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A Transformed World

September 3, 2017

In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field
and the fertile field seem like a forest?
In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind will see.
Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord;
the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
The ruthless will vanish,
the mockers will disappear,
and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down—
those who with a word make someone out to be guilty,
who ensnare the defender in court
and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.
Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the descendants of Jacob:
“No longer will Jacob be ashamed;
no longer will their faces grow pale.
When they see among them their children,
the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy;
they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;
those who complain will accept instruction.”

Isaiah 29:17-24

For those people who like to be informed or ‘connected’ with today’s events in the world, there are many possibilities. We have at our disposal the most modern forms of communication the world has ever known. It’s hard to imagine what will come next.
But at the same time we are in serious danger. The danger comes from not having control over that huge stream of information that surrounds us every day. And many times that technology is used by the powerful to influence the masses and change the way they think and see the things that really happen. Thus it is good advice to not believe everything we see and hear in the media as absolute truth. Rather, it is a relative, exaggerated, manipulated and often distorted truth. That’s why it’s also good advice to take more time for reading the Bible and for interaction with human beings of our society than for media and social networks. There we will see ‘in truth’, the facts of our world.
If we spend more time paying attention to the media and social networks than on reading the Word of God and attending to the needs of our neighbours, then, as Christians, we are not leading a wise life.

In the media everything seems to be wrong. For a whole month I have tried to analyze the morning news that came to me. I noticed that 90% of it was negative news. And of this, 90% of it was news that had little and nothing to do with my everyday life and the community in which I am living. And most of this news was viewed from a partial and doubtful point of view, or was even biased.
But do bad things not happen? Yes, of course bad things happen. But the good things also happen. Yet they are not published. And maybe the good things could even surpass the amount of bad things that happen daily, but not according to the media. Regardless of this, what I discovered that month, was that every morning when I went to the media to “see what was going on in the world”, I ended up discouraged, negative, almost sad and gloomy. This, over time, affects not only the mental health of a person but also their way of observing and considering the world, and it undermines their faith and trust in God. And the worst thing for many –even Christians– it seems to only be the main source of “spiritual food” they receive every day.

And the question today may be: But is it not necessary to listen to what the media and the news say? Yes, of course you can, but today more than ever you have to be extremely observant and careful. All of the information we receive must be taken with a grain of salt, and weighed against the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. And we have to keep in mind where we spend most of our time: listening to the news or meditating on the word of God? What is the foundation for our mood? What makes us sad or happy? What gives us the strength to live? What is the greatest influence in our daily lives, everything that comes from God, our fellowship with God or what the media “preaches” to us? This is an urgent question for today’s Christian.

But let’s look at the whole paragraph of the Bible reading for this Sunday’s sermon. If we do, we see: it speaks of a powerful transformation of our society, beyond the distortion or trend of the media. It is a reality that our world is permeated with evil, but also with very good things. The text says that here nothing will be as it was again. But it is a global change towards the good that no one other than God in person can carry out. The message of this transformation into the good is very important. We will do well to listen carefully and trust him, especially in these times of terrorism, distortion of news, wars, economic crises and other shortcomings.

The prophet Isaiah announces this message of salvation in three phases and with each of them is even clearer. It’s like when you adjust the lenses of binoculars, the visual sharpness changes: every time we adjust the lenses, something things become clearer. There are three levels of sharpness with which Isaiah shows us the great transformation of God and His salvation that is to come.

First, Isaiah paints a somewhat blurred landscape. He says: imagine the mountains of Lebanon. These are actually rugged wooded mountains full of rocks, large tree roots and scrub. No one can even think of planting grain there or of intending to harvest fruit. But after a while everything will be different: instead of rocky land, there will be fertile land for farmland, a lovely garden, a paradise, more beautiful than anything you have seen. What grows in the gardens will appear in the thicket of the bush and mountains.

Yes, it means that God will start to act. Just as he once created the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve with their spectacular trees and fruits, so God will transform the sin-covered land and heal it and make it fertile, tillable land again. That’s God’s promise; we can already be happy for this! But we can better recognize the wonderful change with the image of the garden in the following sentences; Isaiah describes to us even more brightly what God will do.
He no longer speaks of an unclear landscape, but rather of people. Suddenly the deaf will hear, the blind will see, the poor will rejoice in the Lord, the needy will rejoice over what they receive from God. This text tells about the ruthless and mockers that will be exterminated. It should be noted that: it is not that there will be revenge and satisfaction because our enemies were eliminated, but it is that the oppressed and suffering will breathe with relief.

With this announcement of salvation we can know God’s heart. God only has in mind what is good for us. God wants to help all who suffer and promises that the shortcomings will come to an end. Illnesses and hopelessness will end, suffering and misery will be transformed into joy. We will do well if we stand up to these promises of God’s salvation and not worry about everything in our world as presented by the aggravated and distorted media.

More than anything when you are sick or discouraged or poor or sad or oppressed or burdened by anything: keep in mind that God announces a great change, a 180º turn for the better and that he will take care of it himself.

Let us continue looking in more detail. Isaiah prophesied: “In that day the deaf may hear the reading of the scroll.” What ‘scroll’ do you mean? There is only one scroll, or book, that is simply called ‘the book.’ It is the Bible. There we see that, first of all, it is not a question of a physical deafness, but of a spiritual deafness that God wants to heal. Here it is said that the people who until now have not attended to the Bible, suddenly will recognize the spiritual riches of the word of God that is found in the Bible.
So also God heals spiritual blindness; it is the time for the Gospel: “and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.”
And in the end for the oppressed and sad they are not only prophesied a little joy, but Isaiah promises them:
“Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”
The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and that sheds light on us: there is no talk of ISIS terrorists or even any other kind of ruthless hidden by a mantle of democracy, but of ruthless who are not flesh and blood. God will overcome Satan and all his demons that keep us from God and lead us to perdition, condemnation.

We have almost reached the third level, with the clear image of God according Isaiah’s prophecy. But there is more to see. Isaiah rejoices over the message of God’s joy:
“Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says …”
When we speak of redemption, it is the deliverance that has come into the world through Jesus Christ. Isaiah prophesied that the descendants of his contemporaries will already see the deeds of God. Yes, 700 years later the descendants of Israel experienced Jesus’ mighty preaching, His incredible miracles, how He redeemed humanity from the power of the devil on the cross and rose up as victor over all evil in His resurrection. There the new covenant was established, there the great turning took place, and this is the magnificent good news and new era of the kingdom of God. Now humanity is able to come to repentance, now the Holy Spirit allow them to believe from the heart, now they can recognize God’s love, now they are led from their wrong and sinful ways to the good paths of God, as Isaiah prophesied:
“They will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we now see more clearly: the transformation of God has already taken place, for Jesus has risen from the dead and we live with him and through him in the kingdom of God. We know that the devil no longer has power over us believers, and we believe that with God we are safe and secure. He can still frighten us, but we do not need to be worried, even if the world around us goes crazy and is evil, God has redeemed us and will give us the promised eternal life. We are baptized, and if anyone is baptized and has truly understood what this baptism is all about, which is to say, that they have also had the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, then from there on in their life ‘nothing will be as before’- everything has been transformed through the joyful light of the gospel. Death cannot separate us from God’s hand – even if we die young or old, in a violent or natural way. God will lead us there, where, in the end, our natural eyes will be able to see with total clearness and accuracy the love that he does have. Amen

12th Sunday of the Holy Trinity

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