13 April 2021

> Lent 4 Not to condemn the World
> Community or self interest
> Wandering in a wilderness Lent 2
> Lent 1 The Rainbow Story

> Faithbuilders service
> The Way of the World
> 8 November
> All Saints Day Pentecost 22
> Looking to a Future
> Pentecost 21
> Pentecost 19 No Mask for the wedding guest?
> Relying on your Own Record
> Empy Promises A Tale of Two Sons
> Pentecost 16 Peace Sunday
> Mt Roskill Cluster and The Power of Forgiving
> When there is a Fault
> Let Your Love be Real
> The Mutinous Midwives
> Crumbs
> Then the Wind Stopped
> Feeding the 5000
> Do We Understand?
> Living in an Imperfect World
> Gardening
> Out of Lockdown Celebration of Communion
> Fanatical or Faithful?
> Why do we Destroy Each Other
> Innocence Facing Evil
> Trinity Where we Begin Makes the Difference
> Celebration of Pentecost
> On the Ground
> Having it Both Ways
> Plenty of Space
> Queuing at Maccas
> On the Journey ANZAC
> Palm Sunday 2020

> Have You Not heard? Commissioning and Baptism
> Papatoetoe district 150 years opening service

> Pentecost - The Genesis Experiment
> Freedom and human trafficking
> The Corinthian Puzzle - Resurrection Body
> [Waitangi Weekend]. Hope for a Future
> Being a Healing Community
> Turbans and Prophets in Manurewa
> Light to the Nations -O Surely Not the Samaritans!
> Jesus the real human - not Avatar

> Prophet at Copenhagen Needed
> CLIMATE CHANGE - Revisiting the Creation stories
> Love Lived
> Questions of God
> Tsunami.and Job, God in disaster
> Reconciling Cultures
> John the Baptist - A reminder of reality
> Do not follow the advice of the wicked

> If only You would sort it God!
> Invited and rejected - Texts of terror
> Saying Yes! but its really No!
> Thanksgiving
> Claiming God is on our side - Dangerous and Unwise
> Let your Love be genuine
> Bible and Qu'ran Ishmael and Isaac
> Fruitpickers wanted
> Faith Changing Culture
> Easter greeting - Peace be with you
> Freed For Seeing
> Temptations of Leadership - Dedication of leaders
> Let There be no Divisions Among You

> How many husbands in Heaven?
> The Dishonest Manager
> The Prayer which Changes the World
> What are we getting them into? Succession planning
> Faith there is a future
> Forgiven - the one who loves much
> Temptation
> Free flowing wine, Free flowing grace

> The Birth Stories of Jesus - whom do we serve
> Sexuality Working out our Faith
> What is Wisdom?
> Stilling the Voices of the Storm
> Pentcost - Facing the Darkness
> Moving on from Betrayal
> Friends my Mother Warned me About
> Ethiopian Eunchs Are In - Good News For theChurch
> St Patrick and Mission today, Potatoes and Rice
> Family is a Cultural word

> Christmas Day Reflection - Power of Hope
> Subverting the System - The Talents Revisited
> Living God! Joshua Leadership with Wet Feet
> Futurechurch conference and the Presence of God
> The Golden Calf is not the Name of a Pub
> Who?
> Induction Sermon - Pukekohe Who Is Your Neighbour
> What is Fair and What is Just?
> Confrontation at Hunters Corner
> Food in the Wilderness
> Bombers in London, Weeds among the Wheat
> The Gospel is already Sowen for us to Find
> Human sacrifice. God's Demand or Our Desire
> Marriage - From Contract to Promise
> Who is he?
> Seeing the Light
> The Man at the Well
> East of Eden- Our Story
> Dingwall 75th - Charity or Justice
> Doing Justice - An Induction Sermon
> Light in the world
> Tsunami - World in Turmoil

