A New Message

Therefore my people will know my name;
therefore in that day they will know
that it is I who foretold it.
Yes, it is I.”

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
they will see it with their own eyes.
Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.

Isaiah 52 envisions a time of homecoming- not just God’s people, but the return of the LORD to Zion. Isaiah envisions God’s return to his people, and an end to their captivity. The Israelites viewed this in terms of a rebuilding of the nation.

But God’s view is often bigger. We refer to a time of return from exile under Zerubabel, Zechariah, Ezra. But not all of God’s people came “home”. Many stayed. And even in the midst of the homecoming of those coming from the East, the came home not to build a nation. They remained part of the Persian Empire, sent to rebuild Jerusalem and its Temple as part of a larger Empire building initiative.

True homecoming is something different than a geographical relocation. God says I will come to my people and reveal myself once again. It is this revelation of God and the renewal of the “I will be their God and they will be my people” relationship which truly marks the New Life promised by God.

EA-01-090While Isaiah likely doesn’t have Palm Sunday in mind, we can see how there is certainly symbolism in Jesus’ arrival there in Jerusalem. Of course, this wasn’t Jesus first time in Jerusalem. In John we see multiple trips. He is presented in the Temple as a baby in Luke. As an observant Jew, surrounded by a pious household, he likely went there regularly for the Feasts. But something is different this time. Jesus rides into Jerusalem and the people welcome him with royal imagery, and declarations of kingship. The people drop palms on the road and hail Jesus as the Son of David. King Jesus rides into Jerusalem, but the outcome is not what is expected- it’s even better. And as we begin Holy Week, it is vital that we understand what God calls us into through the Easter event. We see Lent as a time of reflection and meditation. These are good things, but it can’t end there. Our inner spiritual pilgrimmage must point us somewhere.

Lent is inherently a mandate to mission:

Mission should follow from the Lent and Easter experience.

Isaiah proclaimed, “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.” I add emphasis to those two words for a reason. We have been given good news, and we are to bring it to others. The church is to be mobilized. The gospel should be “on the move”.

sfw1-cs605We set up buildings and call them churches. But buildings are stationary.

We’ve domesticated the gospel.

This is “attractional church” model, or what some call the “field of dreams” model; if you build it, they will come.

But that’s not what we see in the New Testament. The meetings happen in homes, and go it into the public. The first church met in the Temple Courts. They talked to non-Church people. Paul went to the synagogue, the Areopagus, town squares.

Christians were called followers of “the Way”- not the sitters or pew people. And yet, we’ve made church a spectator sport.

“Go therefore” Jesus said… well sort of. “Go” in that case is not an imperative but a aorist passive participle (that’s on the test by the way). What that means is Jesus isn’t commanding his disciples to go, but is actually saying “as you are going” or “in your going”. As you go on with life, in you daily business, make disciples. Where you find yourself is your mission field. You don’t necessarily have to head overseas to some far-flung third world country. But make disciples wherever you are. This is not a call to be belligerent and bully people into the Kingdom of course, but a call to talk to people, challenge people to think (do so with grace and respect of course). The coffee shop, hockey rink, PTA meetings, pub, etc. can be (and should) places engage in ministry.

It’s not about getting people in here. We seem to think we need to people into the church building to hear about Jesus. God gathers his people. Our calling is to introduce people to Jesus. To show Jesus to people, and invite them to join us in the Way.

That first Palm Sunday (we don’t know for sure it was a Sunday of course) when people lined the road, and sang out Hosanna, that is a call to mission. Hosanna doesn’t mean what so many of us think it does. Hosanna is not a proclamation of praise like Hallelujah. Hosanna means “save us”. The people called to Jesus (Hosanna and Yeshua/Jesus are from the same root) “save us”. Save us from evil and sin and death.

And Jesus does… but not in the way they thought.

And guess what; people still need the Saviour. Our world is still waiting and groaning in anticipation of New Life (Rom. 8:20-23). The Kingdom has broken in and is reconciling creation back to God, but the work is still ongoing.

That’s where we come in. Jesus has called us to be his body. To be his beautiful feet. To take this good news that the hoped for Saviour has come.

