A Secret Message

A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on February 3, 2019, called “A Secret Message.” It is the fourth in a series called “Reading the Bible with Jesus.” The sermon is a reflection on Jesus’ reference to Isaiah 6:9-10 to describe his use of parables in teaching about the kingdom of God (e.g. in Matthew 13).

Here is a written excerpt:

James Tissot, Jésus dans la synagogue déroule le livre

And so both Isaiahs [original Isaiah and second Isaiah] spoke in oracles rich with imagery and metaphor and even riddle: those who were ready to hear could hear and understand, while those who weren’t willing to hear would listen and be condemned by their own hardness of heart.

That’s the point of Isaiah 6, our first Scripture passage this morning. As our Gospel reading says, that’s also the point of Jesus speaking in parables, stories rich with everyday imagery and provocative metaphor and even some riddle.

Those who are ready to hear Jesus’ “gospel of the kingdom,” his message of love bringing God’s reign of justice and peace—these will hear and understand, and this message will take root and grow and bear fruit for the kingdom.

But those who aren’t willing to hear, who because of their privilege or their power or their greed or their pride or their fear aren’t willing to hear Jesus’ message? They will listen and condemn themselves through their own hardness of heart.

This is a difficult truth; but it is the simple truth. Jesus’ message is a public proclamation, there for all to hear! Yet it is also a kind of secret message, only accessible to those who are willing to set aside their egos in order to save themselves and others.

Yet this never stopped Jesus from preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

He continued on throughout all the villages of Galilee and beyond, even to the edge of the Gentiles, denouncing injustice and oppression and all sins of harm, yet throwing parties for repentant sinners and sharing table with all the very last people anyone would want to eat with.

He persisted in proclaiming the message of God’s reign of justice and peace come to earth through generous, compassionate, nonviolent, self-giving, suffering love—and that scattering of seed sometimes fell on good soil, took root, and grew, and bore much fruit.

And so it is with us. We persist. We keep on.

We keep on speaking truth to power whenever and however we can, calling for justice and pushing for peace.

We keep on standing up to the bullies of our world, standing with the bullied, whether in our schools or in our workplaces or in our society.

We keep on reaching out to all our neighbours, including those who are different from us, who are strangers to us, who are even enemies of us, seeking mutual understanding and the common good.

We keep on forgiving the sinful, lifting up the shamed, seeking the lost and lonely, healing the wounded, feeding the hungry, extending the table to break bread with more and more people.

In other words, we keep on proclaiming and living out the good news of God’s love, regardless of whether the message is truly heard, regardless of whether our own love is spurned. This is the way of Isaiah, and it’s the way of Jesus.

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