> Promises Kept
> Christ The King - We don't have Kings anymore!
> What is Our Mission : Connecting with Other Faiths
> The Word of God is not Chained
> Descent into Hell
> What does the Lord Require - Assembly report
> 150th service Rev Sharon Ensor's sermon
> The neighbour who comes from God..
> Driving out Demons - Fears Of Mental Illness
> Flowing Waters 2 Spirit of Peace
> Flowing Waters 1 - Reflections in Japan
> Putting it On The Line
> Go Fishing- Youth Leaders Dedication
> Waitangi Day Celebration
> God's Love is Wider than We Want
> The Best Wine
> Dancing Stars - Science and Theology

> First Sunday of Christmas
> Church culture to Mission Culture
> Be Wise
> Trinity - Beyond Miracles
> Sir Ed Hilary- Ascension Sunday
> Culture challenged by Love
> On the Road to Gaza
> Whose Voice? - Mother's Day
> Rows of White Crosses. [Anzac]
> Easter Day - Go , Jesus is Waiting for You.

Sermon - 23 January 2005
Bible Verses: Isaiah 9:1-4 & Matthew 4:12-23
(click the verses above to read the passages online)

Light in the world

also Psalm 27:1, 4-9 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on the Galilee.

Imagine that we are living in Jerusalem in Judah, surrounded by warring armies and conquered peoples. The superpower Assyria surrounds us. Based at Ninevah, near Mosul in todays Northern Iraq, Assyria has taken most of the territories of our northern neighbour Israel and is poised to capture their capital city, Samaria any day soon. ..
The Assyrian economy is based on war. Their army is the largest standing army ever seen in the Middle East or Mediterranean. Their advanced technology makes them almost unbeatable with iron swords, lances, metal armour, and battering rams. They are cruel fierce and there is no way we can win against them.
The routes which would give us help from Egypt in the South, have been cut off and occupied, the Israeli territories of the North, Napthali and Zebulun around the Sea of Galilee have been conquered.
The Assyrians had a policy of transporting conquered peoples to other places swapping them around. Northern Israel was to eventually disappear, into the huge melting pot of cultures and religions never to be seen again. The hated Samaritans were the result of Assyrian policies.
Modern Indonesia has a similar policy by the way, Its called transmigrati, where Moslem Javanese from over crowded areas are settled in groups on other islands, often in Christian areas, East Timor and now West Papua see these as aggressive actions.
To add to this we in Judah have had King Ahaz as a ruler, who has no intention of trusting God, is stupid politically, dishonest and weak and was willing to do just about anything to remain in power.
We are longing for good leadership and peace.
Imagine, If then the prophet, Isaiah of Jerusalem said to us God will be with you, in 700 years time a son will be born and peace will come. What would you say?

Or to the starving people of the world the prophet says , it will all be all right, in 100 years time there will be no more hunger!

When we use these passages in Isaiah as if their only function is to predict the arrival of the Messiah in 700 years time, we are misunderstanding what prophecy is and also miss what this part of scripture had to say to Matthew and still has to say to us today in its own context..
Lets go fishing in Isaiah first before imposing on it later Christian interpretations.

For a prophet of Israel, the answer to the Assyrian crisis did not lie 700 years in the future; it lay in God?s ability to enter history at any present moment and work God's purposes for his people! Even when they idealized the future, it was not far distant apocalyptic dreaming but what they understood as a present possible reality by the hand of God.

Isaiah uses metaphors to paint the vision which is both particular to his times and universal for nations besieged by continuous warfare, even today...
Light now shines where there was deep darkness - Where war has raped their lands and lack of crops brings hunger that kills - there will now be plenty. A harvest that will give life.
When before they have been the plunder, now they will get the plunder, be able to live.
Isaiah?s vision for the people was to live in a world in which the light of God would outshine the darkness of the consequences brought by the sins of Ahaz, even when those consequences were the marching boots of enemy soldiers.
The dream of peace is urgent. Blood stained clothes from a battle, being burned is a powerful metaphor for the end of fighting and killing, of the reality of peace against the horror of war.
Something has happened in the life of the nation that has brought hope of a different future than the dismal one laid out earlier and experienced in the "former time."
What has happened? A baby is born,
What use is a baby, to Ahaz, to anyone in this desperate situation?
But this is God's answer, not just 700 years into the future but first in Isaiah's here and now
"A son is born to you". has a past tense, and a future promise.
Probably, right then the son is king Hezekiah who came to power in 715 BC who turned the policies of Ahaz around and who managed to stave off the Assyrians - they never actually captured Jerusalem.
So the the rod of the oppressor is broken (v. 4)
Resulting in cessation of warfare (v. 5)
Because, a son is born (vv. 6-8)

