December 9, 2012
Isaiah 40:27-31

I don’t know about you, but I have had a long week. Don’t try and hide it from me. I can see it on your faces. By tonight, some of you will be sipping punch and eating cookies, just trying to be sociable long enough to get home to your bed. Everyone says, TGIF. I never say TGIF. I say TGIM. This is Sunday; I have begun to accumulate a little weariness but it’s all right.

Years ago I was a runner. I had a routine where I ran 35 miles a week. Five every day except Sunday and Saturday; Saturday I ran ten. I am now back to that routine as a 35 mile runner. I don’t run it every day and I don’t run it all at once. 35 miles is are the total I’ve accumulated over the last twenty-five years.

You are probably a little weary too. A friend of mine recently told me that he wanted to write a book. So far he only has a title: “Life at the Speed of Light.”

Weariness is a condition that dogs many people these days, especially those who are what is called the sandwich generation. They are people who are working a day job, then running the kids off to a concert or soccer practice or some such thing. Then when they have a few moments they run over to mom’s house to make sure she didn’t leave a pan on the stove and that the house hasn’t burned down. These people do not sleep at night. They are unconscious.

The passage from Isaiah speaks of such a condition. Isaiah recognizes it as a fact. He plainly says, “Youths will faint and be weary; the Young will fall exhausted.”

That is hard to do! To move the youth until they are exhausted, just ask Kathi Peterson or Pastor Mark. In the old days you could take them out and tell them to take off on the path up the mountain, when you are at the top, say the Lord’s prayer five times, and then run back down. If they don’t seem too tired when they get back you can send ‘em up again and tell them to say the Apostle’s Creed. You cannot do that anymore. It isn’t because they will get you for child abuse, it’s because the kids don’t know the prayer or the creed. They will get to the top of the mountain and not know what to do.

This is part of the problem, says Isaiah. The people don’t remember who they are and whose they are.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?”

What could make them forget? How do you forget about God?

Granted, these are busy people. See, the Israelites have been off in a strange land. They are in a place where it isn’t common to stop what you are doing and go to church on Sunday. They have holidays but they are not like any holidays they remember. So it requires effort. It takes work to give attention to their faith. Every day is work, work, work. Even though they were carted off to this strange land, it isn’t as if they are prisoners. They are not locked up. They have homes, they have jobs, they have their families. It is just that the culture around them doesn’t pay much heed to their faith.

At first it may have been easy enough. By force of will, in the short term, you can make a decision that no matter what we are all going to sit down to dinner together and light the advent candle on the table. Mother is going to read a short scripture lesson, father will offer a prayer. Suzie, get those antlers off of your head. As the years go by and you are the only one doing this, it gets harder and harder to not just get on the treadmill of cookies “Fa, la, la, la, la” with everyone else. Once on it, this treadmill, the weariness sneaks up on you.

You would think that despite the surrounding culture’s pressure for compliance that you could resist. But they wear you down. You would think that it is easy to forget, but in reality it is hard to forget. What happens is that the memory is set aside.

When a memory is set aside it does not go away. It isn’t like when you forgot your sisters Birthday. It is that you know perfectly well when her birthday is, but you don’t do anything about it. Maybe you got a better offer. When I was younger, much younger, a child really, my sister’s birthday would come along. Alison’s is January 24th, and Andrea’s is March 30th. See I do know when they are. But I have better things to do than go to a gathering of girls and Barbie dolls and pink wrapping paper. I snuck away with my buddies to shoot our BB guns or play a pick-up game in the vacant lot. When questioned, I used the standard political reply, plausible deniability, “I Forgot.” What did I do, did I forget? No. I set the memory aside so that it didn’t get in the way of something else.

It could be that God whispered in the prophet’s ear: the people in Babylon are tired. Their lives are busy, but not difficult. If you want difficult try making bricks without straw like the did in Egypt. Now that’s difficult. Their problem is that life has no purpose. They get up in the morning, open the shop, go to work, come home, help the kids with their homework, wash the dishes, throw a load of laundry in the washer, run to the Christmas concert at school. Billy, you come and find us right after this thing is over, ok? Pack ’em up, get your baths, did you brush your teeth? Go to bed, no fooling around, tomorrow is a school day. Now I can look over that file for the meeting tomorrow. The bills need to be paid, and we want a better life for our kids, that’s why we do it, she says.

Can I make a suggestion? A big reason that we find ourselves so pessimistic about the future, wondering if all our efforts are worth it is that we don’t pay any attention to God. Paying attention, I mean looking for, expecting even, God’s participation in life, in our lives, for our good.

Isaiah chides the Israelites, off in Babylonia, frustrated by the treadmill of life. The people’s lack of knowledge of God arises from their insecurity and lack of willingness to enter into faith, not from their willful rejection. But the people need to grasp that God’s understanding is unsearchable and that he grants his power to the weak (vv. 28-29). In spite of the people’s inability to comprehend the way of God or to see any confidence in the future, God moves to deliver them. They will find both new energy and hope in waiting for God (v. 31).

Waiting for God, isn’t doing nothing. It isn’t goofing off, telling the boss that you are on a God break, or even that you cannot do any work today, saying, ‘I am waiting on The Lord.’ No, what is it? It is faith. What is faith? Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is what keeps you going.