Sermon Ideas For Isaiah 62:1-5 Part 3
It was a daunting task for the small community of returning exiles to rebuild their devastated country. The high hopes which attended the early days of resettlement were being rapidly replaced by low morale. Their fading hopes challenged the promises of their faith, their confidence in the future and their assurance of God's presence. The situation had become, according to John Bright in his book, The History of Israel, a "spiritual emergency."
Trito-Isaiah describes this emergency with two Hebrew words commonly translated, "forsaken" and "desolate." The prophet promises an end to a time when these words will accurately name the conditions existing in this community. To appreciate the abundant hope this passage proclaims, it is first important to develop a sense of the contemporary experience of being forsaken and desolate.
A popular song titled, Eleanor Rigby was performed by the Beatles after being written in 1966 by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. The lyrics provide a glimpse into the lives of two figures: Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie. Any direct connection between these two figures is not directly stated. However, both are portrayed in such a way as to cause an ache in the heart of those who have experienced what it means to be forsaken.
Eleanor Rigby is introduced first in the song, with this description:
Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church Where a wedding has been Lives in a dream Waits at the window, wearing the facethat she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?
As this woman waits for something or someone to ease her sense of being forsaken, Father McKenzie is introduced:
Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear---- No one comes near.
The pathos of these brief sketches is completed in a stanza which mentions both characters and offers only a vague suggestion of any connection between them:
Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name. Nobody came. Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave. No one was saved.
"Buried along with her name" is another way of saying what the prophet meant when he indicated the name of the community was "forsaken."
The song concludes with a lament and a question:
All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?
The Spanish painter, Francisco Jose de Goya (1764-1828) is well known for his depictions of human suffering and desolation. His paintings served as a protest against the easy optimism and belief in progress which characterized that age.
Isaiah 62 begins with the words, "For Zion's sake, I will not remain silent." (RSV) Goya, in his art, is as unable as Trito-Isaiah to remain silent. Goya chooses rather to break the silence with the protest accomplished by his images of human travail.
The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti was intrigued by the images of Goya. In his poem, "In Goya's Greatest Scenes" (1958). Ferlinghetti describes Goya's art in terms such as these:
Heaped up groaning with babies and bayonets under cement skies in an abstract landscape of blasted trees slippery gibbets...
Alongside these descriptions of Goya's images, Ferlinghetti places poetic images from a more contemporary context. The poet states that the human scenes of desolation have never really changed since the time of Goya.
Only the landscape is changed....... They are the same people only further from home on freeways fifty lanes wide on a concrete continent spaced with bland billboards illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness.
The moment of hope occurs in the community that Trito-Isaiah addresses when the prophet proclaims that God has not forsaken them. To the contrary, they will no longer be called "forsaken" or "desolate." They will now have names like, "My Delight is in Her." With its new names, the community will be identified as one upon which God has made a claim.
Margaret Walker has written a poem titled, "For My People." In this poem, the recurring phrase, "for my people" is used to frame the character, activities and aspirations of a particular community. Thus, all that defines this community is brought within the realm of the solemn claim made upon it by another.
Perhaps the following verses taken from this lengthy poem will make clear the structure of its hopeful message:
For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an unknown god bending their knees humbly to an unseen power;For my people lending their strength to the years, to the gone years and the now years and the maybe years, washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching dragging along never gaining never reaping never knowing and never understanding.
The poem unfolds in this manner, identifying all that goes into the multifarious life of the community. Finally, at the conclusion, the poem breaks into a song of hope:
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born.
And elsewhere: "Let a second generation full of courage issue forth, let a people loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing in our spirits and our blood."
It would be hard to gauge the historical significance of that moment when these people named, "forsaken" came instead, by God's sovereign voice, to be called, "my people."
The prophet strengthens the impact of this claim by further identifying these people as a crown of beauty, a diadem, God's delight, and a bride.