Images of Christ (series)
Lamb of God
By Rev Steven R Mitchell
Mountain View United Church, Aurora 1/27/2013
Based on Isaiah 53:1-10 and Revelation 5:11-13
The Christian church has come to interpreted Isaiah 53 to be a prophecy of the coming Messiah that we know as Jesus of Nazareth. This morning’s passage gives attributes that we can see in Jesus such as: a person born into a family of little importance, who was arrested, beaten, and killed unjustly. Jesus himself referred to himself as a shepherd, yet eventually being lead off as a lamb to be slaughtered. Yet scholars tell us this passage in Isaiah was truly referring not to one specific man, but rather in general of a person who speaks out for the rights of others and against social injustices that are committed by those in positions of responsibilities, yet pervert their positions of trust for their own selfish gains.
When we think of the overall person of Jesus, he actually was the personification of how the Hebrews viewed themselves as the instrument of God to the world. As a people, they were considered the underdog, the less powerful. They were born out of a man named Abram and his wife Sari, promised by God to become a great nation, if they put their faith and trust in this one God. This new nation found themselves as slaves in the land of Egypt, escaping the powerful hand of Pharaoh through the leadership of a man known as Moses. Under the leadership of a shepherd boy, David brought together the twelve tribes of the Hebrews, turning them into one nation. Then once again, this nation found itself in exile and only temporarily enjoying peace before finally being defeated by the Roman Empire. Even though this tribe of people is not known for its economic or political might in history as other countries are, it is known as the nation who gave us the concept of one Universal God, who is more powerful and more relational than any understanding of deities prior to them. Our Christian religion is built upon the understandings of this small nomadic people.
I am struck by the question Isaiah poses in the very first verse, “Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?” I remember my very first week in Seminary were I first started to be confronted with this question, when introduced to a particular man attending classes. What made this man fit the question, “Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?” was the fact that this man was in a wheel chair and his body was constricted by Cerebella palsy. “Truly, how is this man going to be effective as a voice for God?” I thought to myself, “You could hardly understand a word he spoke. No congregation was going to hire a man who couldn’t speak clearly.” My thoughts were coming from a lack of understanding of how God can use anyone who is willing to follow the call of God. This man was eventually going to use his degree, his credentials as a way of giving voice to people who needed his understanding of design for physically challenged people in a way that would prompt legislators to consider future building codes that would force housing to conform to the needs of handicapped people.
Over the years, I have come to ponder more and more on this question of “Who would have thought God…. “especially from the perspective of the small church? We most often think of the larger churches who provide the voice that will be heard by those who are entrusted through political positions. Yet over and over again, what I have observed is that God uses those who seem to have no power, no political pull, no monetary means to persuade. God uses the Rosa Parks of our society to say, “No, this is not right.” Or patrons from a gay bar in New York City known as Stonewall telling police that, “Enough is enough”, no more harassment would be tolerated. Or a mother who started M.A.D.D. after the death of her child by a drunken driver. Jesus was this type of voice, and for it he was arrested, given a trial and used as a scapegoat by the religious leaders of his day.
So I often wonder, what is the voice of Mountain View? Are we satisfied with where we are at or do we want to become more? Are we a body of faith that people in Aurora will say, “Who would have thought God could use them?” Every morning I wake up and I ask God this question, “How can Mountain View be a voice for you?” Yet I get paid to ask this question. I ask God, “how can I be used to help Mountain View be what God wants us to be?” If I challenged you to pray every morning asking the question, “Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?” what would our church look like in one year from now? I wonder what we will have accomplished.
I was asked to come service this body of faith with the understanding that I would shake things up. The understanding being that there needs to be some new challenges put forth to help us move in a forward direction. I have a vision for this body of faith and it is based on the founding principles of this church. The basic principle that as a collective group of faith filled people, we will be the voice of God to Aurora.
What is the voice of God? It is the simple understanding that all people are the children of God, that justice be equally applied to all people, and that reconciliation be made between humanity, which comes through the reconciling of individuals with God. Jesus quoted his agenda, his message from Isaiah 61 when he read to the elders of his synagogue, “…the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. God has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, to comfort all who mourn.” The injustices that we see today range from poverty issues, immigration issues, cultural differences, economic abuses, non-righted wrongs to Native Americans to name just a few. We have not only the opportunities as a body of faith but the responsibility to be a voice for God. I was hired as the person to help lead us to be this voice, but ultimately the responsibility for its effectiveness lies on each members shoulder. I can lay out the road map, bring to light the issues and struggles, but it is the congregation as a whole who has to accomplish the work.
In Revelations we read, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” How do we give praise and honor and glory to God and to the Lamb of God? King David, when asked by the priests why he didn’t worship God in the manor that was prescribed in the book of worship, David responded with, “If God wanted incense and sacrifice, I would do it, but what God desires of me is my heart!” Jesus set the examples of challenging those who abuse power and bully those who are not seen as equals. The best way for us to “worship” and give “praise” to God, is to become the “Who would have thought…” people of God. I challenge you for one month, as you get up in the morning or as you go to bed at night to ask yourself this question with Mountain View in mind, “Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?” and see if you can start to envision what Mountain View will look like this time next year. Amen