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PAUL BURKHART

SERMON: ISAIAH 60.1-3


DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN

TEXTS: Isaiah 60.1-3

60 Arise, shine; for your light has come,


and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
2
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
3
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Prayer for Illumination:
Lord God, we come today from so many places. We live suspended in light
and darkness. Meet us in the dark, be our light. And lead us into new ways of
seeing and being in the world. AMEN.

Outline:
Intro: Tree of Life, this need context. My struggle. Intellectualize. Poetry. Sit
with it. Context.
THE LIGHT: (a) Arise, Shine: Command. Eden. Tree. Eat!, Good
commands, Hard Work, not without reason
(b) for your light has come: Remember historical context, your, Creation,
Glory-Weight, Apologetic

THE DARK: (a) For darkness: geographic darkness-it has dignity and
purpose. Lacrimosa, Creation, Two poets Poets. BUT, it can feel like home.
What comes up for you?
(b) but the Lord: Butt joke, most beautiful words in the Bible. The
hardest? Will. Theres a weird tension of time in this. Except Jesus:
Hopkins. Zion Dawn.

THE GLORY: [whole thing]: Political, societal, ethnic implications.


Attractional ministry? Centripetal vs. Centrifugal
Application: (a) Arise: Take stock, Advent, New year, real changes, DO
something, silence podcasts
(b) Shine: For the sake of (v2a), Rupi poem, give, serve
(c) Behold: little lights, Peter Yoder, grandfather
SERMON
Intro: Tree of Life
Intro: Tree of Life, this need context. My struggle. Intellectualize.
Poetry. Sit with it. Context.

My favorite movie of all-time is Terrence Malicks 2011 film Tree of Life. Its
an amazing movie, and I could talk about it for hours. When people ask me
what its about, I tell them its about everything and nothing, all at once. Its
about the biggest, deepest, most transcendent truths and the most mundane
of human moments and pains. When I was looking it up to see the date it
came out, I saw Wikipedia calls it an American experimental epic drama
film. So yeah. If you want some insight into the way my brain works, there it
is.

Anyway, the movies plot is pretty straightforward. It follows the life of a


family in Waco, TX in the 50s after their youngest son dies. I thought of this
movie when I was sitting with our text today because, in the same way, our
text seems pretty straightforward, right? Gods bringing light into a dark
world.

Favorite movie. Meet a family in crisis. Questions about God. The way the
answers are offered is by moving to the beginning of all history and retelling
the story. We will do the same today in order to understand these verses and
the present and future it describes.

Intellect & Poetry

Been trying to over intellectualize this. Home group reminded me. Poetry, Sit
with it. Just important about what is arising out of the text is what is arising
out of us. So lets see what was arising out of them.

Our Text: Exile, Then and Now


Most scholars tell us that the book of Isaiah is separated into three very
distinct parts. The first part consists of a series of historical episode in which
God, through his prophet offers warnings to his people and their leaders
about the judgment, struggle, and strife in store for them, should they not
live lives of justice and righteousness. Well, they dont change their ways, so
the judgment and strife comes in the form of conquest and Exile at the
hands of foreign rulers. The second part of the book is believed to be written
to the people while they are in the midst of this. This middle section has
some of the most beautiful and sweeping words of encouragement, comfort,
and promise in the entire Bible. God gives his people profound promises for
blessing and deliverance. He promises them a return to their land, a rebuilt
temple, a re-gathered people, and a new beginning of Gods people in and
for the rest of the world.
And sure enough, God delivers on these promises. The Persians come
in and conquer the Babylonians, allowing the Israelites to return and rebuild
their community. Technically, the full promises and blessings of God have
been secured and given to the people. And yetits still not quite right. They
are no longer in Exile, and yet most Israelites still live scattered around the
world. They have their freedom and deliverance, yet every nation around
them wants to destroy them. The land is theres, yet they have to get
permission from a Persian monarch any time they want to do anything. They
rebuild the temple, and yet those that remember the former temple weep
and mourn because this new one is a mere shadow of what the former one
was.
God delivered on his promises, and yet it wasnt quite as glimmering
as it had seemed when he first promised it. God had given his people all the
blessing, but they werent experiencing it. Perhaps you can relate. [add
examples]

That is where our text fits in. Thats whats going on and is in the
minds of everyone.
Verse 1: The Light
V1: (a) Arise, Shine: Command. Eden. Tree. Eat!, Good
commands, Hard Work, not without reason
(b) for your light has come: Remember historical context,
Creation, your, Glory Weight, Apologetic

Creation
Light and Dark, part of Creation. Creation out of Darkness. It is good.
Darkness itself is chaos; nothingness. But darkness separated from and in
service to light is good.

