Rev. Richard Feyen
“Sing a New Song”
November 17, 2013
When we come to this place – we come to worship God
But we also come to question ourselves
Our beliefs / Our purpose
I can only hope that what I have to share
Helps in that endeavor . . .
May we be soothed and challenged.
Some of you will remember a television show that ran from 1971 through 1980, either from seeing it then or in re-runs, called The Walton’s. It was as show set in Virginia in the mid-thirties to mid-forties and revolved around a family, their lives together, and the mountain they lived on. In one particular episode, Grandpa Walton is talking to John-Boy about the trees. The young John-boy is questioning the need to continue to plant more trees on the mountain. He says something to the effect, “Why do we need to keep planting — there are so many trees here we can’t possibly cut them all down in our lifetime.”
Grandpa Walton replies by saying, “The trees we are harvesting today were planted by his grandfather and the trees they are planting will be harvested by your grandchildren, John-boy. We plant trees to offer hope to the generations that follow.”
That is the message that Isaiah is offering the beleaguered people he is talking to. This new creation is not for us but for the generations to follow. Isaiah the Prophet, speaking on behalf of his understanding of the Sacred Essence, pronounces that a new creation has begun to come to be. Anticipate it, he says, look ahead to it, there is coming a city where infants do not die and people’s average age will be over one hundred. These words, at a time when infant mortality rates had to be unbelievably high and life expectancy was in the forties, imagine the un-believability of such a prediction! But we are getting there!
Isaiah’s goal was to instill a sense of hope for the future that the people at that time could grasp a hold of and begin to dream about — a future they could not understand.
Rubem Alves, one of the founders of Liberation Theology, said once, “Let us plant dates even though those who plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we will never see….Such disciplined love is what has given prophets, revolutionaries, and saints the courage to die for – the future they envisaged. They make their own bodies the seed of their highest hope.”
Liberation Theology is a theological movement largely growing out of the Central and South American Roman Catholic church of the early nineteen-seventies. It is a movement that sees theology through the eyes of the oppressed people of Central and South America and became quite popular as a movement to claim freedom for these oppressed people who were living in government sanctioned oppressive situations, if not outright government oppression. There was a group of Catholic priests who were eventually sanctioned by the Roman church for their critical assessment of government policies and were accused of being Marxist.
Interestingly, Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict, led the movement to sanction the priests and Pope Francis, then Father Bergoglio, is very sympathetic towards the Liberation movement.
But here is the point; the teaching of Liberation Theology wants to say that the institution of the church, the organized religious institution, should never be in alignment with the political powers as it will inevitably lead to oppression of the common people. This kind of collusion, Liberation Theologians assert, is exactly what Jesus was fighting against and so we must also work to prevent the close alliance between politics and religion.
Here and now in the United States and much of the Western world, we have an opportunity to speak to a situation where we see some people longing to create a closer and closer tie between government and religion and it does neither organization any good at all.
Islam, in much of the Muslim world, is threatened by a takeover by fundamentalists. Christianity in this country is threatened by nationalism and consumerism AND fundamentalism within much of the Evangelical Bible Belt of America.
Pay close attention now, however . . . there is Hope in this world for a message of common understanding and the possibility for a faith that is accepting of all people. There is a time ahead when faiths will accept and respect one another as shedding light and information on one another’s traditions. There is a time in our future when the wolf and the lamb will lie with one another in peace and when the lion and the ox will eat side by side.
Our world always survives on the Hope we know lies ahead.
Grandpa Walton made it clear to John-Boy that they were planting seeds for the future, seeds that would feed the families of generations of Walton’s to come, they were offering hope.
Isaiah made it clear to a people facing exile and torment that a new and better day was coming.
Jesus died trying to share a message of hope as he taught that it was not the institutional rules that people had to follow but the law of love.
So too, Rubem Alves’ insistence that they plant dates though they will never eat them is an assurance of Hope for a better tomorrow for his people.
NOW . . . What better day to acknowledge and celebrate the hope we have for the future of the Christian Church of tomorrow than the day we celebrate together the Baptism of a precious little girl with two dads committed to one another for life.
There is strife in the religious world today. Disagreements exist within Christianity, within Islam, and there are fundamentalist movements in every major religion that seek to stop progressive movement towards understanding one another’s faiths. There are divisions that seek to build bigger walls of doctrine to specify the differences as if one might be contaminated by the other. But there is, through all the tumult and strife, a new song to be sung. The truth does live. How can we keep from singing!
Our Judeo-Christian heritage has spoken for thousands of years of a hope for a better tomorrow. Hope that keeps us focused on striving for a better way. Today, hope moves us to envision the possibilities for faiths seeking to understand one another. Hope has delivered people from slavery and oppression – generation after generation and today sees a world where multiple faith traditions respect one another and lead the world into a new peace.
Ours is a message that ought to be busting out from the seams of this place – how can we keep from singing.
Here, the seeds of hope are planted for the generations to come, for your grandchildren, and for Hope Mariella Zahler’s grandchildren.