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Sermon Illustrations for Epiphany 2 | OT 2 (2022)

Illustration
Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13), Psalm 138
One of the consistent elements in the ancient mythologies is conflict in the heavens. In the Greek pantheon, Gaia and Kronos are supplanted by the Titans, who in turn are overthrown by the Olympian gods that we are familiar with through the Iliad, Odyssey, and other ancient stories. There is conflict between the gods, grudges that are nursed, and revenge that wreaks havoc in the heavens that like ripples from a stone thrown in a pond create upheaval on earth.

Though the Judeans who shared the Hebrew scriptures were monotheistic, they accepted the fact that there are echoes of this ancient conflict to demonstrate that God has no equals, no peers, and no competition. In the first chapter of Genesis, the Spirit of God hovers over the deeps and dispatches the gods of chaos, Tohu and Bohu, translated formless and void. In both Daniel 12 and Revelation 12 it is the archangel Michael who dispatches Lucifer from heaven, not God, not because God is unable, but there the two do not appear in the same picture so that no one can get the false idea that God has a rival.

The ancient gods bred semi-divine heroes with the women of earth, often against their will. In Genesis 6:1-4 the sons of God breed children with the daughters of humanity but shortens human lifespans with a word.

In the passage from Isaiah, the prophet is overwhelmed by the sight of the heavenly court (much like the revelator is when the heavens are peeled back and he, too, looks into the divine throne room). The seraphim are not smooth-faced angels with a gentle visage. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Egyptians used the term for flying fire-breathing snakes. Something like dragons. But the seraphim are circling God, and their gaze is ever upon the divine. As fearsome as they are, they are totally subservient, their existence given not to plots against God, but in eternal adulation.

In Psalm 138, the psalmist deliberately speaks about “gods,” but they are not the object of praise. They must stand on the sidelines, powerless, while God’s people praise God solely. Later in the psalm, the singer changes the focus from gods to kings to make it clear that these individuals, considered divine or semi-divine by their subjects, are subservient to the one god. Both Isaiah and the psalmist play with the symbols of competing gods to make clear there is no competition, that every being recognizes God’s sovereignty.
Frank R.

* * *

Isaiah 62:1-5
I read an article called “Lessons from Artist Joshua Allen Harris” by Carrie Brummer. In that article, Brummer describes the unique art Harris creates. Harris makes all kinds of works of art out of trash bags and places them all over New York City. He puts them over air vents to give them a sense of life. Harris has made a sea serpent, bears, giraffes, and a host of other things. Christian writer Michael Shannon opined on this artist writing, “Whatever you may think of the value of this kind of art, it can be a kind of parable for those who think they are too bad to be redeemed. We all have met people who thought they were too bad for God to love and use in his work. Maybe you think of yourself as trash, but God sees you as his masterpiece.”

God sees you as his masterpiece. Is there any better way to describe what is going on in this passage from Isaiah regarding Zion? She is no more “forsaken” and “desolate.” She is “delight.” What a wonderful encouragement then and now.
Bill T.

* * *

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Martin Luther nicely describes the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the pilot of the ship of faith who steers us away from both despair and undue security:

Without the Holy Spirit hearts are either hardened in sins or they despair. But both are contrary to the will of God. By the Holy Spirit the godly navigate between this satanic Scylla and Charybdis and cast themselves upon the superabundant and infinite mercy of God. (What Luther Says, p.662)

Luther’s spiritual mentor Augustine spoke of the Holy Spirit in terms of love itself, always pouring out God’s love on us:

Wherefore, if Holy Scripture proclaims that God is love, and that love is of God, and works this in us that we abide in God and he in us, and that hereby we know this in us that we abide in God and he in us, and that hereby we know this, because he has given us of his Spirit, then the Spirit himself is God, who is love. Next, if there be among the gifts of God none greater than love, and there is no greater gift of God than the Holy Spirit, what follows more naturally than that he himself is of God, who is love. (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol.3, p. 219)   

Billy Graham once nicely summarized what the Holy Spirit does to us and for us in our daily lives: “The Holy Spirit illuminates the minds of people, makes us yearn for God, and takes spiritual truth and makes it understandable to us.”
Mark E.

* * *

John 2:1-11
Max Lucado, in his book When God Whispers Your Name writes about this passage. The initial question he addresses is “Why would Jesus and his disciples go to a wedding?” It’s a good question. Weddings in Jesus’ day were parties. Didn’t Jesus and his disciples have more important things to do?

Lucado writes, “Why would Jesus, on his first journey, take his followers to a party? Didn’t they have work to do? Didn’t he have principles to teach? Wasn’t his time limited? How could a wedding fit with his purpose on earth? Why did Jesus go to the wedding?

The answer? It’s found in the second verse of John 2 (John 2:2) “Jesus and his followers were also invited to the wedding.” Jesus wasn’t invited because he was a celebrity. He wasn’t one yet. The invitation wasn’t motivated by his miracles. He’d yet to perform any. Why did they invite him? I suppose they liked him. Big deal? I think so. I think it’s significant that common folk in a little town enjoyed being with Jesus.”

I think Lucado is right. This passage reveals to us something important about Jesus. He was a real person the people liked and enjoyed being around. We often and rightfully are awed by the glory and splendor of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, though, I think it’s good to remember that he was human like us. His first miracle, in a subtle way, gives us a glimpse of the kind of guy he was. Jesus was a person who people liked and wanted to be with. May we be like him in that way, too.
Bill T.
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Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13), Psalm 138
One of the consistent elements in the ancient mythologies is conflict in the heavens. In the Greek pantheon, Gaia and Kronos are supplanted by the Titans, who in turn are overthrown by the Olympian gods that we are familiar with through the Iliad, Odyssey, and other ancient stories. There is conflict between the gods, grudges that are nursed, and revenge that wreaks havoc in the heavens that like ripples from a stone thrown in a pond create upheaval on earth.

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You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
   and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
   and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her...
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