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On Eagle's Wings

Text: Isaiah 40:27-31


How do you find the right words to invite someone not to give up on God?

         As he sat down to write his sermon, how many times did Isaiah start, then tear it up and start again? The prophet was preaching to distraught exiles forced to live in a foreign country. They were living with people who did not speak the same language, eat the same food, share the same culture, or believe in the same God. Isaiah was preaching to friends who had once prayed daily, worshiped often in the Jerusalem Temple, and knew Scripture by heart. But not now. His congregation had given up on God and were sure that God had given up on them.

         How do you find the right words to invite someone not to give up on God?

         I have never envied Isaiah, but I am pretty sure that Isaiah would not envy me. I preach in a time when, in many ways, the church is in exile, surrounded not so much by enemies but by those who think that our faith is as archaic and as outmoded as the rotary dial.

         It is not that most unchurched folks today are anti-church; no, it is actually much worse. For many who live right next door, who work in the next office, who go to the same school, living a faithful life in pursuit of the ways of Jesus is not even on their radar.

         What do you or I say to people who echo the 21st century version of the ancient lament of the exiles in Israel, “My life is hidden from God, and if there even is a God, my needs fall on deaf ears”?

         Isaiah starts his sermon with a question and it is a great question for any preacher to ask people to consider: “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” And before anyone can say something like, “Sure, I know. Of course, I have heard tons of preacher talk” Isaiah answers his own question, “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; God’s understanding is unsearchable. God gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.”

         Isaiah stares his disillusioned, discouraged, and distraught kin in the face and says, “Fellow exiles, you may well be exhausted right now but God is not.” He then moves from prose to poetry as he says, “Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but 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 says, “Look up. Watch the eagle soar above you, unencumbered by dread and despair, full of energy, and unwilling to remain stuck and earthbound.” He says, “Friends, that can be you when you trust in the God who soars.”

        The sermon Isaiah preaches to exiles in Babylon is centuries old now and yet it is as new as the day to which you and I awoke this morning. It is a sermon preached every time that you and I feast at the table and are lifted up beyond all that keeps us earthbound, stuck in our ways, doubtful that God exists and if God does that God is even listening. When we taste the bread and drink from the cup we grow the wings of eagles, reminded that even betrayal and denial, beating and crucifixion, could not clip the wings of our Lord, who on Easter, by God’s extraordinary grace, would fly.

         How do you find the right words to invite someone not to give up on God?    

         Maybe that is not our job. Maybe our job is to prove Isaiah right as you and I live each day, confident in the words of a sermon that never grows old, “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.”

         As for me, fellow exiles, I cannot hear that sermon enough.

                  AMEN

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