, backpack, bottled water, camera. They seem to view any perfectly modern and civilized city like it is an uncharted jungle.

6. They are constantly clapping.

7. When you hear an American accent you immediately serve them next to keep them from shouting “Bartender! Bartender! Bartender.”

8. They call you ‘honey” or “sweetie” or “darling.”

9. They will hold up an entire crowd of pedestrians so they can pose for photos.

10. You can generally hear them before you see them.

A commonly stereotype of an American tourist is having the serenity of an exotic setting interrupted by a clearly “over-the limit” American making an idiot of himself. Though I am not a worldly traveler my suspicion is that Americans seem to behave badly when away from home.

The people in our text today were behaving badly, not because they were away from home but because they were away from God.

I. The Absence of God, Isaiah 63:17

Lord, why have you allowed us to turn from your path? Why have you given us stubborn hearts so we no longer fear you? Isaiah 63:17 (15-19)

Israel seemed to believe that God was the initiator of both good and evil. They seemed to believe that God was either present or absent on a whim.

The insinuation is that God had been goofing off… not paying attention to duty:

• God, you have allowed us to turn from your path, 63:17

• God, you have given us hardened hearts so that we no longer fear you, 63:17

• God, you were here for such a short time, 63:18

• God, your absence has resulted in the destruction of the Temple, 63:18

• God, your treat us as if we had never been your people, 63:19

It is true… there are consequences to sin which include the hardening of the heart which means we sin more and more. And the more we sin the more our blatant sinfulness creates a barrier between us and God. God cannot and does not bless ongoing sinfulness. Consequently the ongoing displeasure of God allows for the ever increasing consequences of our actions.

Cycle of Sin and Restoration. Historically, the Israelites would enjoy God’s blessing. Then Israel would fall into sin. Then they would experience the consequences of their sin and cry out to God for deliverance. God would forgive them and restore them. In our text today things had gotten bad enough that they were crying out to God for relief.

And when things get bad enough, as in the case of Israel, we turn back to God, i.e., we get back on the right path spoken of in 63:17.

I’ve had several occasions to be out at DIA and have watched the gradual development of the hotel project… recently when I took Bonnie out to DIA the building had pretty much taken shape outwardly. I confess, I was shocked.

First of all, I liked seeing the pointy mountain peaked roof of the airport which is now totally hidden behind the gigantic hotel.

Second, when I approach the airport I imagine the hotel as an outsized Mayflower landing at a tepee village at Plymouth Rock.

Now to the point… when the project was originally budgeted at $500 million. After the first audit the project was increased to $509 million. Bu 2012 the budget for the project increased to $544 million. The budget now is at $599 million and expected to reach well over $700 million.

That’s the way sin works. It starts out as relatively manageable but left unchecked it escalates out of and beyond control.

Infidelity happens when lust spirals out of control. Addictions happen when behaviors spiral out of control. Lies happen when deceit spirals out of control. Greed happens when wants spiral out of control. Racism happens when prejudice spirals out of control. Hatred happens when dislike spirals out of control. Pride happens when ego spirals out of control.

Then from the bottom of the barrel a broken person looks up and asks, “Lord, why have you allowed me to turn from your path? Please come and help me.”

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