Have You Not Seen? Have You Not Heard?
| Isaiah 40:21-31
|Sun, February 6, 2000
Rev. Ed Searcy
|Hymn prior: "Silence Frenzied, Unclean Spirit" by Tom Troeger & Carol Doran
Just imagine the talk around Galilee. Without any warning, Jesus is on the scene: calling followers who drop everything to join him ... Jesus, this young adult, teaching with such authority that the elders cannot believe their ears ... and healing, healing all manner of sick and diseased people ... freeing people who have been tortured by demonic forces for a lifetime. Just imagine the talk that spreads through the region of the Galilee like wildfire: "Have you seen? Have you heard?". That's what it is like when there is gospel to tell. It doesn't matter if it is at recess in the school yard or at coffee break in the office. Gospel news is quickly gossip news ... it is word of mouth news ... news that doesn't wait for 'The National' at ten o'clock tonight or for the papers on the doorstep tomorrow.
Of course, by now the news about Jesus is old news. It isn't the hottest gossip anymore. Now it is written in the Bible ... to be carefully read in church ... and just as carefully closed up and put away when the service ends. Gone is the latest gossip ... replaced instead with a sermon (which is about as far away from gossip as you can imagine). But wait a minute. Have you seen what Jesus does when he shows up in Galilee? Have you heard about all of those demons that he sends running for cover? That's it, isn't it. Most of us haven't seen or heard this Jesus. We know the Jesus who confounds adults by putting children on his knee and disturbs the religious by welcoming sinners at his table. But we are not so familiar with the Jesus who cures the sick with the touch of a hand ... and who overcomes the demonic with a command.
There's a reason why you haven't heard ... or seen ... this Jesus. It is because we have been careful not to tell you about him. That's right. For a long time now we've been embarrassed by this side of Jesus. We've known better. Healing a fever by taking a woman's hand. No ... she needs fluid ... and rest ... and a prescription from her doctor. And demons? Why, you could
attend church for an entire year and never hear a word uttered about them in your church school class or from the pulpit. We have deleted demons from our vocabulary. We know better than to believe in such superstitions. The only problem is that Jesus does ... he does believe that there are demonic forces that can take control of a person's life. Notice how a day in the life of Jesus is a day of healing people of their diseases and of ridding people of the demons that possess them.
The gathering that forms around Jesus in Galilee looks to have more in common with a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous on Tuesday evening than it does with a church service on Sunday morning. People gather there because they are sick and they know it. They come to the place where Jesus is because they are possessed by urges and compulsions that they cannot control. They come because someone else has said to them: "Have you seen this? Have you heard about this? There is one who has the power to make you well". People do not attend AA because it is a pious thing to do or because it will look good on their resume ... they go because they have tried everything else and have found that nothing else works. People go to AA because they are prepared to admit that they are possessed by a demon and know that only a 'Higher Power' can possibly save them from a life consumed by drinking. Once there, they find a community of fellow sufferers who have entrusted their lives to the One with power to control the demonic, destructive forces that have held them captive. We recognize this picture. It is the one we have been neglecting to read and to tell: Jesus, the Higher Power, cleansing the unclean and overpowering the demonic.
The way Isaiah tells it this is precisely the news that people are literally dying to hear. "Have you not known?" he cries, "Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?". Surely, says Isaiah, you recall your preschool grace before lunch: "God is great. God is good. And we thank God for our food." Why, then, do you give up on God? Why live in such desperation?
Why scramble madly to help yourself ... to cure yourself ... to make it all better ... when it only leads to exhaustion? "Those who wait for the Lord", so says Isaiah, "shall renew their strength ... they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." This is exactly what your friend Isaiah says when he calls and invites you to AA. "You have to hear this", he says, "you have to come and see. The power to get well rests with God ... come and turn yourself over to God ... wait for God to lift you out of the ditch".
Do you hear? Do you see? This Sunday morning gathering we call church is, in fact, the regular meeting of S.A. - 'Sinners Anonymous'. We come because we cannot heal ourselves ... because we find ourselves enslaved by forces that are beyond our control. We come because we have heard that here we will find One who has the power to heal and to free us. In truth, it is not the singing that we come for ... as uplifting as it is. Nor are we here to enjoy the Chapel ... as beautiful as it is. It is not the community life ... or the preaching ... or the teaching ... or the opportunity to serve ... as wonderful as all of that may be. No ... to be honest, we come seeking to be liberated from the demons of this age ... the forces that compel us to satisfy our deepest hungers with false gods. Here we gather and wait expectantly upon God ... discovering in Jesus that God is only waiting for us to turn ... and to ask. Or had you not heard? Taste and see for yourself.
Hymn following - Psalm 91 'On Eagle's Wings'