What is your favorite celebration or holiday? Have you ever noticed that people celebrate the strangest things? I’m talking about August 20th which is Chocolate Pecan Pie Day. Or if you start to hate this sermon remember we are close to Blame Someone Else day and that Aaron is truly to blame. Yet, the celebrations that we actual set aside time to remember usually have something in common—they revolve around sacrifice to be worthy of being set apart.
For some, they see a sacrifice worth celebrating tangibly while visiting the now peaceful battle fields of Gettysburg or while walking the beach of Normandy off the French coast, still with the scares of war and still pouring forth speech about the sacrifices. It brings to mind the visions of what took place, remembering the men who bravely ran from their transporters into 20 feet of water, far from the beach, loaded down by their bags and supplies—some only barely making it to the shore to face the hot metal pulsating out of a machine gun bunker while bodies piled up. Yet, through each sacrifice, we moved closer to changing the world for the better, combating evil, destroying strongholds.
Sacrifices worth celebrating come in a lot of shapes and sizes. Chelsea and I experienced a sacrifice worth celebrating on November 28th, 2013. We had been at the hospital since 7:00a.m. in the morning, just waiting for the birth of our baby. It was Thanksgiving, so there were turkeys decorating the hallways and I was working hard alternating between watching college football on TV while trying to catch a power-nap. I had been warned that sleep would be a rare commodity once you had a new baby at home. Finally, nearly 10 hours later, after cafeteria Thanksgiving food, the nurse finally came and got Chelsea who was taken into the birthing room. Some of you have been through it once or numerous times, after 9 months of discomfort, cravings, some changes in life—there was finally through all that sacrifice a celebration. The music played through the overhead speaker that a baby boy had just been born, pictures were taken, nurses were smiling, dressed like Darth Vader, with my face covered we went back and forth holding this gift which was about to change our lives forever.
Today, we are going to get into the book of Isaiah, chapters 53-54 where the concept of celebration comes to the forefront. We are finishing up our sermon series called the Great Exchange where God has invited us into his eternal plan in hopes of giving us an eternal purpose—exchanging what’s natural for his supernatural—our character for his, our corruption for a commission, our careening off course with a calling, compassion in place of apathy, commitment instead of being sporadic, and today we find that God’s plan keeps progressively building—all of life becomes a celebration of our creator. Yet, as Isaiah wrote, there didn’t seem like much to celebrate, he had watched the northern kingdom taken into exile, and now he wrote watching the southern kingdom of Judah follow, like father, like son. He preached and the people grumbled, he prophesied and the people pouted, and yet he continued to serve because God revealed a:
Investment Worth Celebrating (Isaiah 53:1-3) Isaiah had just got done prophesying about one who would be raised and lifted up, one who would be disfigured beyond recognition and marred, but who would silence kings and change nations. Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? The arm of the Lord was a symbol of strength, power and might that God was bringing to bare, but listen to the plan: 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. A little bit of a letdown? Powerful yet precarious and vulnerable. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Here is a prophecy 700 years before Jesus–despised but divine–he came as those he sought to protect. God was investing in a way which was slow, meticulous, authentic and seemingly crazy.
Remember back to the movie Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey angry with how God was operating got his opportunity to handle the Cosmo, well at least Buffalo for a few days. At first unlimited power was a blast. He operated how many of us envisioned, big and bold, in your face, even lassoing the moon to impress his girlfriend. Yet, what took him most of the movie to find out was that power without perspective was pointless. Everything started falling apart around him, power alone could order an army but it could never win over the human heart.
All along, God wasn’t trying to dominate the world, he was trying to show the world His love. As sin had separated us from God, as death hung over man, it was only as man that God could be fully just–bringing the punishment to fruition, but allowing his love to flourish. It was the type of investments that drive us crazy. We want to respond rather than use restraint. Right now, some of you could run off and respond to a desire for a new boat—a boat is flashy, exciting, dreamy, but you don’t. Instead you put it in a retirement plan—that is solid, unexciting, and a little dreary. Why? Because at the end of the day there is a greater need under the surface, you don’t want to be living in your boat once you retire, eating cat food, and hoping it doesn’t rain. Jesus pays a price now for a payout that comes when we cross the threshold, but still impacts us in the transit.
Jesus loves us not for who we currently are in sinfulness and rebellion, but who we become through his down payment of the Holy Spirit, all so that we can embrace the full payout in the kingdom of Heaven. We have the tendency to say things like, “Yeah, that is Jesus, he is God, but I couldn’t possible do anything like that.” Jesus says, Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. As we see in Jesus the fullness of humanity, we become extensions of Christ investing in making the here and now more like heaven. It is the hope of the Lord’s Prayer–your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The payout for us, is in Christ, we are asked not to love people simply for who they are right now, but for who they will be in Christ, and who they are becoming. Where are you investing?