Unclear Expectations

Originally preached 10-11-2020

Postscript: This sermon also saw some changes between the preparation, practice, and preaching. I’ll share the video of the sermon when it is uploaded to youtube.

Message Title: Unclear Expectations
Theme: Heretics & Holy Prophets
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Isaiah 25:1-9
Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:1-14
RCL Scripture: Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
Focus:  Isaiah sings a song of praise to God of justice and restoration.
Function: To adjust our expectations of God’s plan and
Christianity isn’t about our expectations of God. Christianity is about God training us to expect new and better things.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus responded by speaking again in parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding party for his son. He sent his servants to call those invited to the wedding party. But they didn’t want to come. Again he sent other servants and said to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look, the meal is all prepared. I’ve butchered the oxen and the fattened cattle. Now everything’s ready. Come to the wedding party!”’ But they paid no attention and went away—some to their fields, others to their businesses. The rest of them grabbed his servants, abused them, and killed them. “The king was angry. He sent his soldiers to destroy those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding party is prepared, but those who were invited weren’t worthy. Therefore, go to the roads on the edge of town and invite everyone you find to the wedding party.’ 10 “Then those servants went to the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding party was full of guests. 11 Now when the king came in and saw the guests, he spotted a man who wasn’t wearing wedding clothes. 12 He said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to his servants, ‘Tie his hands and feet and throw him out into the farthest darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.’ 14 “Many people are invited, but few people are chosen.”
LORD’S PRAYER

HERESY:

  1. Marcion of Sinope taught one of the earliest heresies of the Christian Church after Jesus’ ascension. PHOTO Marcion was born around 85 AD and died around 160 AD. He was part of the first two generations of Christians after Jesus’s disciples. Therefore, Marcion would be close to the very front of our Christian family tree that I showed last week.
    1. The only reason we know about Marcion is because of the writings of his opponents. None of Marcion’s writings survived. His teachings however stirred up enough controversy that in 144 AD, the early church leaders excommunicated him.
  2. What did Marcion believe that was so controversial?! The early Christians disliked Marcion for developing two specific heresies. And the two heresies fueled each other.  
    1. Ditheism: Marcion believed the Bible had to have 2 gods. It couldn’t be a monotheistic faith, but a ditheistic or dual theism faith.
      1. Angry Demiurge of OT
      2. Supreme God that sent Jesus (loving and more powerful than Demiurge)
    2. Highly Edited New Testament Canon: Of all the “sacred” texts floating around Marcion picked the ones that made the most sense to him.
      1. 10 of Paul’s epistles w/ the pro-Jewish bits cut out
      2. Gospel of Luke, with pro-Jewish bits cut out
  3. The reason behind the heresy
    1. Marcion was Pro-Paul of Tarshish. Though Paul died 20+ years before Marcion’s time, he claimed to be a disciple of Paul. Marcion let his interpretation of Paul’s letters impact his interpretation of the Hebrew Bible (meaning Old Testament).
      1. Marcion interpreted Paul’s words as negative towards Jews.
        1. ie: “neither Jew nor Greek” and “circumcision” not being super important anymore, calling out Peter for not eating with the Gentiles and favoring Jews.
      2. So, his version of the bible edited out the Pro-Jewish bits.
    2. Marcion’s expectations about God and about Paul led him to edit out significant parts of the Christian faith. God in the Old Testament didn’t match the God Marcion imagined sent Jesus.

TRANSITION: But expectations don’t always unfold in our favor. Marcion’s teaching got him kicked out of the church. God had expectations for Israel, and Israel didn’t meet them.

The Assyrian Empire wiped out the Northern Kingdom of Israel but did not defeat the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Perhaps, Judah thought God spared them because God favored them?

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 25:1-9

Lord, you are my God. I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, planned long ago, faithful and sure. 2You have turned the city into rubble, the fortified town into a ruin, the fortress of foreigners into a city no more, never to be rebuilt. 3Therefore, strong people will glorify you; the towns of tyrant nations will fear you. 4You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, a hiding place from the storm, a shade from the heat. When the breath of tyrants is like a winter storm 5or like heat in the desert, you subdue the roar of foreigners. Like heat shaded by a cloud, the tyrants’ song falls silent. 6On this mountain, the Lord of heavenly forces will prepare for all peoples a rich feast, a feast of choice wines, of select foods rich in flavor, of choice wines well refined. 7He will swallow up on this mountain the veil that is veiling all peoples, the shroud enshrouding all nations. 8He will swallow up death forever. The Lord God will wipe tears from every face; he will remove his people’s disgrace from off the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9They will say on that day, “Look! This is our God, for whom we have waited—and he has saved us! This is the Lord, for whom we have waited; let’s be glad and rejoice in his salvation!”

