Get Up and Go!

A sermon by Rev. Lynn Turner, Senior Associate Pastor
Richmond’s First Baptist Church
Richmond, Virginia
January 2, 2011

Isaiah 60: 1-5

I was a snaggled tooth third grader…never-the- less, standing in front of the congregation I proudly and boldly proclaimed, “Arise Shine, for your light has come.” Isaiah 60:1. 

It was my first coronation as a GA…Girls Auxiliary as they used to call it in the Baptist Church…a missions organization for girls where you learned about missionaries and the work they were doing around the world. Back then, you worked on steps with the ultimate goal of being able to participate in a special coronation at the end of the year and making your way from the first step of Maiden all the way up to Queen Regent some day.  This was my lady in waiting year…and my scripture verse to quote in the coronation was Isaiah 60:1a

I must confess I had no real clue as to what that verse meant…it might have made some difference if I had used the entire verse…added part B…”For the glory of the Lord has risen upon you”…but to an 8 year old…that probably would not have helped so much either.

“Arise; Shine, for your light has come”

Was that something like my dad used  to say on a Saturday morning to get us up…Rise and Shine and get your fore day coffee!  I was not even sure what that meant…fore day coffee?

Or was it like the song we used to sing at camp about Noah building the ark and the refrain was..”Rise and shine and give God the glory glory”?

Maybe that’s a little closer to the meaning….

So here we are this morning, the 8th day of Christmas, the first Sunday of 2011… Epiphany Sunday…with the actual date of Epiphany being  Thursday, January 6…and lo and behold the text is from Isaiah 60…and the memories came flooding back  and the time I memorized that verse as a child. 

And to be completely forth coming this morning, as a child, I had never truly understood the meaning of Epiphany…oh I had heard about the visit of the magi to see the Christ child in the manger bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh…but understanding that the meaning of this was the celebration of God made manifest to everyone…not a clue…

So today…I am going to attempt to bring these two passages of scripture together with the hope that we leave here this morning with a greater understanding of what the prophet Isaiah meant when he said, “Arise Shine, for your light has come, and the Glory of the Lord has risen upon you”…God's light shining in the darkness and the promise that darkness has not, cannot, will not overturn it.

We have walked through Advent, celebrated Christmas and beheld God's glory in the Christ who has come to be with us…or have we?  And if in fact we have…does the celebration stop on January 6th with the day of Epiphany?  Is it back to routine and normal or is it possible that we might have an understanding that that this good news is something we can celebrate right up until Advent comes again? How would we do that?

Well I believe that our scripture passage today tells us what we are to do, why we should do it and what will happen if we should decide it would be a good thing to do. 

It begins with…two imperative commands….Arise and Shine!...Get up and Go! Go where?  Do what?  Something!  Anything!  And Why? 

“Because the glory of the Lord has come upon you!!!”

When Isaiah wrote these words thousands of years ago the Israelites were in captivity, being held hostage in Babylon for over 70 years. Cyrus, from Persia, came down from the north, besieged Babylon, defeated the Babylonians, and then freed those who had been held in exile. He told them "You can go home now." Go back to Jerusalem and rebuild your city.  Arise and Shine…For your light has come.”

One commentator on this passage wrote…I wonder if they got up and ran or if they just sat there like caged animals that all of a sudden find the door to their cages open, but because they had been so habituated to confinement that they did not know what to do, so they just stayed there. 

Were they able to understand the enormity of what had happened to them?

Do we really understand the enormity of what happened that day that the wise men found the baby Jesus?

What if the wise men had never followed the star?  What if they, like the scribes and religious leaders, just sat there…trying to figure it all out…but never did anything about it…ignored the star…ignored the calling of God in their hearts to get up and go follow that star? Could this possibly describe us in the church today?

We have the good news….we are content where we are just sitting here trying to figure it all out and wondering if we really need to get up and go anywhere to discover any more?

