Faith Trek – Pastor Robert’s sermon for Sunday, November 19th


I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you are familiar with this short video clip. Let’s watch it because it just never gets old.

Those opening words were spoken by Admiral James T. Kirk of the starship, Enterprise. I love how dramatic he sounds. “To seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

     Even if you’re not that much into space exploration and the whole Star Trek craze, how can you not want to be on that spaceship with James T. Kirk?

     The way we resonate with that dramatic opening Star Trek theme song about “seeking out new life and new civilizations and going boldly where no man has gone before” is similar to how God’s people must have resonated when the Prophet Isaiah spoke his dramatic words to the people of Israel.

Sounding a little like James T. Kirk, Isaiah says, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.”  Isaiah was speaking to a whole nation of people who after returning home from the Babylonian exile after several years, still find their homes and gardens in ruins, the city in rubble, and the rebuilding of their Temple nowhere near the beauty and splendor of the former one.

     The people of Israel were still without hope and they were stuck in a mindset that their best days were behind them. They had given up believing that God would be able to give them a new future. They were left only with their memories of the good old days.

     I remember speaking with someone whose mother had passed away. It had been several months since her death and I asked how he was doing. He said that he still feels the pain of grief because he still misses her.

     Since he lived in the house next to her, he was always able to see a light in the living room of the house where she would read at night before going to bed. And he said, “It was so strange to look at mom’s house from my window at night and now only see darkness.” 

     He went on to say, “Ever since she’s been gone, I think about all of the good times I had growing up in that house and how it was filled with so much laughter and so many good memories. It’s been really difficult to adjust over these past several months,” he said.

     My heart went on to him as he shared his grief and heavy heart with me.

     The people of Israel were living during a time when the present looked bleak and the good memories from the past were becoming more and more distant as the years went by. Nostalgia over the good ole days will only take you so far.

     It’s in this context of hopelessness and a longing for the good ole days, that Isaiah speaks a word about something the people of Israel hadn’t thought about for quite some time. Isaiah speaks about a future that is filled with hope.

     And this is no empty hope. This hope is rooted in the words of the Lord who spoke them through the prophet Isaiah.

     The Lord is inviting the people of Israel to experience a new faith trek. They have been dwelling in the past long enough. It’s now time for them to boldly go into a new future, a future that is filled with hope.

     My sense is that there are many of us here today who are looking for a new challenge and who are ready to follow God into a new future. Do you want to be a faith Trekkie? Are you ready to let go of the past and begin a new journey with God?

     James T. Kirk describes the Star Trek exploration as seeking out new life and new civilizations and going boldly where no man has gone before. Isaiah describes it a little differently. He says that it’s about God creating new heavens and a new earth.

     Sound exciting? Well, here is what is involved in this new faith trek according to Captain Isaiah.

     First of all, this faith trek involves a letting go of the past. Isaiah says that the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.  That may sound too difficult to do because it seems like the past is all we have.

     The problem with the past is that it’s in the past! The other problem is that dwelling on the past and the things we can’t change can prevent us from moving forward in life.

     Isaiah spoke his word to the people at just the right time. They were so focused on the good ole’ days before their exile and the despair of their present situation, that they were now stuck and going nowhere. And that’s not a good place to be.

     I thought it was interesting how much media coverage there was in the weeks leading up to the birth of William and Kate’s first baby in England a few years ago. Even though England has so much incredible history, all of the focus that year was on the future of the country and the birth of that royal baby.

     What part of the past is God calling you to let go so that you can move into the future God has in mind for you? It might be a negative personal experience, a broken relationship, a long held grudge, or a maybe it’s a disappointment that has been difficult to overcome. God invites us to let go of our past.

     A second thing that this faith trek involves is accepting our new identity in God. Isaiah shares these words of the Lord to the people of Israel. The Lord says, “Be glad and rejoice forever for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.”

     What a great identity the Lord gives to us. God sees us as a people of joy and as a people of delight. If only we would be able to see ourselves the same way that God sees us. We were created in the image of God.

     What a wonderful description to embrace for our church. We are a church of joy and we are a people of delight! When people ask me where our church is located, I usually say that we’re the church with the white pillars across from the parking garage. Maybe I should just tell them, “We’re the church that is filled with joy and the people are a delight.”

     And wouldn’t it be great if that person would say, “Oh, I know which church you mean. Yeah.” And wouldn’t that be wonderful for every church to embrace. “We are a people of joy and we are God’s people of delight.”

     And here’s a third important part of our faith trek journey. And this is just as important as the first two things. We are called to live into God’s preferred future.

     Back to Captain Isaiah, or rather, Prophet Isaiah. In addition to telling the Israelites to let go of their past and claim their new identity, he also paints a picture of the preferred future that the Lord has in mind for them.

     And this picture includes things that the Israelites have been missing for a long time like the building of houses, plentiful vineyards, safety and security, and blessings. Isaiah even goes so far as to say that the Lord’s preferred future includes harmony in the animal kingdom where the lion and the lamb shall feed together in peace.

     Now, on one level, the Israelites began to experience some of these things as they continued to get settled after their many years in Babylonian exile. But on another level, we also know that God’s ultimate preferred future will be even more glorious when God creates new heavens and a new earth. This is the ultimate hope of our faith, that this world will receive a total makeover and God will make it all new again.

