Rev. Danielle K Bartz February 20, 2022
Isaiah 2:1-5 “Visions”
Prophets have been creating visions for humanity that are not impossible asks, but rather the keys to a secret power. And what is that power? The power to not only imagine a better world but turn that imagination into reality. These visions exist with both testaments of our scriptures. They exist in art and poetry and prose. And, as we look back on history, we can see plenty of examples of how an extraordinary vision provided the keys to unlock a future only imagined of. Here are just a couple of examples from recent history.
In 1962, President Kennedy stood at a podium in the stadium of Rice University and said, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” The United States was falling behind in the space race, and when President Kennedy gave that speech the scientific community wasn’t nearly at the capacity needed to heed that call, but in 1969 two astronauts walked on the surface of the moon.
In 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.” When Rev. Dr. King delivered that speech, our nation was mired in segregation and racial violence. Two years later, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. In 1965 a fourth-grader named Diane Cowan brought a case to the courts to de-segregate Cleveland High School in Cleveland, MS. In 2016, when Diane was 57 years old, a federal judge ordered Cleveland High School desegregated. True racial justice is still a long way off, but as Rev. Dr. King said, “we shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
In 2019 Greta Thunberg published a book in which she writes, “We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint – the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform – the bigger your responsibility. Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to given them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” A teenager from Sweden has given voice to the desperate pleas of our children who long for a planet that is healthy and whole. Her words woke a movement, that is growing in energy and influence by the minute.
Prophets have been creating visions for humanity that are not impossible asks, but rather keys to a secret power: the power to not only imagine a better world is possible, but turn that imagination into reality. These visions, including the visions contained in our sacred texts, are not simply pie-in-the-sky ideals dripping with naiveté. They are road maps to follow to turn the impossible into the possible. They are road maps of what is possible when people turn away from the human created prejudices and doubts, and instead turn towards the hope and wisdom given to us by God. And as Jesus says, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
Our scripture this morning is one of those visions of what is possible with God. The prophet Isaiah cast a vision of hope and justice for the people of Israel before, during, and after times of exile and conflict. This morning we heard his vision of a world at peace, a world focused on the wisdom of God, not the perceived wisdom on humanity alone. We heard a vision for all people, of all faiths and backgrounds, coming together to create peace, to believe in justice, and to learn war no more. This vision does not stand alone. First, in the verses preceding those I read today, Isaiah laments that the people of Jerusalem had turned away from God. He shows the people where they are lacking but he does not stop there. He creates for them a guide to what is possible if they turn back to God and place their hope in God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom that is held together by justice, not hate. A Kingdom that is held together by peace, not war. A kingdom that is held together by hope, not fear.
This vision of a world at peace undoubtedly seemed impossible to some of its original hearers. It undoubtedly seems impossible to some of us in this room today. And there is no question that it is grand: the tools of war turned into tools of cultivation. The nations of the world focused on a God of justice, and not an idea of God who condones violence. Yes, this vision is grand, but it is beautiful. It is what is possible for humanity when we all remember that we are God’s creation, not gods ourselves.
The visions of the ancient prophets and the prophets of modernity are not impossible asks. They are not created to set humanity up for failure. They are the keys to unleash our secret power of realizing a better world is possible and giving us the strength and courage to create that better world. And by doing so, not to serve our own needs, but to serve the needs of our neighbors, we point to God and draw from the well of God’s wisdom and grace and blessing.
The world today needs vision. The church today needs vision. The church today has within its capacity the ability to cast a vision for humanity that points to God, that points to justice, that points to hope, and that points to peace. The church today has it within our capacity to turn the tools of war into the tools of harvest. The church today has it within our capacity to make real the words of John when he created this vision: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’”
Our world is in desperate need of a vision to guide us to a place of justice and hope. This is a call to the church to cast that vision and to lead the way in making it a reality. Humanity has proven to itself time and time again that we can do what many who lack vision and imagination think is impossible. But we have the secret power of knowing that with God all things are possible.
We imagine a world that recognizes everyone, everyone is a perfect reflection of God. We imagine a world that says love is love, and our gender and sexual expressions are beautiful in their vastness. We imagine a world where hope is not naïve and justice rolls down like waters. We imagine a world in which war ceases, hunger ends, healthcare is equal, poverty doesn’t exist, and true dialogue leads to open minds and hearts. We imagine a just world for all, and a people who listen for the still-speaking voice of God. This vision the church casts for the world is not new, in fact it is ancient and can be found in the lived example of Jesus Christ – who stood in front of people and declared the year of the Lord’s favor has arrived. Sitting with those outcast by society, feeding the masses, healing the sick, and over-turning the money changers tables – Jesus Christ gave us a vision and it is our call now to live that vision into reality for everyone: our neighbors and our strangers.
My Beloved Community, the world is in desperate need of vision and we have within us the phenomenal capacity to share that vision we come to know through our faith. Let us share this vision, not as an impossible ask, but as the key to humanity’s shared secret power to create that future in which everyone knows they are beloved by God. Amen.
God of Possibility, you created us in your image not only to reflect you but to be your hands and feet on earth. Through our blessed creation, you have given us the ability to create you Kingdom here on earth, the ability to know justice, and the fortitude to create peace. For our creation, we give you great thanks.
In this world that is in desperate need of vision and reminders of your dream for us, help us not to fall into apathy but rather always remain amazed at what we see around us. Through that amazement let us not only celebrate all that is good, but let us also strive to repair all that is broken. Give us the wisdom to listen for your still-speaking voice guiding us on paths that lead to your holy mountain.
We begin, as we always should, in prayer to you. We offer our prayers for those who are hurt, sick, lost, and afraid. We offer our prayers for those who are rejoicing, healing, laughing, and dancing. We offer our prayers for this creation which we are stewards of. And we offer to you those prayers that are so deep within our hearts, we don’t have the words we need, but trust you understand all the same.
We pray all of this, and so much more, in the name of Jesus Christ – our guide along this path that leads to you. And we pray in the way he taught us by saying…Our Father…
 Thunberg, Greta. No One Is Too Small to Make A Difference.
 Matthew 19:26
 John 21:1-4