9/6/15: The Open Door

The Open Door
September 6, 2015
Isaiah 35

Imagine the wilderness whooping for joy, the desert’s unbridled happiness with its spring flowers.  2It will happen!  The deserts will come alive with new growth budding and blooming, singing and celebrating with sheer delight.  The glory of Lebanon’s cedars and the majesty of Carmel and Sharon will spill over to the deserts.  The glory of the Eternal One will be on full display there, and they will revel in the splendor of God.  3So, with confidence and hope in this message, strengthen those with feeble hands, shore up the weak-kneed and weary.  4Tell those who worry, the anxious and fearful, “Take strength; have courage!  There’s nothing to fear.  Look, here — your God!  Right here is your God!  The balance is shifting; God will right all wrongs.  5Then, such healing, such repair:  the eyes of the blind will be opened; the ears of the deaf will be clear.

6-7The lame will leap like deer excited; they will run and jump tirelessly and gracefully.The stutterer, the stammerer, and the tongue of the mute will sing out loud and clear in joyful song.  Waters will pour through the deserts; streams will flow in godforsaken lands.  Burning sands and hardened wastelands will become pools, shimmering with life; the thirsty ground will drink deep from refreshing springs.   Abandoned villages where predators once lurked will become grassy playgrounds.  Dry, arid land will turn lush and green.  8And the road to this renovation will be clearly signed.  People will declare the way itself to be holy — the route, “sacred.”  Only those who are right with God will be able to walk its pleasant path, and nobody — no visitor, no dimwit — will get lost along it.  9There’ll be no lions lying in wait, no predators or dangers in sight.  Only those made right with God will journey there.  10Come waltzing, singing their way to that place of right relation to God.An aura of joy never-ending will attend them; they will clasp gladness and joy to their hearts, while sadness and despair evaporate into thin air.

Trust me, we’ll be fine…  Such beautiful words!

And it’s what we want to do, ultimately.  It’s what we have to do, we of this faith of the crucified Lord, we who trust that God resurrects and redeems.

Still, the darkness comes and the light dims when we lose someone we love, especially when that person has formed us so profoundly.

After Dad’s death, Rose and I spent two nights up on Lake Erie, and I looked out over the waters one night.  They were dark and churning, opaque, no light could penetrate it.

It was the perfect visual — my father had sunk into that unfathomable darkness.  I could not see him, or touch him, or even be assured that he was well.  He was lost to the deeps.

I blocked out a lot of the world for a while, but when mom was admitted to the hospital, I sat in the waiting room and read The Columbus Dispatch.

It was August 20 and was overwhelmed.  Story after story of violence and disease and death, so much sorrow in the world, in the community, and right here among us.

Had I been blocking it out, not been paying attention?  Was the paper like this every day?  Had I not noticed the deep darkness before this?

It took me another week or more before the migrant crisis took root in my mind.  And it took many in the world this photo of a 3-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose family was fleeing fighting in Syria, who died while they were crossing the Aegean Sea, part of the Mediterranean Sea.

This is Aylan’s father.  It is a forced exile — a departing from the homeland and such exile is something the Prophet Isaiah understands:  The relentless brutality, the constant death, the longing for God to make God self- known in the landscape of sorrow,

Dr. Oliver Sachs, a remarkable doctor and writer who died last Sunday, worked with patients who had a condition that totally paralyzed them, kept them in a catatonic state.  They were freed up by administering dopamine in high quantities, and one of them wrote:

I have no exit.  I’m trapped in myself.  This stupid body is a prison with
windows but no doors.

Surely this is how those refugees feel, seeing the places of freedom and peace on television, but not able to get there.

My own father felt in his body when it wouldn’t let him breath, when he couldn’t get in here to worship.

And we may wonder, as a nation, looking at the papers, how we will ever get past this constant violence.

Yet Isaiah casts a vision of a homeland where the mountains bloom, and the lame leap like deer; the mute will sing where the thirsty will drink deep; and abandoned villages where predators once lurked will become grassy playgrounds.

And it all seems too beautiful.  But Isaiah says:  Trust me,

4Tell those who worry, the anxious and fearful, “Take strength; have courage!  There’s nothing to fear.  Look, right here is your God.

It is a message from one who sees what we cannot see day to day, listen to the song that I sing, listen to the hope that I bring.

When I awakened Rose to tell her that her Grandpa had died in the night, she quietly got ready to leave but on the way she said to me:  “Mom, Grandpa showed me what he was seeing.  It was like a dream, he showed me what it looks like.”

And that evening, we went and bought a canvas, and she spent the next day painting what he had shown her.

There are the trees, the paths, rivers, glorious cedars.  She worked hard to get the colors right, exactly what her grandfather had shown her.  “Mom, he isn’t color blind anymore!” 

And they will come waltzing, singing to that place of right relation to God.
An aura of joy never-ending will attend them; they will clasp gladness and  joy to their hearts, while sadness and despair evaporate into thin air.  Listen to the song that I sing, listen to the hope I can bring.

My father’s greatest longing was to stay alive as long as he could for Rose, to make it to her graduation, and it makes perfect sense, that she would be the one to whom he would give the vision.

The family gathered around this painting, my mother placed it where she could look at it all the time.

This vision, like Isaiah’s vision, helps all of us, to trust my father to God, to trust that God is also right here with us redeeming us.

So when we see the most desperate of the world standing at the train station chanting:  Germany, the land where, 70 years ago, those who weren’t white and blond enough were placed on boxcars and sent to extermination camps.  That this land has become the promised land to the war weary Syrians and Afghans.  When I see Germans going into the train stations and bringing their chocolates and clapping in welcome, opening their doors, making a home for them.

Take strength; have courage!  There’s nothing to fear.  Look, here — your God!  Right here is your God!  The balance is shifting; God will right the wrongs.  5Then, such healing, such repair:

You see, God is with us.

The redemptive way, the open door.  The visions that come in the night, may be embrace them, may we trust them.  May we believe in the holy way.

“We’ll be fine.”