Quick apologetic
Christian faith is the light through which/by which we see the world, not
impose it upon the world. It makes more sense from the inside than the
outside. It is not a separate reality, but an illuminated one.

Verse 2a: The Darkness

V2: (a) For darkness: Geographic darkness-it has dignity and


purpose. Lacrimosa, Creation, Two poets Poets. What comes up for
you?
Darkness is part of the story, part of the plan. The story of redemption,
Creation, and God at work among us is a story moving from darkness to
light. Darkness gives birth to light.

Two poets
Two poets on Darkness and what we find in it. First, the Psalmist.

If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me,


and the light around me become night,
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
--Psalm 139

Second, Jay-Z, whos birthday is today and has a song named after this day:

Now I'm just scratching the surface


Cause what's buried under there
Was a kid torn apart once his pop disappeared
I went to school, got good grades, could behave when I
wanted
But I had demons deep inside
That would raise when confronted...

And "trust" is a word you seldom hear from us


And the drought will define a man when the well dries
up
You learn the worth of water without work
You thirst and thirst 'til you die fist up!
--Jay-Z, December 4, The Black Album

The darkness brings up demons. But as the Psalmist says, it is a luminous


darkness, infused with Gods presence. It is a time of learning what we thirst
for, and what is costs us. What water do we seek in this desert of darkness?
What will we thirst and thirst for until we die?

Verse 2b: The Glory


but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
(b) but the Lord: Butt joke, most beautiful words in the Bible.
The hardest? Will. Theres a weird tension of time in this. Except
Jesus: Hopkins. Zion Dawn.

The future invading the present.

Jesus turn

We can trust this promise because it is not just something in the future. A
down-payment has been made in the past.

Like the most expensive Christmas gift, our future is on lay-away.

Moonless darkness stands between.


Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethelehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas Day.
--Gerard Manley Hopkins, Moonless darkness

Verse 3 Application: The Mission & The Dawn


Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

V3: [whole thing]: Political, societal, ethnic implications.


Attractional ministry? Centripetal vs. Centrifugal
Application: (a) Arise: Take stock, Advent, New year, real changes,
DO something, silence podcasts
(b) Shine: For the sake of (v2a), rupi poem, give, serve dark can
be home
(c) Behold: little lights, Peter Yoder, grandfather

Indian-feminist advocate and poet, Rupi Kaur. After writing poem after poem
about sexual violence against women and the deep trauma and distrust and
loss that come from that, there comes this little piece of light:
you look at me and cry
everything hurts

I hold you and whisper


but everything can heal
--rupi kaur

This is what we offer the world. Enter into the darkness of yourself and
others and society. Take hold of it as God has taken hold of you. And bring
the light of God. How?

Second, press into the darkness. Look for the little lights.

Precisely because she hopes with joy for the dawn of


the great light, that she hopes with provisional joy for
the little lights, which may come and go, but which will
not come and go in vain.

These little lights act as temporary illuminations that


can help the Christian to look and move more properly
towards that which they can only point to, but which in
their proper time and place can in fact actually
represent to us!
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV.3.2, p.938 (edited for clarity)

Conclusion
God brings Light alongside the Darkness, and in it we become
ourselves in the deepest and truest way. Light and Dark exist in the same
world, and in the same souls. All we can do is find ourselves in the
Nothingness, in the Gaze of our Beloved God.
This Advent, we meditate on a God who descended to the Darkness,
the Nothingness, so that dawn might break in our lives and the world, and he
could shine his glory upon us and invite us to arise into the light of his love.
So embrace the tension of the luminous darkness in the world and our
souls, confident that the light of Christ will draw us all the more deeply into
himself, our truest selves, and into the world itself.
So Liberti Church, may you do unto others as you would have
them do to us. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit. AMEN.