Revelation, Scripture

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Isaiah 40:21-31 O.T. Page 628 (NRSV)21Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; 23who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. 24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.25To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 26Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.27Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31but those who wait for the LORD 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.Isaiah 40:21-31 O.T. Page 628 “Above the Pinnacle”Opening Prayer: Please bow with me in prayer. Eternal Father, we are here to worship you and to sing praises to your Holy Name. We are the sheep of your pasture and we come to feed on your lush green grass. Now, send your Holy Spirit among us so that your Word may be spoken, and heard, and understood in our gathering this day. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.Introduction: The air is crisp and clear as you hike along a rugged costal trail. To your left waves lap against the rocky shoreline far below. And ahead to your right, mountains jut heavenward towering high above into the blue cloudless sky. Just then your eyes catch sight of a magnificent black bird with a pure white head perched in its nest in a rocky place on the mountainside up ahead. It’s an American Bald Eagle, the symbol of our nation’s freedom and strength. At that moment, the eagle leaps into flight swooping down over your head as it stretches out its wings spanning a full seven feet and soars out over the open sea. The majestic vision brings the words of an old psychedelic 70’s song into your mind. Oh “I want to fly like an eagle, to the sea; Fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me. I want to fly like an eagle, till I’m free.” Your spirit within you longs to live free. Free from the pain of an earth-bound life. Free from the guilt of a sin stained past. Free from the suffering of an aging body. Free not just to soar out over the open sea, but to fly the whole way up to heaven above. The spirit within you claims the ancient promise of the prophet Isaiah. Oh, that the Spirit of the living God would “raise you up on eagle’s wings” and safely “hold you in the palm of God’s hand.”PAUSEMove I.We desire a God who is so much greater than our imagination. In our minds eye we have no problem envisioning an eagle swooping off a rocky cliff face and soaring out over the open sea. Our imagination can take us all to places where we have never been. In just the last century the human imagination has begun to take tangible form with the advent of motion pictures. Special effects can make even the impossible look real. But the invention of animated film has allowed the fullest expression of pure imagination. In the animated film nothing is real; everything is imagined. Walt Disney started it all back in the 1930’s with the animated cartoons of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. And sixty-years later in the 1990’s, Pixar Animation took the art from to new heights with the computer animated characters of Woody and Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story.” And of course, it was big news back in 2006 when Disney bought Pixar for some $7.4 billion. But even Disney and Pixar combined will never produce a satisfying image of God. Now, I doubt these secular studios would ever even bother to try envisioning God, but I know if they did, they would produce an image that would be so much less than the real thing. That’s just how far beyond on imagination God really is. Our imagination always comes up short when it comes to God.Our Bible lesson today stands as a sobering reminder of just how unlike us God really is. How quickly we forget that while we are created in God’s image, God is not created in our image. We are products of God’s imagination. God could, and did, imagine us. But God is not, and could never be, a product of our imagination. God is higher than anything we can ever see or even imagine. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah in some of the most eloquent Hebrew poetry ever written. And Isaiah’s poetry speaks of God’s transcendence over all of the creation. God is higher than the highest mountain. God is further than the furthest star. And God is beyond our wildest imagination.In Isaiah 40:22-23 (NRSV) the prophet writes, “[God] sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; [God] stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; [God] brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.” Isaiah wrote this magnificent piece of poetry to the people of Judah as they sat in exile in the land of Babylon more than 25 centuries ago. God is revealed in images that the people of that time could understand. The heavens were envisioned as the visible canopy of stars appearing over the desert at night. And God set in the human imagination that God is above that canopy. If God were to rephrase Isaiah’s poetry for our scientific age, Isaiah might write, “God resides beyond that the furthest star that can be seen by the Hubble Telescope (which is about 3 billion light years), and even beyond the limits of the known universe (which is about 15 billion light years), and in the vastness of the universe the earth’s people are as small as atoms. God put the universe in motion and made the earth an inhabitable plant for us humans to call home.” The point is still the same—God is beyond our imagination. Our imagination can’t do justice to God. God knew we’d always mess up, so God told Moses to tell us to stop even trying. The second of the Ten Commandments says “Thou shalt not make for yourself any graven images” (Exodus 20:4, KJV). A graven image was the ancient equivalent to our modern digital animation. A graven image was an idol made from physical elements by human hands in the form conjured up in the human imagination. No graven image could substitute for the real God, and nothing we can imagine today can substitute for the real God either. We know that when it comes to God, we just can’t get the image right. Yes, we really do desire a God who is so much greater than our imagination. End I.Move II.Yet our God chooses to be known. The God we can’t even begin to imagine is still known to us. I stand here today to tell you that I’m more sure of God’s existence than I am of my own. Yep, God is more real than me. I know what you’re thinking, “You’re crazy Pastor Jim, I can see you, but I can’t see God.” Have any of you ever studied philosophy? You know philosophy, that’s thinking about thinking. Anyway, raise your hand if you’ve ever studied philosophy. Ancient Buddhist and Hindu philosophy teaches that all existence is the product of our imagination. You are a product of your imagination and I am a product of mine. Oh, and you are also a product of my imagination and I also am a product of yours’. Now I don’t know about you, but studying philosophy always gave me a headache. So here is how I conclude that God is more real than me. You see, since I might only be a product of my own