Isaiah 65:17-25 Canticle – Isaiah 12 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know about you but this world seems to be in pretty bad shape, there are wars and insurrections, things always change but they don’t seem to be changing for the better. Globally our leaders either don’t know what they are doing or don’t care, or worse, they are taking care of their personal interests, which seems to be high on their agenda. This gets us all into economic chaos, societal chaos, racial tensions, environmental danger, and on the whole it is spiritually taxing. The world seems crazy and our will and ability to change it and bring it back to rightness is flagging.
It’s the same kind of world that Isaiah lived in for he wrote in the time of the Jew’s Exile in Babylon, where they largely lost their identity. Jeremiah had told them to plant gardens, build houses and really contribute to the welfare of their captors’ land, Babylon (Jeremiah 29:5). Jeremiah seems like an early type of Don Cherry talking to refugees and immigrants on Coach’s Corner. The trouble now is, because of our western history, we still have the image of colonising powers, and for immigrants and refugees to celebrate our victories might be the same as expecting the Jews to celebrate Babylon’s victories; very few people attend the German Prisoner-of-War cemetery in Kitchener on November 11th for the same reason.
Most immigrants like to retain something of their culture, their language, their dress, their customs their cooking, it’s bound to create a little friction now and then, and cries of “Go back to where you came from” sound from the Intolerant. Back in Babylon many took Jeremiah’s advice and settled down, the net effect for the Jews was that many felt good in Babylon and after the first generation had passed-on, they assimilated; only the few who had maintained ties with Israel and Judaism went back to Jerusalem creating more topsy-turvy in the history of the Jews.
Those who remained faithful needed the inspirational message of Isaiah. Isaiah promised a new day for the Jews, when they returned home. The wheat and the chaff had been separated by the Exile in Babylon and the true believers were going to rebuild Jerusalem, reclaim their lost heritage and live in peace and abundance in their homeland, they did. / We too need that inspirational message from Isaiah. We too are in a period of separating the wheat from the chaff in the Church. True believers are the ones who are here keeping the Church alive to enable it to return to its roots, the Jews went into Exile because they had betrayed their original faith and needed a time-out to put things back in order. We too.
Jesus warns us along the same lines, don’t go after false preachers who promise cheques in the mail or miracle cures if you get some of their ‘miracle spring water’, those are the ones who will cause the Church to fall, with not one stone remaining upon another. Instead follow preachers who preach the Bible and can prove their statements with the Bible.
St. Paul today raises the challenge of doing what’s right. Last week I was asked “What is Right ?” Well there is a simple test; is it consistent with what you hear in the Bible as a teaching on the thing in question ? Now I know that we can pick and choose many bits of the Bible, that will prove any point one way or another, it’s called ‘proof-texting’. But if you are steeped in the Bible you will discern what is right and as Anglicans we temper our Bible understanding with Tradition and Reason. Unfortunately over the centuries the Church was usurped by selfish teaching, thankfully people of good conscience have stood-up on the bastions of the Bible and brought us back to the Truth. And as Jesus warned they often faced persecution and martyrdom in so doing. So there is that one important word in what I just said “conscience”. Conscience is a funny thing. It has been said “Be the master of your will, and the servant of your conscience”.[i] Now being master of what we physically do or say or even think about is easy because we are in control, but conscience is a different thing altogether, we have no control over it. We can try to explain it away, make excuses and plead a convincing case but it is still there, sticking out like a sore thumb. It just stands out, separate from us, from our wishes, and sometimes is pretty annoying. When there is something we want to do, the prick of our conscience makes it difficult for us to do it, if it is not the right thing. It’s as though our conscience is separate from us, we cannot command it. We are a lot like a river, we live our lives from their source to the sea. No river has ever built a dam along its course to control its own flow or direction, something else, something separate has to do it, a rock fall, a beaver, an ice jam, a bunch of humans. Our conscience is like that dam. It is indeed separate from us, its voice is inspired by the Holy Spirit and should not be ignored, we should serve it, as many heroes of the Faith have done and we are called to do.
It is our conscience that will give us the words we need when we face challenges to our belief, Jesus through the Holy Spirit feeds our tongues with the right words.
Let me ask you, has your conscience ever led you wrong ? If the answer is ‘No’ and I truly believe it is ‘No’ why not trust it some more, even the whole way. Conscience has a whole lot to do with justice. We have seen rules, regulations even laws cause injustice, you may have been victim to them, so you know we cannot stand by and let things happen which go against our conscience; that would not be the right thing to do. Listen to the Holy Spirit in you if you want to right the wrongs and make this the better world that God promises it will be. Amen.
[i] Maria von Ebner-Eschenbach