Waiting for Redemption
Rev. April S. Blaine, Given on Sunday, December 1, 2013.
When I was home for the summer – I spent an evening volunteering at my parent’s free clinic. And while I was there, I met a man named David.
David had lived a fascinating and troubling life, he was a successful performing artist and writer, and he was also battling bi-polar disorder and depression. He had seen his fair share of darkness and death.
But when I asked him what he did – he said, “I bring things to life.”
Well, that got my attention.
And David invited me to his store.
For the past 10 years, David and his partner have traveled the region collecting tin from old buildings that are being torn down or refurbished. The tin was used in the late 1800s and early 1900s to make the ceilings of some of these grand buildings.
When David recovers the sheets of tin – they look like this. They are rusted. They are often misshapen. To most people they are junk. They are beyond redemption.
But David knows a little something about tin – and so with a lot of scrubbing – the tin begins to come alive again.
It begins to tell a bit of a story.
You see – in many of these buildings the ceilings were there for decades and each time the building was painted a new color, the ceiling was also painted. And so underneath the rust – are layers upon layers upon layers of paint.
As David scrubs – the story of the tin begins to be revisited and remembered – and in so doing – it takes on a new life.
Not only that, but when tin is re-exposed to light – it begins to undergo a process called cobalting – which over time will bring out these beautiful shades of blue – colors that will get more beautiful and more rich with each passing year.
So By the time David is done with a piece of tin – it looks like this –
Something beyond redemption – brought back to life
In our Scripture today, Isaiah speaks to the people, returning again to images of their future. And Isaiah and the people both know that things in their future are likely to get worse before they get better. But Isaiah is clear. The places of pain, struggle, the places of drought and blindness and darkness, they will be redeemed.
The imagery in these verses is powerful. What do you see?
Isaiah has already told them of the future of peace. But he continues to tell them – that the God in whom they follow is a God of redemption. That part of the way that God is bringing us forward to this promised future is by taking the things in our present and redeeming them – taking what was dead and bringing it to life, taking what was broken and making it whole again, taking that which was most painful and bringing a newness of life. This, Isaiah says, is how God works. And it is how God will work to bring about the promised future for them.
When I saw David again this past August, he had been through a difficult season. And so we caught up, shared some stories, and I listened to the challenging moments he had found himself in. But before we parted ways, David shared with me a poem. He is a poet and while he doesn’t write his poems down, he commits them to memory.
And I was struck how the poem was filled with images of hope.
Images of new life. Images that spoke of a God who
Over and over again, worked in our lives - bringing in light, removing the rust,
Words of hope - of a God who is still working to bring redemption.
Bringing the pieces together again and making us whole
And so during this Advent season – we wait for God’s redemptive power to come to us – to come to our hearts, mending the broken pieces, to come to our homes, making the broken relationships and struggles into places of renewal, to come to our church, bringing hope out of struggle and pain, and to come to our world, bringing new life – out of the places of greatest darkness.
We wait for redemption – and as a people who expect God to be acting. We come to the table.
There are few symbols in the Christian tradition that more faithfully reflect the power of God’s redemptive work than the sacrament of Communion.
When we come to the table, when we take the bread and the cup. We are participating with Christ – in what was a death, a public execution, in all practical terms – a defeat – and yet – the central part of our story as Christians is that this was not the end of the story. God redeemed even death and out of that – came life – not just for Jesus but for all people.