June 4, 2021

June 4, 2021

June 4, 2021

Isaiah 28:9-13 (NRSV)
John Crabtree
Clergy, First Mountain City and Trade
Three Rivers District

 

Scripture 
Isaiah 28:9-13 (NRSV)

 

“Whom will he teach knowledge,
    and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from milk,
    those taken from the breast?
10 For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
    line upon line, line upon line,
    here a little, there a little.”[a]

11 Truly, with stammering lip
    and with alien tongue
he will speak to this people,
12     to whom he has said,
“This is rest;
    give rest to the weary;
and this is repose”;
    yet they would not hear.
13 Therefore the word of the Lord will be to them,
    “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
    line upon line, line upon line,
    here a little, there a little;”[b]
in order that they may go, and fall backward,
    and be broken, and snared, and taken.

Learning the Hard Way

Learning a new skill can be frustrating. We inevitably learn quite a few ways not to do something before we finally succeed. Hopefully those failures only hurt our pride (which isn’t always a bad thing) and don’t have a greater cost. Take riding a bike, for example.  Of course we will have several spills before we weave successfully down the driveway. It seems that we have to find out some things by ourselves. What makes sense is that we would have to learn to ride a bike by actually getting in the seat and giving it a go.
 
However, there are other things that can be learned by watching others and listening to their experiences – ways of learning that don’t come with bruises and skinned knees. In our passage, God is frustrated because he is trying to tell his people how to successfully live the life of faith and enjoy that peace that passes all understanding, but they just won’t listen. They insist on stubbornly pressing on to the inevitable crash, bruises, and tears. We insist on doing things and learning things the hard way.
 
God then essentially says, “Fine. If you refuse to see the big picture, then I will give you many small rules to follow that you may learn how to be obedient.” We then become rule-followers, not as an end in itself but as a tool for teaching us how to see and think like God. In more familiar terms, so that we may develop the heart and mind of Christ. 
 
Jesus said that he came to bring us abundant life, and we’re told by Paul that the fruits of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives are peace, love, joy, and hope. We get these good gifts not by following a bunch of rules or comparing ourselves to our neighbors, but simply by being in relationship with God and loving him with all our heart, mind, and strength, and also learning to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
 
That very simplicity bothers us sometimes. Surely it can’t be that easy; there’s got to be a catch.  We’re accustomed in this world to things not being what they appear. If something seems too good to be true, then it probably isn’t real. We’ve got to read the fine print. “I’m not going to let somebody tell me what to do. I’ll figure it out myself.” And so we go careening through our lives and our discipleship, hurting ourselves and others, which is all so unnecessary.
 
From the beginning, God has said, “Rest in me. Abide in me, and let me give you my heart.” If we will let go of our need for control, God can show us how to truly live. We don’t have to do it the hard way. The life of faith may be simple, but it is hardly simplistic. Loving God and loving neighbor has profound implications for our priorities, our choices, and our actions. Learning to see and love the world as God sees and loves isn’t a matter of rule-keeping, but of relationship-building. Jesus said, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5b NRSV)”
 
It’s time for us to release our sweaty death-grip on the handlebars, and put our energy into letting go of control and learning how to abide in Christ. Then we can learn to enjoy the journey with the One who loves us without measure. 

Prayer

Merciful and patient God, forgive us for our need for control. Teach us to look to you and not to compare ourselves to others. Give us your heart that we may love as you love. Give us your eyes to see others as your beloved children as well. Give us your strength that we may do your work in this world. Refresh and renew us, O Lord, that we may go out and show your love to everyone we meet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 
 

 

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