Do we really understand the part of that verse that says, “The Glory of the Lord has risen upon you?  I tried to say it in a few different ways to see if it made a difference…

“The GLORY of the Lord has risen upon you”

“The glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

“The glory of the Lord has risen upon YOU.”

All three amaze me, frighten me, intrigue me to know more….and to be quite honest with you this morning…I am not sure that I today can grasp the enormity of that statement much better than I did as an 8 year old…but that is what makes this verse of scripture come alive to me….and as I began to study this idea of God’s glory…soon discovered that I was in pretty good company.

Remember Moses? On the mountain…meeting with God asks God to reveal his glory to him…and God said…You cannot handle seeing my glory…but if you will hide in the crevice of this mountain, I will pass by you with all my glory and cover your face for you cannot look upon my glory and live.  And when Moses came down from the mountain the scripture says that his face was shining for he had been in the presence of the Lord…but he was not aware of it.

Remember Solomon? He was praying to the Lord and in 2 Chronicles 7 the scripture says that the Glory of the Lord filled the temple and no one could enter it but rather fell down and worshipped God.

Remember the time Jesus took Peter, James and John to the mountain to pray.  While he was there…the scripture tells us in Luke 9 that the disciples fell asleep and when they woke up…they saw Jesus’ glory and Moses and Elijah standing with him…they wanted to pitch three tents and stay there…then suddenly a cloud over shadowed them and a voice from the cloud said.."This is my Son, whom I have chosen, listen to him.  Peter and James and John said nothing about what they had seen for a long time

These are just a few examples from scripture that talk about the magnificence of God’s glory revealed….

Can we even grasp the magnitude of the statement that the Glory of the Lord has risen upon you? But with each of these stories…amazing things happened because those who saw the glory of the Lord were changed….

Erwin McManus in his book, Chasing Daylight…talks about seizing the power of the moments that God gives us as he opens up the light of his glory on us.  He refers to these as “divine moments”…he writes,

“What if you knew that somewhere in front of you was a moment that would change your life forever, a moment rich with potential, a moment filled with possibilities? What if you knew there was a moment coming, a divine moment, one where God would meet you in such a way that nothing would be the same again? How would you treat that moment? How would you prepare for it? How would you identify it? Moments are as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands in the sea, and any of them could prove to be your most significant divine moments.” 1

When I read that from his book, I immediately thought about the passage in our Gospel reading today…the three wise men…who not knowing what they would find, chose to seize the moment…they chose to look up…get up….and go find this baby Jesus.

It was a life changing moment for them.  It was a life changing moment for you and for me.  Because this divine moment of revelation…opened the door of God’s light to shine on the entire world.

When God’s light shines upon us….it calls us to do something…we can’t just sit and do nothing.

Erwin goes on to say in his book, “To follow Jesus is to move with God.  When you become a part of God’s movement, you are a missionary. Every missionary has a mission. The mission gives us both intentionality and purpose. You have no minutes to waste. You are required to seize every divine moment.” 2

Is it possible today that God has this desire for every one of us? Is it possible that in the year ahead God wants to show us the fullness of His glory? Can you grasp the possibility that in the ordinary moments of your day, whether that be on the job, sitting in a classroom, caring for children in your home…driving the carpool to school…visiting someone in the hospital or nursing home…working in the yard…whatever your day involves…there are ordinary moments that God wants to turn into divine moments and all He requires of us is to be ready?

For some of you hearing this today, I know what you are thinking….”Me? A missionary?...you have got to be kidding….I don’t have what it takes….you don’t understand the craziness and sometime darkness of my life…I cannot possibly be used by God right now….

There was something else that grabbed my attention in this passage this morning.

Verse 2 in King James reads...For behold darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people, but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

We are told to arise and shine because God’s glory has come upon us…but the future tense of the verb in verse 2 reminds us that darkness will continue to come on the earth and on its people…..

