Saturday, December 03, 2011

quaker "oats" revisited

As I say in the tagline of this blog, I called this blog "quaker oats live" because "oat" means "a sign or a mark." I'm working on some Hebrew for a passage I'm preaching on tomorrow from Isaiah, and the Hebrew word 'ôt appears. A commentary reminds me of the link between this word and the essence of prophecy, of speaking God's word into the world, and it got me thinking about how fitting it is to have this word in the title of this blog.

It's not that I think of myself as a prophet on a par with Isaiah (first, second or third Isaiah, for those of you with a seminary bent...), but because I think of Friends as a denomination of prophets. As a community we have a passionate calling to listen to God, to respond with faithfulness, and to call others to faithfulness as well--sometimes in ways that are not so very comfortable.

The word "live" in my blog title thus becomes important as well. I'm preaching tomorrow about Isaiah 7:14//Matthew 1:23, "Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." Although this is a very traditional Advent verse, I'm trying to explain it within the context of the whole story of God and humanity. This passage meant something to the prophet who spoke it (Isaiah or whoever), King Ahaz and the people of Judah at the time. It meant something else to Matthew and the early Christ-followers who experienced Jesus in the flesh. Perhaps it means something to us today, too. As Friends, we have a living view of scripture and of God's Word spoken into the world. God's Word is not finished speaking. We, like Isaiah, can hear God and be the "people of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5) who God chooses to speak through anyway. We can know God through God's words in the past, through the living expression of the Word--Jesus--and through the Word speaking into our lives today. We're part of the story of Immanuel, of God With Us.

If we're not participants in that promise and in that hope of a God present to us now, we are in a dead religion. If so, we're in a religion of people who have come and gone; it does not belong to us; it is meaningless to us except as "pie in the sky by and by."

But that very scripture we have from those who are gone tells us how to connect with the Living God today, how to be in relationship with a God who is with us. It speaks of a Kingdom of God that is now, that is within. As we seek that Kingdom, we are part of the very body of God. The words God spoke through the prophet Isaiah spoke of his own time, and all the while it spoke of the first-century man named Jesus who was (and is) God With Us. It speaks also to us today. What is God's message for you, spoken those many centuries ago, and spoken today?

This is processing for my sermon, so check out the North Valley Friends podcast sometime this week to see what direction the actual sermon ends up going!