Isaiah 40:1-11 2 Advent B 12/7/2011
Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Marty Stevens
For those of us old enough to remember when finding a job meant circling ads in newspapers
or working with a headhunter agency, the internet is a wonderful thing.
Now, we use web sites like Craig’s List or Monster.com
or the aptly named Find a Job Already.com.
So it was easy last week to see the posting for an intriguing position.
Oh, wait.. you’re wondering why I was even looking at job posting sites.
And even more, you’re wondering why I’m willing to talk about it openly like this.
Well, I’ve noticed that the President is out of town, the Real Dean is still on Sabbatical,
so it’s just us here tonight, so to speak.
And anyway, like Aaron and the Golden Calf in the wilderness,
I was just sitting at my computer and up came this job posting!
The position really was intriguing. Three main responsibilities were listed.
#1 – speak tenderly to a group of captives
and say that they have finished serving their sentence,
that their release from captivity is right around the corner.
Well, that sounds like a really rewarding thing to do and a pretty simple task.
Once you announce the end of captivity and the freedom of release, that would be it, right?
You wouldn’t have to do it more than once, I wouldn’t think.
The captives would eagerly embrace their freedom and that would be that.
So, maybe this position doesn’t have tenure, maybe it’s a one and done kind of thing,
more of a temporary position than a long term engagement. Hmmm…
#2 – Manage a project that would construct a highway in the desert
from a major city in one territory to a small town in another territory.
Well, that certainly sounds a little more long-term,
but again, how long could that take? Hmmm….
#3 – Accompany the people on their journey.
Well, that sounds like fun! I love to travel! So I read on.
The successful applicant will have the skills and experience listed below.
In order to speak tenderly to captives about the freedom of release:
- Experience speaking to groups, ready to engage questions and discussion
- At ease in public social gatherings, utilize humor appropriately
- Familiarity with social media to connect with audiences,
including Facebook and Twitter
In order to manage the construction of a new highway:
- Multi-tasking skills, able to juggle many different things at the same time,
not upset by interruptions, energized by dealing with a variety of topics
- Good with numbers, able to account for the expenses of the project
In order to accompany the people on their journey:
- Experience planning trips for groups, plan details and adapt while traveling
- Data base management capabilities, record information about individuals,
including their progress along the way, and certify their completion of the journey.
You gotta agree, it sounds like the perfect fit, doesn’t it?
As I was pondering, the live chat dialog box appeared on my screen:
Would you like to chat with someone about this position? Sure!
You know, you can get a transcript from the live chat, so I brought it along.
The chat screen came to life: What questions do you have?
Well, why is this position open? Is it a new position? If so, why?
If not, why did the previous occupant leave the position?
Good questions! It’s sort of new and sort of not new. Let me explain.
There is a long tradition with us of public announcements to people.
So in that sense, yes, previous persons have held this type of position.
So they were successful and promoted up the ladder, is that why the position is vacant?
Well, it depends on what you mean by successful.
They fulfilled the duties and responsibilities of the job,
and that’s the most important measure of success in this position.
We like to call this ‘faithfulness’, rather than success.
Whether the audiences believed what they were saying
and acted on their announcement is another matter.
So the position is vacant because….
Because every situation requires a unique blend of skills and experience.
And we believe there is a candidate uniquely qualified to meet
the requirements of each new announcement that needs to be made,
as well as managing the consequences of the announcement.
I know you must hear this a lot, but the skills and experience listed for the position
sound like they were written just for me.
I’m a pastor and a Bible teacher and a Chief Financial Officer and a Registrar.
Well you would certainly have the multi-tasking skills!
And it sounds like you have experience with people and business.
Let me ask you this… Can you summarize in a nutshell what you’re really looking for?
The stuff you don’t put in the job description, you know, the intangibles?
(There was a bit of a delay before an answer appeared on the screen.)
The most important qualification is that the successful applicant know something about
the captivity of sinful disobedience and the liberating power of redemption.
The candidate needs to be able to relate to those who feel abandoned
because of their past and who long for a new kind of future.
We call this ‘repentance and forgiveness.’
And the reality of human nature is that people often don’t accept forgiveness
even when it’s freely offered. Our experience is that they hear the words,
and they usually believe at some level that they are forgiven,
but they continue to cling to some part of the guilt and shame from the past.
And that makes it hard to move forward into a new future.
So the successful applicant will exercise patience with those who cling to the past.
There may be a lot of waiting involved.
I think I see what you mean. To encourage people who are hurt and disillusioned
to leave the past behind and walk courageously into a new future
is not a quick fix kind of job.
But honestly, patience would not necessarily be my strong suit.
In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t know that I have all the resources
that would be needed for this position.
To cultivate this kind of courageous faith
really requires the in-breaking of a new spirit of confidence and hope.
It really requires something outside of any resources I could bring to it,
beyond any resources that even the people themselves could summon.
This kind of courageous faith to step into a new future
requires something that doesn’t come from ourselves.
From what you just said, it sounds like you are just the one we’re looking for.
Honestly, this is how it usually works out. We’ve seen it time and again.
There is a unique set of skills and experience and personality we call ‘gifts’
that our CEO is able to match with a specific situation.
Because of the genius of the CEO’s strategic plan, everyone benefits,
the one serving as leader and the people being served. And I can assure you,
the CEO will put all the resources you need at your disposal.
So, there won’t be any problem with financing the construction of the highway
or supplying everything necessary to move the people?
Not at all. The CEO will take care of all that.
Our CEO has an abundance of resources to use for this plan.
Our CEO is so dedicated to these people that no price is too high
to pay to redeem them from captivity.
Even now, the CEO is busy lifting up valleys and bringing down mountains
and smoothing out rough spots and leveling uneven places.
In fact, the CEO has already sent a messenger ahead to prepare the way.
So, are you saying all I need to do is offer my skills and experience toward this endeavor,
and the CEO will provide everything that’s needed? That sounds too good to be true!
It is good and it is true. We call it the Good News.
Our CEO is at work already in the world to redeem all people.
And you can be a part of that mission.
Wow, sounds amazing! I suppose I should ask though about the compensation package.
Whatever you need, our CEO will provide. We don’t really offer vacation,
but then again, you’ll be so energized by this that you won’t even notice.
And trust me, the other benefits are fabulous!
I urge you to seriously consider this position.
If you don’t, believe me, it will nag at you until you can’t sleep at night.
Maybe you’re right. One final question…
if I decide to apply, to whom should I address my resume and cover letter? The CEO.
Right, but what is the name of the CEO?
Our CEO has lots of names: Adonai, Immanuel, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The name above all names is the anointed one, the Messiah,
the One who comes to redeem the world and bring abundant life to all people.