There can be no doubt that God wants his people to be proclaiming comfort. We see that very clearly in the first verses of Isaiah chapter 40. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Isaiah was called on by God to declare a very particular comfort. In the first half of his book, Isaiah told the people of Jerusalem and Judah that God was going to punish them for their sins. They would be taken into captivity. In chapter 39 he told good King Hezekiah that everything he and his ancestors had stored would be taken to Babylon. But now he is called upon by God to proclaim the comfort of restoration. God would not forsake his people but once they had suffered he would bring them back to their home.
While the problems and worries that we face today are different, God still wants his people today to be comforted by the good news Isaiah shares here. The words that start this section are actually commands. Comfort them! Do it! Why? Because the suffering for their sins has been completed. God calls out through these words and implores his people to be comforted by them. The message that God shares in his Holy Word is that the suffering for sin is over. Our Lord says that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The condemnation, the pain, the agony, the death, that our sins demanded, has been completed. We have not experienced such things because Christ did for us. How comfortable can you really be when you know that something very unpleasant is next? How relaxing is a vacation when you know about the horrible project waiting for you at work or at home when you get back? Doesn’t that concern slip into your mind a few times when you are trying to unwind? God does not tell his people here, be comforted, but don’t get too comfortable because you still have punishment ahead. No instead what does he cry out through his word? Comfort. Comfort, that there is no punishment left for sin. It is finished, just as Jesus said it was.
It is important that we have our ears open to these truths for ourselves. We need to be comforted by them often when our sins and failures try to rob us of the comfort that God wants to hear. Others also need this great comfort that God proclaims. There is urgency involved with what God has called us to do. “A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass.” Realize how fleeting our time to work truly is. We and those around us pass away quickly. Perhaps the grass picture is a little bit weak for us because our grass lasts for quite some time. What if we said that all men are like an ice cream cone on a hot July day? Or they are like a firework in the night sky? We cannot afford to wait to share comfort and to hear comfort. We don’t know how long this piece of grass will stand. We don’t know how long those flowers around us will remain. We need to share the comfort that is found here now. There is a reason that God calls on us to bring these good tidings now. To go up on the heights and with a strong voice cry out comfort.
Does this all seem a little dramatic to you? Perhaps you look at that vision statement and say, “Ok, but this sounds like the same thing we have heard before. We should share the truth about Jesus with people around us.” How is this any different? Or maybe you look at that statement, and the sermon theme and think, well, this is a little arrogant. As if somehow we have the comfort that everyone needs. As if here in this simple church building anyone can find comfort. Maybe we aren’t so sure that we want the job. Do I really want to climb up on the mountain tops, or worse yet, update my facebook status and proclaim the comfort God talks about? Are the attempts that we carry out to share comfort a matter of “I guess I have to so I will do this?” That attitude will lead us just far enough that we appear to want to share comfort will all. Will that much really change after today? Will having a vision statement really make that big of a difference? Will we as a congregation really start making decisions that show we are serious about sharing comfort with all people?
The answer is yes. And it’s not because we have such a snappy new vision statement which the vision committee worked hard to come up with. It’s not because we have never heard before that we should share the comfort of Christ’s cross. It’s not because of the efforts that we will put forward to keep this vision before our eyes. It is because of the comfort. Because of the message that God wants us to proclaim. “You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” That’s it. That’s the comfort. Here is your God. That is the only reason why anyone can find comfort here. Because here is your God. This is what we comfort one another with. Here is your God. That is what we comfort those outside of our body with. Here is your God. Here is your God present in his eternal and ever standing word that will not disappear the way we do. Here is your God present to restore you and forgive you no matter what you have done. Here is your God who wants to dwell with you and make you his own dear child. Let’s allow Isaiah to say it his way. Here is your God who comes with a mighty arm, his only begotten Son, to win you back from sin, death, and hell. Here is your God who brings you a reward free and complete through the merit of his Son. Here is your God who will tend you like a shepherd and will gather you in his arms when you are weak and weary. Here is your comfort. If we do not lose sight of this truth, that God is here with us in Word and Sacrament to powerfully work among us, we will not fail to carry out our vision. We will rejoice in this comfort that is ours and share this comfort with all.
My friends, I hope that this vision is something we all get behind. I would also urge you not to limit this vision. Do not for a moment this morning think, this is only about outreach. Obviously, we want to share comfort with those who need it and don’t know it. But guess what? You need comfort. I need comfort. Our vision is to build a ministry together where that comfort is shared. Our visions is that we make decisions in our worship so when you come to this building with a heavy conscience for the sins you have committed, you leave confident that here is your God. He came to you in a public way to forgive you, and he goes with you as he dwells in your heart. Our vision is that you are picked up when you fall by loving brothers and sisters who love you like Jesus does. Who love you enough to point out your sin so that they can point out again what God did about it. Our vision means that when I grow frustrated you will share comfort with me and I share comfort with you when you are weary. Together we will rejoice in God’s promise that our work to share his comfort is never in vain.
Do not think for a moment that this vision is only about evangelism. Didn’t I just say that? There’s a difference between outreach and evangelism. If anyone here this morning is thinking, “Well it is a nice vision, but I am petrified to talk to other about Jesus. Or I just don’t seem to have the chance.” Don’t give up on that, but don’t think you have to be an evangelist to share comfort with all for now and eternity. Recognize what opportunities you do have in your own unique callings. As you go through your life as a mother or father, a son or daughter, an employer or employee, a neighbor or friend, a retiree or a third grader, realize that you have a chance to share God’s comfort by loving your neighbor in whatever manner presents itself. You are God’s mask as you decide I am going take every opportunity to love my neighbor as I work at this seemingly unglamorous job. I am going to show love for my neighbor by changing this diaper. I am going to love my neighbor by working hard to protect the part of his business that he entrusted to me. This vision is for every single person here, even if you might not proclaim comfort from the mountain tops, you will share it with your love.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoice with me that here is comfort. Here our God comes to us to forgive sin and proclaim that our punishment is paid. Here our God comforts us with his gracious gifts and mercies. We can be certain that we are equipped to carry out this vision, because we have God’s comfort. We share with one another that which God shared with us. But the comfort that we share is not limited to this building either. As we each go our own ways for another week’s time, God is scattering his body back into the world. We each have unique ways that we can share God’s comfort for now and eternity. Go with this vision before your eyes. I will share God’s comfort with all, those who have heard it before and those who haven’t. I will share God’s comfort with all as I proclaim in word and action, “Here is your God!” Amen.