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Like A Tree With The Passage Of Time

February 9, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Isaiah 6:9–6:13

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
February 10, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Epiphany 5
Like A Tree With The Passage Of Time (velut arbor aevo)

And he said to me, "Go and say to this people: ‘Listen and Hear! But do not understand! Look and Observe! But do not see! Make the heart of this people impenetrable and their ears to droop! Blind their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and open their hearts; and relent, and be healed."

And I said, "How long O Lord?" And he said, "Until the cities [of Judah] should come crashing down into heaps of rubble and are left uninhabited! Until all the houses sit empty! Until the soil is utterly desolate; and the LORD drives every man far away; and the ground lies empty! Then, though should as little as a tenth of it remain: it will be burned again!

But like a mighty tree, or an oak whose stump remains when it has been felled: so the Holy Seed shall be its stump! (Isaiah 6:9-13)

The prophets of the Old Covenant still speak to the church today.

Last week it was Jeremiah preparing all men to deal with their God! This week it is Isaiah; and with a message so frightening that we would rather be anywhere else than here. But once you’ve heard, you can’t un-know, and now all of us have heard. By this prophecy Isaiah confounds the wisdom of the wise. (1 Cor. 1:19) He leaves his hearers perfectly baffled and bewildered; disconcerted and discombobulated.

The prophet was sent to preach this message to God’s rebellious people because they had sinned so hard, for so long, and resisted every call to peace, that there was now nothing left for God to do but to eradicate them, to silence them, and start all over again.

And so the prophet confounds what little remaining reason the people still possess. He holds Beauty before their eyes but by a divine decree blinds their eyes so that they cannot see it. He speaks Peace within their hearing but makes them deaf so that they cannot hear it. Salvation! So near, and yet so far away! What was God thinking? What was God doing?

But we can’t ask that question yet, because he is not through!

With self-help programs it may be enough to “hit bottom,” but not with God. Hitting bottom is not low enough. Lying face down in the mud, sucking the dust, doesn't get us where we need to be with the thrice Holy LORD with whom we commune this day. Instead we must find ourselves at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. That vast hole in the Western Pacific Ocean that is 36,000 feet deep. Deeper than Mt. Everest, the world’s highest mountain, is high.

It is said that if you put Mt. Everest into the Mariana Trench that its top would still be more than a mile beneath the surface. That is where the judgment of God leaves us: at the bottom of the trench with the mountains crushing us down, never to be heard from again!

But Isaiah, who is a type of Christ, asks this plaintive question on behalf of his people, “O Lord, how long?” But still the bad news keeps coming. The Lord answer like this:

"Until the cities [of Judah] should come crashing down into heaps of rubble and are left uninhabited! Until all the houses sit empty! Until the soil is utterly desolate; and the LORD drives every man far away; and the ground lies empty! Then, though should as little as a tenth of it remain: it will be burned again!

Now judgment is perfected! Now there is silence! Now there is nothing. The insanity has finally ceased. Now God begins again with a New Creation. And finally, THAT is the reason that he sweeps away the old so completely: in order to start anew! But this time with Holy Seed. That Seed is Christ!

In Genesis 1:1 we hear, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But in John 1:1 we hear, “In the beginning was the Word.” Jesus is that Word. The “Word made flesh who dwelt among US full of Grace and Truth. The “first born” of the New Creation, the first born of many brothers. We are those brothers!

Isaiah’s imagery is that of a Great Tree grown mighty with the passage of time: Israel was that tree; planted by streams of water. But because of her unfaithfulness she was made senseless, and flattened altogether, never to rise again!

But yet a stump survived; a remnant remained; because even in the midst of his anger our God is merciful. (O fear the LORD you his saints! Ps. 34:9)

Jesus is that remnant, Jesus is that stump. The stump of Jesse. (Is. 11:1) (Behold, a Rose e’re blooming!) He is the Holy Seed that grows from it. He is the Tree that can never be felled not even when the crushing burden of the sins of all men, and of all history, crushed him down into the bottom of the trench and dropped the mountains atop him.

He is the Tree of life. The Righteous Branch that was affixed to the Tree of the Cross with nails where he offered his stainless life “for us men and for our salvation”! And who by the power of an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:16) rose again from the dead so that we, by him, might attain to “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” That is our faith. That is our hope. There is no other and so come to his altar today!

Though presently our lives and our prospects might appear as desolate as the Land Isaiah describes in this prophecy; the Holy Seed is our Stump that sprouts with unending grace, mercy and peace and fills us with gladness. Not only as a concept in our minds, or a sweet tingle in our emotions, but more than that. Much, much more!

The thrice holy Lord whom we worship with the Seraphim in Eucharistic liturgy today gives us his now-glorified-Flesh for food, and his now-glorified-Blood for drink: “the medicine of immortality”. By it we live. By it we conquer. By it we gain abundant life. By it we will endure all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). By it we become mighty oaks of righteousness (Is. 61:3). Holy seed. Like trees with the passage of time. Rock’s like Peter by whom the Lord builds his church (1 Cor 14:12); and from whom he will never depart.(Luke 5:8)

Christ our Holy Seed be praised! Amen.