Anyone who has ever had a roommate, anyone who has ever had a sibling, anyone who has ever been through middle school knows that it’s hard work living with people. It’s hard work interacting with people.
And sometimes it feels frankly impossible. Maybe now more than ever.
But just before we decide that this is the way it will be forever; just before we throw up our hands because political discourse is dead; just before we find ourselves shunning or shaming the Other, our Lord calls us to pause — and to remember. Remember the kingdom to which we belong. Remember the God who rules over all others. Remember that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. This is our story, a story that despite its twists and turns, despite its rising and falling, perseveres on to paradise – just as it has done since the very beginning.
Amidst the chaos of conquered Israel, as the foreign armies tore through Jerusalem, the Prophet Isaiah spoke of a future where weeping would end and the wealth of the nations would bedeck the holy city. And the city herself — Jerusalem would flourish. No longer would the barks of jackals or the whisper of wind echo in her empty streets, but Jerusalem would be as alive and as fruitful and as generous as a nursing mother in a loving home.
“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,” the Prophet says. “All you who love her, rejoice with her in joy. . . . For thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream.’”
At the time of Isaiah’s writing, the people of Israel had lived in Babylon for nearly 50 years. They had heard with grief and terror of the atrocities committed in their beloved home. They had weathered the distrust and dislike of a people who couldn’t understand why “those Jews” refused to bow before Emperor and idol alike. The lives of the Jewish refugees were marked by confusion, anger, sorrow, even despair. But through it all, undeterred by what had brought Israel to this point, the Lord continued to speak. He continued to form and reform the lives of his people according to his Word. For thus says the LORD: “‘As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.’”
That was the hope the Jewish people had for the future, that God would bring them home and bless them and would be present with them in ways they had yet to experience. That was their hope; it is our reality.
We who are gathered here today taste the glories of the heavenly Jerusalem because we are members of the Bride of Christ. In this gathering and in the voices of the countless others who sing praises to Almighty God, we find comfort, true and honest and unending comfort — for this is the place where life comes from death, love springs from hatred, and unity arises from division. This is the place where the hand of the LORD is known to his servants: Jesus Christ, our King, our Savior, and our Friend.
To the world outside our doors, we are a community that shouldn’t be possible. We come from many places. We bear unique burdens. We look and sound and act differently than each other. Yet we are one, united by love of Christ and brought together by a God who delights in the individual beauty of his individual children as we all grow to look more and more like him.
“We shall see and our hearts shall rejoice; our bones shall flourish like the grass,” when we seek the heavenly city where the LORD has promised to be found.
We live in a world beset by problems and plagued by evil. We live in a world where some days do feel like we are exiles in a foreign land. And yet, despite the voices of doubt and derision, despite the sheer volume of hate we witness on a day-to-day basis, we don’t need to despair – because this world is not our ultimate reality. Nor is it our ultimate hope.
We have been crucified with Christ and so we see our world for what it is: a people and a place in desperate need of the unending, un-qualifying, undying love of a resurrected savior. A love that we possess. For we worship a God who has not and will never despise his creation, who is always ready to meet us in the humble gifts of Bread and Wine.
This is our story, a story that despite its twists and turns, holds true and shines light on every aspect of our lives. May we all today, tomorrow, and every day in the future remember that we are children of God, citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, blessed, comforted, and guided by the one we call Love. AMEN.