Sermon Briefs: Isaiah 62:1-5
In the varied developments of thought from Isaiah 62:1-5 in our cited examples, DeWitt Talmage likens verse 4 to the marriage he would not see of God with the United States of America. He sees several different suitors for the hand of the bride.
Comfort and hope for those living with tragedy is found in the second homily, Finding Hope Amid Ashes and Ruins. This treatment of the text offers real possibilities for comforting persons in troublesome times and circumstances.
Joyce Sandberg makes an unusual approach to the text, but one most appropriate to the Epiphany season. Dressed in salvation and righteousness, we Christians are ready to celebrate and to work for Christ.
Her is an interesting selection of developments of this text for Epiphany.
From the text Isaiah 62:4; "Thy land shall be married," T. Dewitt Talmage preached a sermon around the turn of the century on The Bride of Nations. The final destiny of this nation, he says, is not a funeral but a wedding.
One suitor seeking the hand of this nation is Monopoly. He controls the legislatures, transportation, communications, politics, business and industry. The same policies and principles ought to apply to corporations and capitalists as to the poorest laborer. Monopoly steals wealth from millions of people to benefit a few.
Another suitor for this country is Nihilism. Believing in no God, no government, no heaven and no hell, he is a monster variously named anarchism, communism, and Nihilism. It would destroy your possessions, your government, your schools, your churches and your life. It is the worst enemy of laboring people everywhere. The best weapon against it is not riots and bloodshed but the ballot.
Infidelity is another suitor for the hand of the nation, replacing Christian faith with reason and philosophy, turning from the Bible to barbarism. The Bible has been the basis of all reforms and charities, of the English Magna Charta and the American Declaration of Independence. It brought George Washington to his knees in the snow at Valley Forge and made the dying Prince Albert to ask someone to sing "Rock of Ages." yet Infidelity seeks through seductive literature, lectures and other means to ridicule and put down the Bible.
But yet another suitor seeks to claim the hand of this nation: Christ the King. "As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." Christ suffered thirty-three years to win the love of this world. From the very beginning, this nation was pledged for marriage with Christ. Columbus and his men took the holy sacrament before sailing for this land and knelt and consecrated the new world to God on landing. So did the Huguenots, the Hollanders in New York and the Pilgrims in New England; and the first American Congress was opened with prayer.
God has blessed this nation with abundant harvests, plentiful resources, good climate and pleasant scenery. Many immigrants are coming into this country, some with wealth, but the land is expansive enough to accommodate them all. So invite all to come who are industrious and God-loving, and form a huge marriage altar across the land, and let all areas and segments of America join to be the bride of Christ.1
Finding Hope Amid Ashes and Ruins was the topic of a homily from Isaiah 62:1-5 by A. Joseph Everson, of St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1979. Hope is a gift from God to those coming through great tragedies in life.
The preacher tells of going into Mannheim, Germany, while a student in Heidelberg in 1961. Amid the buildings unbelievably damaged in World War II, he found in the only undamaged apartment a friend's family on a third floor level. There they were seeking hope amid the ruins of war. Jerusalem had been leveled in 587 B.C. and the people taken into Exile by the Babylonians. Only after the advent of Cyrus, fifty years later, were those surviving allowed to return to their homeland. Returning, their optimism was challenged by great economic difficulties, lack of resources, and harsh weather conditions.
The prophet speaks a word of hope and comfort to a tired and weary people. Jerusalem shall no longer be called "forsaken," but "my delight is in her," and the land Beulah, "Married to the Lord." This marriage imagery reminds people of their covenant relationship with God.Due to their heritage of faith and God's constant love, the holy city shall be his bride. The city exists to serve people and be a blessing to them, and the prophet's words are for every community seeking the biblical faith. In Jesus Christ, we are all citizens of Jerusalem, and the prophet's and God's promise is certain even in the world's ruin and disarray. Our business is to build our community and congregation in ways that bring blessings to ourselves and others, trusting God always to be for us.2
Joyce D. Sandberg, a Lutheran pastor in Wisconsin, preached a sermon in 1980 entitled Those Are Some Clothes!, using the text Isaiah 61:11--62:3. She opens with a story by O. Henry of two thieves who plan to rob a bank. One dresses like a policeman and acts as one all day beside the bank; but having acted as an honest cop and been treated like one all day, he arrests his own partner as he flees the scene of the crime, thus spoiling the plan. The story of Cinderella is the same, for after she gets changed into a beautiful gown by her fairy godmother, she is the belle of the ball, the prince marries her, and they live happily ever after. "Clothes make the man," it is said.
Sandberg pictures Israel going to be wed to God, "dressed in salvation and robed in righteousness." After Israel's long exile, she comes home a Cinderella dressed in jewels and fine garments. Afterwards is the promise of praise and righteousness to be born.
We have just celebrated the birthday of righteousness in Jesus, son of God and Israel. What party clothes are we to wear? None of our own good works or righteousness is enough. Without God's cleansing and clothing us, we are offensive, like Al Capp's character Moonbeam McSwine in Dogpatch, who was beautiful who always was avoided by everyone because she lived in filth with pigs. Without God's clothing, we live a lie, like the emperor who thought he wore a lovely suit of clothes but had none on at all.
Isaiah rejoices in the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness. We, too, can rejoice, for they add to our beauty and reflect God's love in the world. "Those are some clothes!" she says.
God's garments are beautiful, but not just for dress occasions: they are also work clothes. As Isaiah rejoiced in God and vowed he would not keep silence, so we need to put feet on our faith and walk in newness of life every day. We should put on righteousness and salvation every morning to share Christ's love with others. Great clothes!3
A. F. McClung
1. T. DeWitt Talmage, Selected Sermons, vol. II, "The Christian Herald," New York, 1900, pp. 127-138. 2. A. Joseph Everson, Augsburg Sermons, Series C (Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minn., 1979), pp. 53-56. 3. Joyce D. Sandberg, Augsburg Sermons, Old Testament Lessons, Series A (Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis Minn., 1980), pp. 44-48.