A Voice Cries Out

December 23, 2014

The Rev. Bonnie A. Perry
All Saints' Episcopal Church, Chicago
Advent 2, December 7, 2014

I propose to show that we are called out of exile.  We are called to leave our positions of power, prestige and privilege and venture out through the wilderness, to the new Jerusalem.  We are called to build and reconstruct the City of God.  So that those hearing this sermon will recognize our power and take literal and figurative steps to create a new place and new way of being in or world—where equity and justice, compassion and care prevail.

Come Holy Spirit…

Please be seated

Good Morning! 

“Comfort, Comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that she has served her term…”

Comfort, comfort my people…  To whom are these words spoken? Now and then…

Then…

In the sixth century before the birth of Christ, more than 2600 years ago, there arose a prophet in the city of Babylon. A man of Jewish descent, of whom little is known personally, other than the amazing writings, authored by him, that were eventually appended to the writings of the prophet Isaiah. We refer to this nameless man, who lived almost a century after the prophet Isaiah, as Second Isaiah. 

Whereas, his earlier counterpart foretold of the people of Judah’s exile predicting, the coming destruction of the Kingdom, the fall of the temple and the razing of the city of Jerusalem. All of which came to be when Nebukanezzer and the Babylonians overran Jerusalem in 597 BC.

But Second Isaiah almost a century latter, in vast contrast to the first prophet, foretells of the rise of Cyrus from Persia. Second Isaiah, sees Cyrus as an instrument of God, for the good of the dispersed people of  Judah. 

Cyrus,

according to

Second Isaiah,

will allow the people who have lived in exile all these years to return to Jerusalem.  Second Isaiah says, now the time for your exile and punishment ends, “You have served your term and your penalty has been paid.”

Return to your city of Zion—let us rebuild the city of God, on God’s Holy Mountain.

A voice cries out, says the prophet Second Isaiah.  Prepare… 

It’s interesting, even though all these years in exile has been devastating.  The people to whom Second Isaiah is speaking are now second generation in the foreign land. Many of them, have figured out how to survive, how to thrive. They own businesses, they have homes, they are settled in. Many are prospering. So the call, to leave all this, to leave their places of some power, a bit of prestige, and privilege is not necessarily met with universal excitement and energy. Oh for the ones on the margins, the people just barely getting by, the people without access to the systems of influence and wealth, well those people, those people are always happy for change. They need change.  They pray for change. They long for change.

But the others, why summon the energy to move past the inertia of the deadening passivity of privilege. Why summon the energy to change? Why do that? Why indeed?

This is, where I think two and a half millennia later these words make sense for me. And perhaps for many us who gather here on this corner of Hermitage and Wilson on the North side of the city of Chicago.  We too may hold places of power and privilege. We too, by virtue of our skin color, our education, perhaps our wealth, we too may have sway and influence. So why then would we want to change our lives as they are currently constructed? Why then would we want to relinquish what bits and pieces of power we may have? To leave this way and go forth to a new place. To hear God’s call and go forth into to that desert? Why then would we want to leave what we know behind in hopes of building something new? In hopes of creating a city free of separation and segregation? A city where all of our children, absolutely all of our children have access to excellent education. A city where, where these truths are self-evident that all men, all women and men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Why would we leave our world to create that place?

How can we not? How can we, as people of faith, not relinquish our world as it is, our world where some are protected and some are suspected. How can we not venture forth to leave the world as we know it and change it?

Karen Armstrong, in her book, "A Case for God," writes this:

Truly religious people are ambitious. They want lives overflowing with significance...

Instead of being crushed and embittered by the sorrow of life, they sought to retain their peace and serenity in the midst of their pain. They yearned for the courage to overcome their terror of mortality; instead of being grasping and mean-spirited, they aspired to live generously, large-heartedly, and justly and to inhabit every single part of their humanity. 

Instead, to paraphrase A Prayerbook for New Zealand, that we,”instead of being content with things as that we may have a creative compassion, a thirst for justice, and a willingness to give of our lives in the Spirit of Christ.”

My friends, the world as we know and see it, and as many of us may have seen in a way this week completely different than we have before, we cannot be satisfied and content. We must do more, listen more, hear more from our sisters and brothers of color. Then we must act. Taking steps, like today, witnessing to our beliefs.  As we walk, as we process, reminding ourselves what we say we believe.

We like the people in exile, O so many years ago,  we must leave behind the power and passivity of our privilege and look for ways to use our gifts to create to build the city of God, where all will be safe. All will be free.

In Christ’s Holy Name I pray.

Amen. 

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