It is good and it is news. Sometimes we forget one or the other or both.

It is good. God has brought salvation to his people. When people turn to follow Jesus do we “burst into songs of joy together” (Isa. 52:9)? We should. This is good. It’s exciting. In domesticating the gospel we sometimes rob it of it’s beauty and exciting side. We think Jesus wants us to be proper, composed, civilized.

Pardon my French, but nuts to that. Jesus is a far more fun and epic and controversial and “rock the boat” kind of awesome. Next Sunday we commemorate the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead. If you can listen to the message that God raises the dead and still be sullen and sour then I’m sorry, but there’s something seriously wrong with your understanding of the gospel. You’ve missed something.

God raised Jesus from the dead.

This is newsworthy. News is meant to be shared. We have many 24 news outlets because when important stuff happens, it gets shared. We have news to share. Something very, very big has happened.

Shout it from the mountains. Isaiah shares that sentiment twice even. Isaiah 40:9, “You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout” Perhaps we can’t apply this literally… there aren’t many mountains in Elgin County. But the point is make faith public. Speak about it. We in the West have this notion that faith belongs in private. Jesus says take your faith into the public sphere. Not in a confrontational, aggressive, hostile way. But live out the love of God. Bring justice, love, goodness and share it in Jesus name. Let people see and hear that you know a God who raises the dead. They need to see it in you as you proclaim Jesus. If they see God at work in you, if they see New Life flowing through you, they’re far more likely to take what you have to say to heart. If you ooze that New Life people will see it and love it, and look for it, and we know if they know where to look, they’ll find New Life in the love of Jesus Christ.

They need to see love or else you’re just a gong (1 Cor. 13:1).

We are called not to domesticate the gospel but to incarnate it. We are not all evangelists I know. Paul said that exact thing. But Paul also said we are all ministers of the New Covenant. 2 Cor. 3. declares that we are those who bring the offer of the New Covenant- who proclaim an end to sin and death and the coming of New Life through Jesus Christ. How we do that is different for all of us. Jesus himself said a cup of water in his name will be rewarded. Do you have a cup of cold water? Or perhaps it’s a donkey to give to the work of bringing King Jesus to your city. What is your donkey? What is that thing you can do to bring the Good News of the arrival of the Kingdom through Jesus Christ to someone? It can be something so unbelievably simple.

Do something to connect in a way that opens up conversation. Sure it may take work and time and maybe even a little sacrifice on your part. But think of the sacrifice Jesus made to demonstrate his love. Maybe, just maybe it’s not a big sacrifice to give a cup of cold water in his name.

If you keep reading the verses which come next from Isaiah they point to the glory which awaits God’s people on account of the suffering servant. I seriously doubt that’s a coincidence. God is coming, shout the good news, and then there’s this man tortured and killed to heal the wound caused by sin. The good news is that Jesus comes as light and life into the world, that he suffered and died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and on the third day he was raised (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The glory of God is revealed most not in palaces and military might, but the humble who rides a donkey to the place of his execution.

Beautiful are the feet of those who bring this news.

Beautiful are the lips of those who proclaim Christ’s offer of peace.

Beautiful are the hands of those that offer assistance to the frail, hurting, or vulnerable.

Beautiful are the ears that hear the crowds crying “Hosanna to the Son of David”.

Beautiful are the arms that embrace the lost, the hurting, the grieving.

Our God came to Zion. Our God became flesh and pitched his tent among us. Our God proclaimed peace to us. Our God has proclaimed a New Covenant and promised that he will be our God, and we will be his people (Jer. 31:31-34). We are his people, redeemed and drawn back (Hos. 13:14). We have been reconciled to him, and given a new song to sing (Zeph. 3:14-17) and a new message to give. Our sins are forgiven, our debt is paid (Jer. 31:34), our transgressions have been hurled into the sea (Mic. 7:19) and our God rejoices and he sings (Zeph. 3:17), and he dances as he comes to be with us. And we are to bring this good news to the world by proclaiming it, and imitating the love of Christ. Tell people that the God who raises the dead and graciously gives New Life is the King who reigns.

And while you’re at it, live the New Life like you really believe that the King reigns.

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