It was the year King Uzziah died.
That is how our scripture reading for this Sunday begins — kind of blunt and ominous. “It was the year King Uzziah died.” This would be similar, for you and me, to saying, “It was the year 9/11 shook our world,” or “It was the year the stock markets crashed,” or even, “It was the year President Kennedy was assassinated.”
The history behind all the turmoil going on in Judah and Israel is long and tedious, but suffice it to say, the Hebrew people were on the brink of national disaster as the powerful Assyrian Empire was bearing down on them. It was a terrible year, and it looked like it was only going to get worse! All was coming apart at the seams.
Most sermons on this text focus exclusively on Isaiah’s response to a majestic vision of God on the throne with the emphasis on Isaiah’s words, “Here I am, send me.” This Sunday, however, I’d like us to take a closer look at the conclusion of our scripture reading: “The stump is the holy seed.”
What in the world is Isaiah trying to say? It’s certainly not a message of hope that would come easily or simply. In fact, Isaiah’s initial message is one of total destruction with an essential element of true hope — a “seed” for a transformation that would bring lasting peace and deep joy.
So, just what is this “holy seed?” When all is lost, what is that tiny grain of hope that promises to bring new life? And, maybe more importantly, are we simply passive recipients or are we invited into the work of planting, cultivating, and nourishing this seed to life? How can we do that when we are surrounded with fear and panic and a faith so shallow that any easy and expedient answer seems to wash away our full attention?
Let me take a (nod) from Isaiah and be blunt. The Super Bowl doesn’t begin for hours after worship, and you won’t be in any danger of missing all those puppies and Clydesdales by coming to church! This message from Isaiah has a very challenging, and possibly world-altering, significance for our time as well. This is a difficult passage, and we’ll have to walk through it carefully — together.
I hope to see you on Sunday morning!
Rev. Linda McDermott,
Senior Associate Pastor & Associate Pastor of Worship