What Shall I Cry? 

Sunday, December 8, 2019
Pastor Mark Aune

Isaiah 40:1-11

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

A voice says, “Cry out!”

And I said, “What shall I cry?”

This is a legitimate question. In Isaiah’s time and in our time.

It almost sounds like a lament to me. The kind of question a person would ask when deep down they are unsure of what to say when life is turned upside down and you are in turmoil.

What shall I cry when my people have been conquered, deported to another land, their place of worship destroyed and their city burned to the ground?

What shall I cry to people who are now living in exile? Who feel cut off from God.

This morning I wonder, what shall I cry, what shall I proclaim when two little boys, excited to see their Dad on a Sunday morning are shot in their front yard by that same Dad who then goes into the house and kills his mother and then himself.

What shall I cry? Tears of sadness. Disbelief. Anger. Where are you God? What shall I cry to the loved ones of the men in our National Guard whose helicopter crashed and we are reminded once again of the cost of freedom.

What should the preacher say? What should she say to people who are in exile?

The prophet is being told to cry out, to proclaim something, to preach.

He responds to the call to cry out not only by asking the question – what shall I cry, but by saying that all people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.

The preacher is being honest about the people. The preacher is telling the truth about us.

Their constancy, their faithfulness, their allegiance to God is like the flower of the field, here today and gone tomorrow. The people are grass. They are distracted. This is the truth.

So one could ask, is there any point because it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. We are in exile and God seems to be absent from the world.

What shall I cry out?

Is it judgment we need to hear from the pulpit. The punishment of God.

Yes you say, we need that, as long as the judgment excludes me and my point of view and condemns those other people.

Or is it politics you want from the pulpit? Yes you may say as long as it is my political point of view and opinion that is lifted up as right and true and the other point of view is declared wrong?

What shall I cry to the family whose life is changing before their eyes because of a medical issue with a loved one, or a mental health issue with a child, or to the person who is feeling lonely and abandoned by God, or to the homeless person who needs to come in from the cold? Exile can look like this. Exile does look like this.

Most of the time I just want the sadness, the heaviness to go away, to disappear.

But that is just wishful thinking on my part. It never goes away. It is always present in our lives.

And I’ve come to realize over a long time that it is precisely in these moments that God’s comfort seems to show up, that the promises God speaks are real and the tenderness of the shepherd is true.

It is interesting isn’t it and you know what I am talking about.

Many of you know because you have been in exile. You have been in that place where the absence of God feels like it is the primary narrative and then it happens, it comes to you, unexpected and unlooked for while you have been in that place.

You hear, at first, far off in the distance the voice speaking words you desperately need to hear. Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.

It seems there is always a voice, at least one and sometimes more, a voice that cries out a word for me. A word for you. The right word that I need to hear at precisely the right moment in time. A word for me. A word for you.

This is God’s comfort. This is God’s peace.

More often than not I hear it in this space but not always in this space. I’ve heard it from different voices.

I’ve heard it in places where I wasn’t expecting to hear it but God knew that I needed to hear it. God knew what I needed to hear.

Isn’t that strange how it works? Do we stop and consider that this voice is God’s Word, God’s promise that has the power to restore the soul and bring us back into a relationship with God and make us whole.

I was talking to a friend about this and his comment to me was “I come to worship on Sunday morning because I need to hear some good news.”

He literally needs to hear the Word of God that says – comfort, comfort my people. That Word of God which says my sins are forgiven.

Because left on our own we can only despair. The preacher in our text today understands that and the one who is told to cry out lands in the only place where there is hope.

The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

  • This is where the road home begins.
  • This is the highway of God.
  • This is where the glory of the Lord is revealed.

Notice what this preacher is told to do next.

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”

The boldness of the church’s proclamation lies in the promises of God because the promises always point us to the future. Beyond our current state of affairs.

The promises of God, when they are spoken and heard, are the power that creates the future God has in store for God’s people. The future God has planned for you and for me.

  • Get you up to a high mountain.
  • Lift up your voice.
  • Do not fear.
  • God is here.

To all of us who find ourselves in exile, untethered from the place we need to be grounded, a voice cries out – prepare the way of the Lord.

A voice cries out – See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Who does that sound like to you?

You know who it is. It is Jesus.

You have been waiting for Him and you want to know Him.

You want to know this shepherd, the good shepherd. You want to know what He can do to gather you, lead you and carry you out of exile and back to your home.

Back to your home by way of a level and straight highway to the city of God.

To the place where all flesh shall see the glory of God.

You have been preparing for his coming. The promise has been spoken.

Listen and see, for He is here. He is here for you.

Thanks be to God. Amen

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