Highworth United Reformed Church

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"Upside Down"

The Revd Robert Jordan

27th July 2014

Upside down

 

The way the world is today, the words of this reading today would be the best calling so many people could hope for...come, you who have nothing, come...delight. In a world where so many are excluded, this is a passage of inclusion. To me it is one of the best examples of hope and kindness you can come across. But this is a strange world, and things are quite different from what the prophet speaks of here. Can you imagine this reading shared with so many people of the world population today.

 

What would you prefer?

a.      the way things are at present or

b.     what God is inviting us to?

 

Because this passage today is certainly an "upside down".

 

This incredible chapter from the book of the prophet Isaiah closes a section that begun with chapter 40, and if you would like to read both together you will find a number of issues relating one to another, not least that of hope in the midst of difficulties, and this is a universal theme so relevant to the reality we live today. Though the people of God are experiencing the reality of exile – being far from all that gave them a sense of belonging and of identity, they are invited to cling to God's vision of a different reality, one that must be possible so that life may have a meaning. What the prophet is saying is that life in the situation they are living must be different, so he proposes God's 'topsy-turvy' vision, and isn't it a great one!

 

The first words sound similar to a busy Saturday market morning with calls here and there to the different stalls, but for one big difference. Nothing in any market square is free, there is always a price to pay – while here the prophet announces God's offer: everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and you who have no money come, buy and eat, buy wine and milk without money and without price. It doesn't take long to see that this is a totally different offer, a totally different life.

 

This is the invitation to a banquet, and in the biblical understanding all banquets point to the great banquet God prepares for his people, an abundant and generous banquet for all to enjoy and not just for the few who can afford it. The call is from God to "come to me" because in God there is a different offer from that of the world. God once again sets the invitation in the context of the covenant, this time it is described as an everlastingcovenant - this is a concept so close to the heart of the reformed tradition! This must be music to the ears of the people, certainly is should be in ours.  God's call is to a totally transforming reality: politically, socially and religiously. This call is even made clearer in vss 6-7: a God abundant in love and forgiveness, a God who calls all to be part of this, it is the possibility to 'turn to God'.

 

God is different from all that the people have come to know: In those times the result of exile and being exposed to a totally different political, religious and social set up, while today because we live in a world in which God has been manipulated to fit into the structures of the time, in every aspect of life. The prophet is proclaiming God's will as one of new possibilities for all people who hear and want to be part of this new vision. God's presence in life has life giving effects in the same way as water and snow have on the land: watering, sprouting, flowering, seed and bread…going back again to the initial verses of the passage. 

 

The prophet announces another "exodus" one that leads to peace, one that transforms harsh reality into a life-giving reality, where all nature will celebrate: Joy, happiness, celebration are the will of God, and this new reality will be an everlasting memorial to God's actions in favour of humanity.  I really wonder what these words would mean to the people in East Africa?

 

 

This prophetic vision is not only a challenging vision for the people then, it continues to speak to people of all times and all places, who have hope for a different vision and a different reality. Just how necessary is this text in the world today? This is the vision of the Kingdom as set out in Jesus' teachings, and it is the call of the book of Revelation for the new heaven and new earth. This is still the call towards what is truly God's will for all people. A world for all people in a world where today so many are excluded, are rejected, where many live in fear, God calls us to this vision, and the call is to be agents of transformation, not to explain what is wrong but to transform it to a generous and loving world and this is what we hope for and work for where we are. God's vision is an upside down vision, according to the current world reality, but isn't this vision exactly what we would want as a normal, everyday reality? So God's upside down vision should be THE vision, and we can do something about it each day. This is our challenge. Amen.

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