a message by Dr. Bruce Havens
Coral Isles Church, UCC
October 2, 2022 Isaiah 25:1-10 1O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt. 3Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you.4For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, 5the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled. 6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. 8Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
Doesn’t EVERYONE love a party? Hurricane parties, birthday parties, Super Bowl parties, wedding showers, baby showers? So what’s the problem? Why is it people don’t come running to God’s invitation to the most cosmic, inter-galactic, world-wide party of all time? Of eternity even? What? You think I am wrong? Think about it! How many people either don’t believe that God is into parties or don’t believe they or someone else is invited? So this morning, among other things, I want to debunk those two myths.
I often say that “God loves a party,” and people often think I am joking, but read the Scriptures. Many of Jesus’ parables involved parties or weddings, which was one of the biggest “parties” in the early Middle East. He told one story about people who actually refused the invitation to a host’s wedding reception. The host ordered his servants to go out into the streets and drag people in for the party. If you think wedding receptions are big today, back then it was usually a week-long party.
So let’s get over the assumption that worshiping and serving God is supposed to be boring, staid, sleep-inducing. People think you have to look like that couple in the “American Gothic” painting in worship. God is into nothing less than a real celebration, an authentic hoe-down, a genuine sock-hop. Now I know our style of worship is supposed to be dignified and “proper.” No wonder most churches can’t attract new members or keep people coming. After all we live in an era when the real god people worship is the “E” god. That is, the God “Entertainment.” But what we fail to realize is that like many things we worship, entertainment is a cheaper, lesser alternative to real celebration. God want us to experience worship as celebration, not entertainment. In fact, God really means for faith and life to be a celebration.
The writer of Isaiah, in the verses we read this morning, proclaims God, “the Lord of Hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,” and that, at that party, “the Lord god will wipe away the tears from all faces.” What a promise! What a prophecy! God is preparing, God is inviting us to be part of a “world-wide party.”
When these verses were written there didn’t seem to be much reason for Israel to celebrate. Assyria had overrun the northern kingdom of Israel. Now they were riding in to take over Jerusalem. What Jerusalem didn’t realize was, like many in life who overreach out of pride and vanity, Assyria was already about to self-destruct from overreaching. Everything looked bleak for the people of Israel, and there didn’t seem to be any reason for any celebration. But God was already planning a party.
Today, God is already hosting a world-wide party. This Sunday is “World Communion Sunday.” It is supposed to be a foretaste of the great final celebration God intends to put on. World Communion Sunday began in a little Presbyterian church in the 1930’s. For those who remember their history this was not a time of great celebration. It was the middle of what was called “The Great Depression.” It was a time of severe hardship, hunger, poverty and difficulty. But this one church started the tradition and it was later adopted by the whole denomination and was then picked up and celebrated by many denominations, including ours by the 1940’s. Against the backdrop of World War, Christians believed in a time when people would reach across their differences and share a simple meal in remembrance of the Prince of Peace. I think that is a fabulous way to celebrate the true mission of the Jesus. It is a message of hope in the face of despair. Today we celebrate in anticipation of the greatest world-wide party ever to be imagined. It is a celebration of hope in the face of all that would deny hope.
One writer said, “These verses share the hope of the changing situation. Through the prophet, God announced a time of celebration in Jerusalem and an end to the desperation that covered the city ‘like a veil.’ God was liberating [Jerusalem] from danger and was restoring the reputation of the city and the people. We might even say it was a way for God to restore God’s own reputation as well.
So what kind of party does God like best? Isaiah says that God’s “best work is celebrated with food, particularly when the table has been empty and the cupboards have been bare.” Sure, God’s people “had gone amuck, and Isaiah sees everywhere the signs of people’s failure to live up to God’s vision for life. Just a few verses before this Isaiah declared, ‘The earth is utterly broken, the earth is torn asunder, the earth is violently shaken...the moon will be abashed, and the sun ashamed.’ (24:19, 23).
“But suddenly in chapter 25, a great feast is announced. Nobody expects it. It comes as a surprise. Somehow it signals that God is doing something new. Whatever pain and distress the people have been feeling, God will now wipe away the tears from every face.” I like the way he says, “The people celebrate with a festive banquet, because God himself has had something to eat. God has ‘swallowed up death forever.’” This is the astonishing claim we make at the central celebration of our faith, Easter. God has swallowed up death – that’s the shout the Apostle Paul echoed centuries later. “How does death taste?” We answer with these words: ‘Take this bread, it is my body broken; take this cup, it is my blood poured out…’ In other words, the liturgical words of our communion feast.
Now as important as it is to come to the party, we can also carry the spirit of the party into everyday life. Who wouldn’t want to make every day a party? Wait, I hear some of you thinking, well, that would lessen the fun; that would cheapen the excitement to make everyday a party. I have to wonder if you are the same folks who think heaven will be boring because everyday perfection is somehow boring, monotonous, un-fun. Come on people, stop killing the buzz! Stop being the wet blanket! Don’t be “that guy.”
So how do we make everyday a party? It happens when we decide that to really “share in the promises of God means that we also share in the purposes of God.” That means taking responsibility for helping in the party preparations. I don’t mean hanging crepe paper and blowing up balloons. I mean isn’t part of the work of preparing for the party to be inviting people to it? And if you read the Gospels, Jesus was always reminding the people that God like to invite everyone to the party, even the poor, the outcast, the one with psychological issues, the one with different abilities. Jesus tweaked the Rich Host for only inviting rich guests. He urged his disciples to go out and invite the lost, the least, and the lonely.
The Church at its best has always worked at caring for “the needs of the poor and dispossessed of the earth.” The Church is usually there when disasters and catastrophes happen. We bring hope in those times of crisis just as Isaiah’s words brought hope in the face of the crisis Israel faced. “We [are called to] live as those who have been called to share in a heavenly banquet. We are committed to bring food to the hungry because we are already living by the prophet’s proclamation that, “...the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food...”
“And - we are called to bring justice to an unjust world” so that everyone can come to the party. Scripture promises that God will, ‘...destroy... the shroud that is cast over all peoples...’ Though justice and righteousness are absent from so much of the world, we live by the goodness and righteousness of God that is already our life’s reality, but not yet shared by the world.” Communion is one way we bring a foretaste of God’s great celebration of life’s victory over suffering, hunger, injustice and death.
Don’t believe there is a party? Come meet God. Don’t think you’re welcome at the party? Come, eat and drink and taste the goodness of the Lord. Don’t think “others” are invited? Look around. God’s grace is sufficient for all. Don’t miss the party. It will be epic. It will be world-wide. It will be everlasting. AMEN.
 Larry Broding, "In the Midst of Danger, Hope," Word-Sunday.Com  William Carter, “Easter Dinner,” day1.org, April 08, 2012  John Jewell, “No More Tears,”lectionarysermons. com, October 13, 2002.