imagination, but God can’t even begin to be imagined, God has to be more real than me. I can see you all smiling. But I think deep down you’re all as crazy as me. You all actually know in your “heart of hearts” that God’s more real than you too.How is it that we know that, well I can assure you it isn’t because we’ve studied philosophy. The key is what I just said about all of you. I spoke about what you know in your “heart of hearts.” The heart of your heart is your soul. Things you can see with your eyes are physical things. Things you can see with your mind are imaginary things. And things you can see with your soul are spiritual things. God isn’t physical, and God isn’t imaginary, but God has told us that God is spiritual. Jesus’ beloved disciple was John. And I think John was the most philosophical of the disciples. John knows the teachings of the great Greek Philosophers Aristotle and Plato, so John calls Jesus the Logos, the Word of God. 121221585725…020000…And it’s John who tells us point blank that God’s a spirit. In John 4:23-24 (NRSV) we read, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The only way that we can worship each Sunday is to worship God in spirit and truth. God is present with us here in Spirit. And it’s God Spirit who’s telling our “heart of hearts” that God is actually here.Do you know that God’s present here today? If you’re unsure, that’s ok, all you need to do is ask God to help you to know Him. There’s a great contemporary Christian song that speaks about this knowing with your heart. The song is “Open the Eyes of My Heart” which was written by Paul Baloche back in 2000 and was made popular by Michael W. Smith. Listen to the lyrics:Open the eyes of my heart, LordOpen the eyes of my heartI want to see YouI want to see YouTo see You high and lifted upShinin’ in the light of Your gloryPour out Your power and loveAs we sing holy, holy, holy.The God revealed in the prophet Isaiah’s poetry, the God who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, is the God who Paul Baloche is inviting you to see with the eyes of your heart. The ancients thought you had to go to the mountain top to see God, but you can go to the highest pinnacle on earth, that’s Mount Everest, and God is still higher than that. God stands way taller than even Goliath. God is “Above the Pinnacle.” You can’t see God with your eyes, and you can’t conjure up God in your imagination. Yet our God still chooses to be known. End II.Move III.And God has even come to live among us. The God who sits enthroned above the pinnacle has actually chosen to come and walk among us. God is no longer some distant potentate out there somewhere, but is the God who is present here with us in worship today. The God that Moses kept climbing up Mount Sinai to see is the God who we’re looking at with the eyes of our hearts right here at this very moment. Look, can’t you see God? Can’t you smell His sweet fragrance? Can’t you feel His mighty presence?When we read Isaiah’s poetry, we see Jesus. We do that because we have the interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures provide in the New Testament. Earlier in Isaiah 40 the prophet wrote the famous passage “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3, NRSV). All four gospel accounts say that John the Baptizer quoted these very words from Isaiah to claim he was that voice who was pointing toward the coming of Jesus, the long expected Messiah. The New Testament opens the eyes of our heart to see the mystery that the transcendent God has chosen to come and live among his people. The God who is above all comes down below to be with the creatures that He loves. The Good News is that the God residing “Above the Pinnacle” is now “here with us.” God’s Holy Spirit is here with us today proceeding from the Father and the Son who are in heaven.There is great comfort in knowing that rather than being out there somewhere, God is actually right here with us today. And Isaiah’s poetry reveals a God who deeply cares for His people. In Isaiah 40:29-31a (NRSV) we read “[God] gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.” Are you weak? Hope in the LORD and you will be made strong. Since you couldn’t go to God, God has come to you.Through the pages of the Bible we get glimpses of God but more remains unknown than has been revealed. And what we do know often baffles our human understanding. God is “Above the Pinnacle,” and yet God is also down below “here with us.” That’s a paradox. A paradox is when two statements seem to be contradictory, and yet in realty both are true. Our minds can’t quite figure out how to handle a paradox. But the eyes of our heart have no problem seeing the truth in the midst of the mental confusion. The Father up above isn’t just looking down in love, but has actually come down in love in the person of Jesus Christ and continues to live here with us today in the person of the Holy Spirit.Paul Baloche, who wrote “Open the Eyes of my Heart,” also wrote another song that conveys the paradox of God being “above all” and yet “here with us.” Baloche wrote the verses of “Above All” to use in worship at his church. But for years the song remained only half a song, the verses needed a chorus to be complete. Then, one day Baloche sang the verses of “Above All” for his friend Lenny LeBlanc. The next day LeBlanc came with the words for the chorus and made the song complete. Listen to the paradox conveyed through Baloche’s verse and last line of LeBlanc’s chorus:{Play Music: “Above All—Clip.mp3” [0:42]}Yes, the God who’s above all kingdoms and thrones came to earth and died rejected and alone. The God who is “above all” actually loves us “above all.” Yes, God really has come to live among us.End III.Conclusion: Don’t you want to “fly like and eagle out to the sea?” Don’t you want the Holy Spirit to “raise you up on eagle’s wings?” Yes, we do desire a God who is so much greater than our imagination. Even Disney and Paxar combined could never imagine the fullness of our God. Yet our God chooses to be known. You can’t see God with your eyes, and you can’t conjure up God in your imagination, but “open the eyes of your heart,” and behold God is there. And God has even come to live among us. The God who is “above all” actually does love us “above all.” From “Above the Pinnacle,” God has come and is here with us today.Closing Prayer: Let’s pray. Almighty God, you do sit enthroned above the circle of the earth. You are the Holy One who is above all. But all praise be to God, you chose to come down here below to be with us in the person of Jesus Christ. And you continue to be here with us today in the person of your Holy Spirit. Open the eyes of our hearts that we may always and everywhere see you. Amen!10:30 Closing Hymn: “Lord Speak that I May Speak” Red Hymnal No. 463Sending Forth: Are you having a hard time believing God is really there? Then open the eyes of your heart and see God high and lifted up. Go forth to love and serve the LORD your God, above all. And all of God’s people...Amen! ................
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