Actually, digging for nuggets of insight and tapping people on the shoulder (see last two columns) are the lesser of the three tasks of that come with exploring scripture. The most important is the one illustrated in Isaiah 55:8-9.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
These verses are not there to set a roadblock, telling us that the heavens are inaccessible, or to lull us into the laziness of claiming that God’s thoughts are so far beyond our reach that we cannot begin to understand them. They are telling us that there is a place far higher than any world we can fashion on our own. There are thoughts far higher than those that are most comfortable to human nature. There are joys far greater than any we can buy or seek out for ourselves.
Isaiah may be Old Testament, but it is Gospel. This is a passage that lifts us up, that puts wings under us, and carries us to a world that we can barely imagine on our own, much less reach.
That is what the Gospel does.
The real power of proclamation comes in the message that launches us out of our shadowed lives of anxiety and stress, tension and violence, selfishness and greed, pain and sorrow, into a place where the air is clear and the sun is warm and the gentle breeze is clean and fresh. Where the peace of God passes all understanding, where we can run and not be weary, where the power of God’s love overwhelms us to the point of tears.
Come to the living waters, everyone who thirsts, and you that have no food or money, come and be fed.
Come, not only to be fed, but to feast on wine and the best food available that all comes to you free of charge.
Come to the cross all you who are weary with the stress of life and carrying heavy burdens of sin and shame, and I will give you rest.
Let the light of Christ shine even in the darkest places of your life.
Let new life in Christ take to the sky where you can soar with the eagles.
Jesus has come so that you may have a life with meaning and joy.
These messages of scripture lift us to the mysteries that are beyond us–the mysteries of God’s unfathomable love, the mystery of the wine and bread, the mystery of baptismal water, the mystery of the Spirit.
It is the job of every sermon, at some point, to stand aside and let the wind of the hope blow through, to let God’s Spirit carry us up from sorrow or fear or anger or weariness to a higher place on the wings of the promise.
Sometimes scripture is journey to the past–the finger of reminder, tapping us on the shoulder–often gently, occasionally not so much, calling to mind what we have already learned, resetting our functions when we slip into the default human condition.
Sometimes scripture is a journey of discovery. It invites us to be miners of the word, seeking and sifting the nuggets of wisdom that enrich our lives and the lives of all creation.
Sometimes scripture is journey to the sky. It blows us away on the wings of promise, raising us to a higher level of existence, where we can draw closer to the awesome love of God.
As you encounter the word, experience it in all its forms, let scripture take you where it will. Listen to the many ways in which God speaks, and in so doing proclaim the full range of the peace that passes all understanding in Christ Jesus.