A Provocation: Easter: April 1, 2018: Isaiah 25:6-9

Isaiah 25:6-9
25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

25:7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.

25:8 Then the LORD God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.

25:9 It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

A Question or Two:

  • Why are the women in Mark 16 terrified by Resurrection?
  • What does Isaiah 25 suggest about their terror?
  • Don’t answer quickly.

Some Longer Reflections:

So this is probably not the text you expected.  You should ask yourself, Why?

Why would you choose this text as a preaching text for Easter?

And why, exactly, is Isaiah a surprising choice?

It’s not because I think the Resurrection isn’t important.

Resurrection is, as near as I can tell, absolutely central.  Certainly it is central to Christian faith.  It is also central to Jewish faith, at least historically.  All Christian notions of Resurrection grow straight out of Jewish theology from the early centuries of the Common Era.  Though it no longer plays anything like that role in most current Jewish theology, historically it did.

You may have noticed that I have been pretty insistent about capitalizing Resurrection.  That is because it is bigger, theologically, than just the odd assertion that, once upon a time, a dead ceased to be dead.  It is an odd assertion because returning to life after being certifiably dead is impossible, and if it happened it would be an oddity, a quirk, or a circus trick.

The Resurrection is not simply a quirk.  The Resurrection is not a circus trick.

Resurrection is bigger, and this old love song from Isaiah makes that clear.  On Easter, Christians do not merely celebrate the oddity of one guy coming to life after being certifiably dead (which is why it matters that Jesus is discovered alive on the third day: that is how long it took for ancient Jewish society to be sure that a person was actually dead).  For Christians, Jesus’ return to life is the beginning of what Jewish faith hears in Isaiah’s old love song: this is a “feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear,” and it is for ALL peoples, not just Jews and not just Christians.  This is when God will wipe away all tears, remove all disgrace, and remove the shroud with which all of us cover our faces when we are deep in grief.  God will swallow up death forever.  This is Resurrection.

This is what people called for when they marched in the streets last week, and it doesn’t matter whether you think I’m talking about #PalmSunday or the #MarchForOurLives.

The word, hosanna, means “Make us safe; Save our lives; Do it now,” and that is what people at both marches said.

Isaiah catches something important about that request, that desperate demand.  Isaiah sings that, when Resurrection finally wraps Creation in its arms, people will say: “This is our God; we have waited for him.”  The Hebrew word for “waited” draws its energy from the physical metaphor of a string (perhaps on a violin) that is twisted and stretched too tight.  Waiting for Resurrection stretches us to the breaking point and beyond.  That would be an important thing to remember this Easter.  The whole Creation, all peoples (not just Christians), all of us together are waiting for Resurrection, for a life together that is not ripped apart by senseless death.

But that means that the cry from last week (whether in the streets of Jerusalem or Washington, D.C.) is still the cry for an honest observance of Easter: “Make us safe; Save our lives; Do it now,”

May it be so.

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