Dennis Bratcher expresses it in better words than mine.
Isaiah understands that even if we are living under threat in a world that is beyond our control. A world that lies in the hands of leaders who make stupid and selfish and even cowardly decisions, who refuse to trust God. that God's people have resources if they are only insightful enough and faithful enough to realize it.

There is a darkness in the world that comes because some, even many, perhaps even most, do not believe that there is any other way in the world than brute force. And so they live in a world, and create a climate, in which struggles for power and control are the norm. And so they bring the darkness, not only to themselves, but to everyone around them.

How should we live in such a world?

Even in the Christian community are those who have a totally pessimistic view of the world. Many are concerned about the way governments act. Some Christians are preoccupied with the explosion of immorality in entertainment, the media, even in churches. Some think the church is a failure and so start their own churches. Others are convinced that the world is under the control of evil forces, of Satan and demons, even to the point that God's people are controlled by evil influence.
What happens? They spend all their spiritual energies in a totally negative battle against "this present darkness" rather than focusing on the Good News of the Gospel.

Plus there are various crises around the world that intensify anxiety levels - name it, earthquakes this week in Wellington, tsunamis, Iraq and Israel still at war, terrorism, superpowers, with super weapons, USA, Europe, China, Russia, economic crises which threaten the global economy and instability of nations and governments.. there is nothing new here. It is not hard to retreat into dreaming of the Second Coming in which God will just come and make it all right.

Do we succumb to the despair of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, or do we live as if the God we read about and talk about and sing about is really God?
Isaiah calls us, to embrace the God of new possibilities, who can bring light into the darkness, who can bring peace into warfare, who can bring security into instability, who can bring freedom into oppression and slavery.

The community of Matthew 700 years later under a Roman occupation, recognises Isaiah 's old prophecy in the light of knowing Jesus as the one who is looked for, and identifies Jesus as the bringer of God's light.
Jesus is living and preaching in the old territories around Galilee of Naphthali and Zebulun, captured 700 years before by the Assyrians about the time Isaiah 9 was written .
Is this the one who comes? - Yes! is Matthew's answer, see how God is faithful. A new baby and a new time in history this Jesus is the light of God.The old prophecy has new insight and gives new dimensions how God is in our midst.

Our challenge is will we choose to walk in the light that Jesus has brought ... Will we live as his people now and live for the future that he is working to completion, and which we have a part in shaping, using the resources we have.. Or will we simply sit in the darkness longing for something better?.
Isaiah?s message, heard by us today, is that God is still God! And even our present history for all its darkness may be pregnant with possibility! For a son has been born! God has not abandoned the world to wait for some future time. God is God of present history!

We are called in our place and time to live positively as God's people who have seen the light of Christ, and who have allowed that light to transform who we are. We do not waste our time on fighting shadows because we see that the Light does that , and because we understand that God is still God. God is not a God of darkness but of light. We will not deny the reality of the darkness. But we do need to affirm with both Isaiah and the Gospel writers that there is no gloom for those who walk in God's Easter light.
Reference and quotes
-Dennis Bratcher

For those who don't know the poem it is about the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem by Byron

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpets unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Rev. Margaret Anne Low


The Bible Gateway
Home - Who are We - Worship - Sermons - Minister's Minutes - Youth & Children's Ministry - Community Centre - Contact Us
Copyright © St Johns and St Philips Presbyterian Church 2000-2021. All rights reserved.