Never-Ending Creativity

This sermon was originally preached via podcast and Facebook Live at Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, California on February 7, 2021. To listen to the full recording, visit our podcast, “Mission Hills United Methodist Church” or search ‘Mission Hills United Methodist Church’ wherever you get your podcasts. If you would like to donate to the ministries of Mission Hills UMC, you can make a secure online gift here.

Isaiah 40:21-31

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

    Has it not been told you from the beginning?

    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

    and spreads them like a tent to live in;

who brings princes to naught,

    and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,

    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,

when he blows upon them, and they wither,

    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me,

    or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

    Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them,

    calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

    mighty in power,

    not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

    and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord,

    and my right is disregarded by my God”?

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

    his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

    and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

    and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,

    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

    they shall walk and not faint.

In poetry or story, there’s a literary device used called a paradox. This is a statement that seems to contradict itself. 

Some popular paradoxes examples:

-Less is more.

-Save money by spending it.

-This is the beginning of the end.

-And, from the popular U2 song, “I can’t live with or without you.”

The Bible also shows us some examples of paradox. Today, we read Isaiah, which is holding two seemingly opposite thoughts together. The first, proclaiming what seems impossible to believe. The second, holding that with the truth of what is impossible to deny. Both of these truths are being placed together in one text, to create a message that comes from God. 

The message being, that the God who is big enough to stand above the world, creating us, that God is the same God that lives among us still. It shows the greatness and also the relationality that God’s image and identity holds. We were created by God, and we also create with God.

Our paradoxical journey in Isaiah today is centered around the Babylonian exile, when a ruler in Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and enslaved the Jewish people. Chapter 40, where we began today, indicates a turning point in the book of Isaiah, where rather than warning the people, it reveals a promise of comfort, that things will get better. 

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

    his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

    and strengthens the powerless.

Isaiah is telling us about God’s greatness and power and promise to us. God is almighty and strong and compassionate. God gives power to those of us who feel faint, and strength to those who feel powerless. God is not just in this to hold all that power, to create us and then watch us fail or struggle. No, in fact, God gives us power too, to create, to make new, to thrive.

As Isaiah speaks to the people, he’s comforting them. He’s reminding them of the gift of community, the gift of being creative with one another. He’s reminding them that it will be okay. It will get better, even though the arc of the story has not yet finished. 

Creating is meant to be life-giving, not soul draining. Genesis reminds us of this. In this passage, Isaiah is reminding the people of a very important instance of creation, the first time creation happened, the origin story we read about in Genesis.

In Music and More we had our young leaders write down five ways they show their creativity. One of our young leaders made YouTube videos, some created through writing, drawing, design. 

Sometimes, we need a reminder, like Isaiah does in the text, that we are part of a creation story that is much bigger than the everyday annoyances or the struggles we face in a particular season. Even in the midst of our own destruction and sometimes selfishness, God finds ways to create the world anew. And, just as we were divinely created, we were called also to create. 

What is a way you create?

In the last week, I’ve talked with many of you about the ways our church has been creating things anew, and how we’ll continue to do that. In the last year, our church has doubled in its regular attendees. We now have about half of our congregation as folks who are local to San Diego, and the other half has never stepped foot in our sanctuary. We’ve done that through using our gifts to make worship interactive, to encourage fellowship beyond the service, and by creating music and liturgy through using our gifts and helping each other to use theirs. 

One of the questions we’ve been asking, in our staff meetings, Missions Committee, our Board, Dinner Church, SPRC, is how we will create some of these same opportunities when we transition back into the building. How will we continue having participation with our people from across the country and world, even if half of us are sharing a physical space? How will we encourage the same kinds of communication and interaction that we can do so easily now through a screen?

These are questions that certainly myself and our staff have some thoughts on, and they’re also questions that need a response from you too. Because when we create together, beautiful things can happen. 

I want us to take just a moment to brainstorm together. What’s an idea of some way we can continue to be in community with both our in-person and digital church family? 

How can we continue to create together?

We don’t do this work of creation alone, and we are better because of it. We create together, so that we can be reminded of the beauty of community. Jesus reminds us that when two or more are gathered, creativity abounds. New ideas are affirmed. Excitement and enthusiasm fill a space. Energy is shared. 

Our creativity, just like we had to do at the beginning of this pandemic last March, is needed now too, and will be needed into the future too. Your participation is a gift, an absolutely essential gift for our church to continue to grow, not just in numbers, but in discipleship. You are needed, because the Body of Christ does not function alone. 

And so, my challenge for you is twofold, just like our text today from Isaiah. First, know that you are divinely created by a God whose power and strength is insurmountable. And second, know that God shares that power through the Holy Spirit to each of us, for us to create beautiful things, even in the most challenging time, knowing we are promised resurrection. 

As you leave this place today, may you know that the God of the heavens and earth created you for a reason. May you trust that you have a divine and holy purpose here and now. May you trust that even in the places that feel most hopeless, there is hope in community, and promise in creation. And may you remember that together, God will renew our strength, and will soar on wings like eagles, as we are promised. 

God of Paradox and Promise, you have created us with your bold strength and wisdom. We thank you for the ways you promise us newness, overcoming, and purpose. Embolden us to continue creating, even in the darkest seasons. In your hope-filled and powerful name we pray, Amen.

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