A sermon for the start of
Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10, Luke 18:9-14
“How beautiful on
the mountains are the feet
of those who bring good news” (Isa 52:7)
Today is the start of One World Week -
a time when we are encouraged to reflect
on the richness and diversity of our one shared world
and all its people –
and to strive for unity whilst celebrating its diversity.
This year we are particularly asked to think about
the image of all God’s people on the move in a shared journey -
with many different feet
of different shapes, sizes and nationalities
on the move together.
Just think for a moment, will you, about
the amazing diversity of feet which make up the human race
is just part of a One World Week meditation:
“Let us be loving people, following your example,
loving [all people] from head to foot -.
the feet of the baby – curling, tender feet, easy to love.
the feet of the sportsperson,
toughened, vigorous, athletic,
the feet of the homeless man,
walking cold across the pavement to find shelter tonight,
the feet of the lover,
stroking and tickling their way into someone’s affections
the feet of the prostitute, tramping the street,
exhausted with the hurt of loveless love,
the painful feet of one with arthrirtis, moving with difficulty,
the cold feet of the spouse or partner,
as the duvet disappears to the other side of the bed again.
the pampered feet of the wealthy woman,
the paddling feet of the family on holiday,
the bare feet of the slum child,
the trudging feet of the refugee…..
[adapted from OWW Worship Resource Book 2004]
And so it goes on -
So many different shapes and sizes of feet -
everyone given by God, everyone loved by God,
everyone there to be used by God.
Do you know the
old saying -
”Before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes.
Then, when you do criticize them,
you will be a mile away and have their shoes.”
Well there is some truth there –
we should learn to stand where others stand,
and walk where they walk –
not walking away from them, but walking with them -
God calls us to love and care for and value
not just PLUs – people like us – but the whole human race.
Think for a moment about that
often motely, sometimes bizarre, always amazing,
collection of feet which make up the human race
And when you come to feet you can’t love and care
go in your imagination to the Upper Room,
and see our Lord gently washing every foot,
and learn what it is to follow Christ.
Let’s turn to our text today from Isaiah -
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet
of those who bring good news” (Isa 52:7)
Our text might seem to imply that only beautiful people
need apply for God’s work – “How beautiful are the feet …”
– Does this mean that only the Naomi Campbells of this world,
the beautiful people on 4” catwalk heels,
are only these called to God’s work?
is to misunderstand the Hebrew idiom.
The beauty is not in the toes and the heel and the ankle,
but in what the feet do.
isn’t an English equivalent,
but the nearest we have is a phrase like
“How delightful of you to come” –
the beauty and the delight are really found
not in the anatomy or the shape of the foot,
but in the activity – what the foot does.
This passage is written by an unknown author –
we call him Second Isaiah or Deutero-Isaiah – he wrote Isa 40-55.
He probably lived with the Jewish exiles in Babylon -
But here he imagines himself back in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is a wilderness –
it has been destroyed by the Babylonians,
there are just a few rough sleepers left amidst the rubble -
but as they look out to the hills around the ruined city,
there the people see first the heads of a group of men –
then as they rise up higher, they see their bodies –
then as they come over the crest of the hill, their feet -
and the watchers in the ruins recognize who these people are –
they are from Babylon – they are exiles on the way back –
what a beautiful sight -
God’s rule of justice and peace is being restored before their eyes!!
The message for us today is a simple one.
The world is full of waste and barren places,
where there is no peace and no justice.
As a human race we have to get to our feet
and do beautiful things for God.
itself remains to this day a place of violence –
violence of suicide bombers attacking Jerusalem,
and the violence of the Israeli state
perpetrated against the Palestinian people.
In Christ we are called to bring peace and love and
to waste places such as this –
and not only to the ancient city of Jerusalem
but also to the West Bank,
not only to the Middle East but to the whole world.
Our vision, of course, is far far
greater even than the OT prophets –
they simply envisaged God’s rule re-established in the earthly Jerusalem –
Our vision is of a new Jerusalem -
but no longer limited to the geopolitical aspirations of one nation,
the People of Israel.
Rather our vision is of the “Blessed City, heavenly
a Heavenly Jerusalem mirrored in One World living in justice and peace -
“Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”.
And how does God bring justice and peace
to a broken and desolate world?
By using the hands and feet of his people.
you recall the Prayer of St Teresa of Avila –
Lord Christ, You have no body on earth but ours,
No hands but ours,
No feet but ours.
Ours are the eyes through which your compassion
Must look out on the world.
Ours are the feet by which you may still
Go about doing good.
Ours are the hands with which You bless people now.
Bless our minds and bodies,
That we may be a blessing to others.
So we have a choice –
Sit and do nothing, or put our best foot forward for the Lord…
One of the most famous of the 19th
Christian Missionaries to China was called Hudson Taylor.
One day when Taylor was in the UK,
a man called George Scott came to see him
and offered to go as a Missionary to China.
George Scott was a school teacher. He also had only one leg.
Taylor said to him -
"With only one leg, why do you think of going as a missionary?".
"I do not see those with two legs going," replied Scott.
He was accepted.
Quoted in Pillar of Fire, January First, 1983.
One leg or two, beautiful and elegant feet or less
The only question is –
when we hear the call to march for justice and peace and God’s Kingdom,
do we leave it to others, or put our best foot forward –
even if we only have one foot!?
And even if we are like the late Christopher Reeve,
even if we have lost the physical power in both feet –
that can still be the start of a journey rather than the end.
Have you ever written a letter to God?
came across this one the other day -
I don’t know who wrote it,
perhaps it is your letter – or could be?
It goes like this:
I am writing to thank and praise you yet again
for the extraordinary vision
which you have made so clear to us in recent weeks.
Your challenge to be come a movement
that will change our world for good
is still burning in my veins.
As you suggested,
I have discussed your call at our recent church meeting.
Here are the results:
There are 97 members in our church,
but 34 said they were either too young or two old for this
sort of thing.
That leaves 63 to get involved,
but 29 said they do enough for the church already.
That leaves 34 to get involved,
but 18 said they didn’t like to make a fuss.
That leaves 16 to get involved,
but 9 are sure that someone else would do it better.
That leaves 7 to get involved,
but 6 said they wouldn’t know what to do.
So that leaves me.
Where do we start?
Your loving servant.
[From OWW Worship Resource Book 2004]
mind the rest – just ask God
“What do you want me to do?”
and get going.
who knows what God cannot do
with one person walking in his way.
you in different parts of this building
there are the greater part of 200 of us here today -
if we could all say that, and we could all start marching for the Lord
why then what a vision we should see -
hands can't tear a prison down
Two men's hands can't tear a prison down
But if two and two and fifty make a million
We'll see that day come round
We'll see that day come round….”
Or, changing the tune:
a mighty army
moves the Church of God,
Brothers we are treading
where the saints heave trod….
There are folk out there in
trouble and crisis -
they think God has forgotten them and their life is in ruins.
People in need of the good news of the Gospel.
Maybe (like those we are supporting through Farm
they need a goat
Maybe they need economic justice
Maybe they need someone to help them rebuild the
ruins of their city,
or their life, or their relationships
Maybe they just need someone to walk up to them and
and give them honour and respect and above all love
And all those folk in trouble and crisis,
Each day they look for a sign of God’s new dawning.
Well, the old African proverb says
“The longest journey starts with a single step”
Let us put our best foot forward and head for them –
And oh that it might be you and me
that they see coming on the mountains.
And oh that they might praise the Lord
as they see us
”How beautiful … are the feet of those who bring good news”!