Summary: The present may dog us with problems, but our future glows with promise.
Sermon: “Then... Then... Then” Rev. D, Anderson
Reading from the prophet Isaiah:
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
The word ‘then’ can be a very weary word... meant to offer hope when spoken, this word often signals sadness
because it means that we are not yet where we want to be.
~The patient who is struggling with pain is told that when the medication takes effect, THEN the hurting will be over.
~The mother and father saying good bye to their daughter who is off to he first year of college are told that when Thanksgiving comes, THEN they will see her again.
~The farmer struggling with poor farm prices are told that the market will get better, and THEN he will be able to make up his losses.
~The father just laid off at work knows that only when he finds another job will his family THEN be protected from financial ruin.
~The wife who has just lost her husband in death is told that they will again be together in heaven, THEN she will not be sad again.
As you see, the word THEN is intended to give us hope, but at the same time it also signals to us that we remain within a difficulty that has not yet left us.
The Old Testament reveals to us a community of faith that was often faithless... Children of God who often called other god’s their father. Because of Israel’s sin, she was often broken and in bondage to other nations.
The prophets, like Isaiah, were given powerful words of
judgment that struck against the sins of the people of Israel like lightning bolts striking dry, arid ground. God would send disease and oppressive powers to break Israel, and return Israel to Himself.
Like the prodigal son of our Lord’s parable, Israel would return to God leaning solely on the staff of God’s grace. Broken, she would wonder what God would do to her. And each time His amazing grace would send the prophets with words of comfort, hope, and consolation.
I would suppose that Israel wanted God to change her
circumstances quickly, but Israel, after all, was the reason for the delay. God sent judgements because of her sin, and He THEN sent consolation after she repented. The THEN to God’s consolation, was tied to the NOW of Israel’s circumstances.
We see this kind of dynamic in the everyday, common
sense, activities of life. The parent decides to base an allowance upon the proper care and cleaning of the son’s bedroom. The child only wants the allowance, and may try to get it before the chores are done. BUT THE CHORES MUST BE DONE FIRST, THEN the reward will be given.
You are remodeling the basement--I can relate to this!-- and you’re tired of the work and want to enjoy the new family room. You would like to stop the work, but that will not give you the new room. You must do the work, THEN you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The word “THEN” is not one that impatient humans like to hear. And yet, my friends in Christ, I want to suggest to you that God uses the time between “the now” and “the then” in a wonderfully creative way. We could never be all that God is making us to be, without that space between “now” and “then”....
John the Baptizer is in prison. Herod has decided to put an end to this prophet’s abusive talk--and as you know, in the end, John will lose his head because of the treachery of this madman, Herod.
John remembers, no doubt, playing with his cousin Jesus
when they were children. Perhaps they kicked stones down a path together. John remembers the day when he was baptizing along the Jordan River, and Jesus came walking toward him. Suddenly the Holy Spirit brings a strange, new recognition into the mind of John. Jesus, his cousin, is much more than He appears-- “He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
What joy John must have felt, because He had worked
faithfully within the “now” until the “then” of the Messiah’s appearance. John knew that he was called to prepare the way for the Christ of God. John had worked in the “now,” waiting for the “then” which happened... finally happened.