     The Lord wants the people of Israel to begin living with this beautiful and hope-filled future in mind. Just think what a difference it would make if we would all live in such a way that anticipates this future reality for our world.

     Instead of cynicism or negativity, the Lord wants us to approach each day with the end result in mind and the end result is a world that is filled with peace, justice, harmony, compassion, friendship, safety, and an abundance of resources for everyone.

     And if all of this seems just too good to be true and unrealistic, let’s remember that this faith trek we are called to take is like no other. This faith trek isn’t about us trying to remake the world on our own strength. We can try, but we will be very disappointed.  No, this trek is about what God can do in and through us. Nothing is impossible with God.

     So how about it? Are you up for the journey? Are you ready to be a faith trekkie? Are you ready to let go of the past? Have you claimed the new identity that God has for you that you are a joy and a delight? And are you ready to live into God’s preferred future that will be beyond our wildest imagination? Are you ready to embark on a faith trek? Are you ready to boldly go where no one has gone before?

     There’s one more thing that I wanted to share with you about my conversation with the person I mentioned to you earlier in the sermon, the man who was still grieving the loss of his mother.

     As I mentioned, he said that it’s been difficult to look out his window at night and see nothing but darkness in the house where his mother once lived. I could see the sadness and the heaviness in his eyes as he was sharing all of this with me.

     But then he said to me, “But not too long ago, a new family moved into mom’s house. I got a chance to meet them. They are a very nice family with two teenagers. I took them a chocolate pie that mom used to make and gave it to them as a house warming gift. I explained to them that I used to live there and had many, many happy memories in this house.”

     He said they thanked him for the warm welcome. And the wife said, “When we were looking for homes in the area, this one really stood out for us because we could sense that there had been a lot of love here.”

     And after sharing all of this with me, he said, “And now, when I look down from my window at the house where mom lived, I’m glad to see that there’s a light in the house again and that this new family can call it home like I once did.”

     In the midst of our brokenness, disappointments, and despair, Isaiah speaks a word of hope to us. He reminds us that our faith journey is never over.

     God promises to be with us throughout all of our experiences in life. And we are invited once again to boldly go where no man has gone before. We are called to let go of our past, accept our new identity in Christ, and live into God’s preferred future.

      If you would like to be part of this faith trek, I invite you to simply hold out your hands right there in front of you, bow your heads and close your eyes, and join me in prayer.

     Let us pray. God of new beginnings, just as you offered a word of hope to the people of Israel so long ago, you offer a word of hope to us this morning. In the midst of our pain and brokenness, you invite us to boldly follow you into your preferred future that is beyond our wildest imagination. This is the day to respond to your summons in a new way.

 

     As we hold out our hands, we know that your hand is reaching out to us. You want to bring healing to those places in our lives where we have felt empty. You want to give us hope where we have only known despair and disappointment. And you want to use these same hands to be your healing presence in our community and world. Thank you for coming close to us today. And thank you for new beginnings and new adventures. In the name of the One who has promised to create new heavens and a new earth, we want you to know that we’re ready to make this faith trek, to be your people, and to place our trust in you. Amen.

Faith Trek

Small Group Questions

Isaiah 65:17-25

November 19, 2017

The prophet Isaiah sounds like a “trekkie” (Star Trek) fan because of his call for Israel to leave behind the troubled past and boldly go forward into God’s future where he is creating “new heavens and a new earth.” (Isaiah 65:17a) The people of Israel were primed to go on this “faith trek” because they had just returned from exile where Jerusalem was in ruins and their homes had been destroyed. They probably welcomed Isaiah’s call to boldly enter into a new faith trek with God.

Share a time where your faith took on even greater importance because of a challenging time in your life. How did you grow from that new “faith trek?”

The prophet Isaiah offers us three very important ways to be involved in a new “faith trek” in our lives. Share how you are doing in each of these areas:

Isaiah’s “Faith Trek” involves:

  1. Letting Go of the Past (Isaiah 65:17b)

      What is the “past” that God is calling you to “let go?”

  1. Accepting Our New Identity from God (Isaiah 65:18b)

      What is the new identity that God wants us to embrace and always remember?

  1. Live Into God’s Preferred Future (Isaiah 65:17a)

      What is the preferred future that God has in mind for the world? What does this

      preferred future means for you in your “faith trek?”

Close Your Time Together By Opening Your Hands & Praying this “Faith Trek” Prayer Together:

God of new beginnings, just as you offered a word of hope to the people of Israel so long ago, you offer a word of hope to us this morning. In the midst of our pain and brokenness, you invite us to boldly follow you into your preferred future that is beyond our wildest imagination. This is the day to respond to your summons in a new way.

As we hold out our hands, we know that your hand is reaching out to us. You want to bring healing to those places in our lives where we have felt empty. You want to give us hope where we have only known despair and disappointment. And you want to use these same hands to be your healing presence in our community and world. Thank you for coming close to us today. And thank you for new beginnings and new adventures. 

In the name of the One who has promised to create new heavens and a new earth, we want you to know that we’re ready to make this faith trek, to be your people, and to place our trust in you. Amen.