Summary: A different kind of sermon - going back and forth between a reading of Isaiah and illustrative sermons that bring the text to the listner’s reality.
Special instructions - "quoted" material should be read by one reader and is the text of Isaiah 40. Material beginning with numbers can be split up amongst different readers or read by the pastor/sermon deliverer.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”
1Isaiah is an old man now. His country that he has written about in his youth has been laid to waste. Most of Judah has been destroyed or taken captive by the Assyrian king Sennacharib. The only thing that remains is Jerusalem. His king, Hezekiah, has been reduced to a sniveling coward, sure that his end is about to come as Sennacharib breaks through the defenses of Jerusalem and ends the siege by sacking Jerusalem. King Hezekiah is looking ill and appears as if he is going to die.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended.”
2March 16th, 1942 General Douglas MacArthur is ordered out of the Philippines after a siege of America’s last stronghold in the country. All that is left is the island of Bataan. A reluctant MacArthur finally leaves Bataan for Australia, but before he leaves says “I shall return.” Eventually the Japanese take over MacArthur’s last stronghold in the Philippines and on April 9th, after being denied food and water 70,000 American and Filipino nurses are forced to march 100 kilometers to a death camp 16,000 die of malaria, heat, and dysentery.
“That her iniquity is pardoned. That she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
3Rome has controlled Judea for over fifty years. During this time religious reformers have been put to death, Hebrews have been forced to give Caesar the title of “Lord” previously reserved only for their God, YHWH. Exorbitant taxes have been levied against the people of Judea. And there is a census on the way that promises even more taxes and oppression for the people of Israel. The temple has been destroyed because of a revolt and the Roman appointed King, Herod rules the nation with an iron fist.
“A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord and make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
4You’ve just finished your last project before the final grade. You’ve just taken an exam and you’re sure that the only thing coming can be an F. Your scholarships will be taken away, you’ll flunk out of school, and you’ll have to explain it all to your parents.
“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.”
5The person you’re having lunch with remarks that she thinks it’s “cute” that you still pray before you eat, and asks you not to make the sign of the cross anymore when you’re with her in public.
“And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
6Your grandfather has just died. He was the one that would keep one of those butterscotch candies in his pocket just for you every time he saw you. Memories of him, of things he said and did swirl around your head, the things he said, the things he did, as you walk up to his casket one last time before they shut the lid.
“A voice says, "Cry out." And I said, "What shall I cry?" "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass.”
7You haven’t been real sure about your faith lately. What is all of this stuff about really anyway? Do you really believe in God? In this guy Jesus? Do you believe that He really died on a cross and then rose again? Or is that just something your parents told you when you were growing up, along with the tooth fairy and Santa Claus?
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”
8Eleven of the disciples and other followers of Jesus are huddled in a room together. They betrayed Him, ran away when He was arrested, saw Him dragging that cross to the place called the Skull. He died a violent death, being beaten and taunted and finally nailed and hung up to die. He was taken down and put in a tomb, a tomb sealed by the imperial seal and given a detachment of soldiers to guard.
“You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain.”
9A stone is rolled away. Roman soldiers become so afraid that they are struck almost dead with shock. A tomb lays open, and empty. Disciples come to inspect the scene. They see a man in white who tells them, “He has risen! He is not here!”