EXPLAINATION:

  1. Recap:
    1. Last week we had our first glimpse into Isaiah. We saw that Israel split into two kingdoms (Israel and Judah). Though divided, none of the 12 tribes were following the covenant they made with God. They had made their own traditions rather than following the guidance of God.
  2. Today we’ve jumped 20 chapters deeper into Isaiah and seen a glimpse of the continued message. If I’m honest with you, my first reaction was that this passage was depressing and seemed to favor a nationalistic mindset of a God who plays favorites.
    1. Initially, all I heard from this passage was destruction. My mind got stuck on the words of the city in ruins and negative language about foreigners. The more I studied, the more I was told this was a song of praise. So, I had to go back again and look.
    2. The second time around when I saw destruction, it was delivered as justice and God punished the nations but did not abandon them.  God provided judgement on the oppressors and protection and shelter to the oppressed.
      1. THEN God provided a big feast for all. God ended death for all. God removed disgrace from all. This God redeems stories, not just for God’s people but for the whole earth.

INTERPRETATION & APPLICATION:

  1. Reading the beginning of Isaiah, you learn that Isaiah is aware of how unholy he is compared to God. In his vision, Isaiah expects death because of his unholiness, but God provides a burning coal to purify Isaiah. Where Isaiah expected destruction, God used for refining. (TBP)
    1. Tropes of rebirth
      1. Phoenix is reborn from the ashes
      2. Butterfly new life from the end of life as a caterpillar
      3. purifying gold ore requires heat to burn off the impurities
      4. coal is turned into a diamond with heat and pressure
    2. favorite: pinecones only open in heat, forest fires aids in the survival for the forest.
  2. God wants a faithful people, not the destruction of creation. God doesn’t want punishment, God wants holy people.
    1. Isaiah’s words are a reminder that God’s plans for creation were bigger than just the 12 tribes.  The offspring of Abraham were SUPPOSED to be a blessing to the rest of the world. Israel was SUPPOSED to be a people that pointed to God.
    2. God called Israel to care for the poor, oppressed, and widow. God called Israel to be holy and just. Instead, they chose self-indulgence.
    3. Our weird scripture reading today included a parable of a wedding feast. The initial invites fell flat so others were invited. But one of the new guests didn’t follow wedding protocol and was kicked out. (WP)
      1. We don’t get to choose the agenda of the Kingdom of God.
      2. We don’t get to pick who is included in the Kingdom of God.
      3. The guest list and itinerary are not up for discussion.
      4. BUT we are invited to participate in the Kingdom of God.
    4. The Exodus reading for today also shows a bend in God’s expectations by God’s people. They build a golden calf to represent Yahweh instead of worshiping the true Yahweh and following the 10 commandments. (WP)
  3. HERESY: Marcion’s heresy formed from his view of Jewish people & the Jewish faith. This belief distorted his view of Christianity.
    1. His desire to only follow teachings that fit with his views lead to a heresy. Unfortunately, we can’t pick and choose the words of God.
    2. PS. The early church knew they didn’t agree with Marcion’s list but had not established their own canon ( or agreed upon sacred texts). In reality, Marcion stirred up the church to create their own canon. Though the church would continue to revise the canon for centuries as the church grew and the Protestant reformation came about.
      1. But that is better suited to a Bible study conversation.
  4. Politics & Expectations: I see so many of us bending God’s expectations of us to fit our own preferences. It is most obvious during an election year. We demonize our opponents and idolize our preferences.
    1. But God will provide a feast for the Republicans and the Democrats alike.  God will end death for Americans and Assyrians and Ethiopians and Canadians.  God send Jesus for all of creation. Not just the people we like.  Christianity isn’t about us getting our way. It’s about God’s way of interrupting our trajectory and changing the flight path.
    2. We have 4 Sundays until the election. I challenge each of you to avoid political labels until after the election. (Maybe even longer! Could you make it to the inauguration?)
      1. Speak about convictions without using: Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Progressive, Liberal, Right, Left, or candidates’ names, etc. If you are going to engage in political conversations, speak not of parties but of convictions.
    3. The goal is not to be partisan. The goal is to not look at your neighbor as your enemy.
  5. We are in danger of slipping into Marcion’s shoes if we become partisan. We are at risk of modifying the Gospel of Jesus Christ if we believe that God plays favorites.

CONCLUSION: While we can be grateful that Marcion pushed the early church to know their beliefs and solidify an early canon, we do not want to follow in his footsteps.

Our goal isn’t to perpetuate division or to be on the winning team. Our goal is to bless others with our words and our actions so that all may know the love of God.

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