Many of the news broadcasts were reviewing on Friday the  highlights of 2010, stories that topped the news charts during this past year.…most of them seemed to be dark events…the earthquake in Haiti, the floods in Nashville and California, the tornados in the Midwest…the fall of the market…the unemployment rate…the foreclosure’s on homes….what is it about dark news that seems to get our attention the most?....but then came the story of those 33 Chilean miners who were trapped  2000 feet underground in total darkness cut off from the world for 69 days and the miraculous rescue of saving everyone of them….How can we forget that moment…a glimmer of hope..Some light cast on the darkness of what was seemingly a dark year as reported on the news….

As these miners began telling their story…it was evident that there were times of great despair…but many held on to their faith in being rescued…

It was reported that President Sebastian Pinera..a constant presence at the mine during those days…as the men were being hoisted to sunlight from their darkened tomb…grabbed and hugged the 15th miner rescued and exclaimed…”Bienvenido a la vida”…welcome to life”!

As the world watched that 22 hour ordeal of each one of those men hoisted to life….the world celebrated and cheered!

I could not help but think that is what Isaiah was talking about….”arise and shine….your light has come….welcome to life….now get up and go!

President Pinera went on to say after the last miner was freed,

"We have lived a magical night, a night we will remember throughout our lives, a night in which life defeated death,"

The night that God came into the world could be described in that way…..for it was truly the night that life defeated death.

John tells us in John 1:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

 J. B. Phillips reminded us many years ago in his little book, Your God Is Too Small. So many of us limit our glimpses of God's glory in everyday life because we simply do not expect the living God to break into our lives while we work in the office, sit in our classrooms, or do dishes at the kitchen sink. But the glory of God is still breaking into the world's darkness for all who look with the eyes of faith.

Even with 33 men trapped in a mine in the middle of Chile.

On this Sunday of Epiphany…the question is not how do I overcome the darkness in my life and the world….the question is…What has God already done, is doing, and has promised to continue to do?

And the answer - God's Epiphany answer - is, "Here is Jesus, my Son, my very self, my forever and promised light of love." Here is my Glory revealed to you.

He goes on to say in verse 5 "you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice" (Isaiah 60:5). So that in and through God's Epiphany light shining above and within you "nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn" (Isaiah 60:3). God's light shining above and within is contagious. That light that guides our journey through darkness will gather others along the way.

And I believe that is the final message from this passage today….the promise that if we are shining….others will be drawn to the light of Christ within us.

God’s light is shining brightly….we are called to go on the journey…we cannot just sit here and do nothing.  Like the wise men…we have seen the light…we have to get up and go…

We don't know where it will take us.  We may go on side-roads, alleyways that we never expected and didn't even know existed….

Because that is what happens when you follow the Jesus star.

For the wise men who began following this star, it was the beginning of a long, life-altering, all-consuming journey. The first step was to get up and go.

If we faithfully "Follow That Star" our destination is determined. We will come into the Light. We will experience the One who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. We will come to the baby, lying in his mother's arms, to the rabbi…. preaching, teaching and healing all over the countryside, to the Son of God hanging on the cross, to the risen Savior standing by our side and calling us into the Light.

 "Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you" declares Isaiah (Isaiah 60:1). Here, now, today in this very space where we are all gathered becomes God's holy space. Here, now, God’s light continues to shine…; beckoning us to the table where Christ is serving the light of himself in the bread and the cup.

On this day as we celebrate the dawning of a new year…we remember the night Christ stood before his disciples and said “This is my body broken for you and as often as you eat this remember me….and then he took the cup and said, “this is the new covenant of my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sin…

As our deacons come now to serve you….be reminded today of God's Epiphany light glistening in the eyes of the people gathered around you…for we are family here today and welcome all those who have claimed Christ as your Lord and Savior to join us in this Holy Communion…As you hold the bread and the cup…..reflect on the light of God….the light that has overcome any darkness you may be facing…the light that leads us to be thankful and rejoice. God's light of wisdom and power and understanding and grace…glows within the word of promise proclaimed here today. Amen.

1.Chasing Daylight by Erwin Raphael McManus p. 8-9

2. Ibid p.48

—Lynn Turner 2011

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