Don’t Make Me Come Down There

This sermon, from December 7, 2008, will be posted in three installments.  Dr. Buchanan was eager to share it on Hold to the Good as we make our way through this busy and sometimes chaotic season. May it help you to find a few moments of peace and serve as a timely reminder of that which is most dear.

Don’t Make Me Come Down There
December 7, 2008 
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down”
Isaiah 64:1 (NRSV)

 

What is it that we are essentially doing in this
building? The immediate answer is that
we are worshipping God here. We are trying to
speak to God here and to speak about God.
We are trying to listen for God. We are searching
for something of God’s peace. But deep beneath
all of this, in our innermost hearts, I think
we are doing something else… I think we are
waiting… waiting for the advent of light…
If we take the words of Jesus as seriously
As he asks us to take them, then the realest,
truest, most authentic thing we can do as
Christians is to wait – to wait with passion,
to wait with hope.
 
Frederick Buechner
Secrets in the Dark

 

With generation before us, we wait for your coming, O God.
We wait for your intercession from the eternal to the now,
we wait for the birth, we wait for Christmas.
Keep us watchful and alert, so we don’t miss signs
of your kingdom, which is always coming
into the life of the world and into our lives:
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 

The refrigerator door has become a bulletin board, photo album, a repository of family memorabilia, political preference, and general folk wisdom. In our kitchen, my very favorite refrigerator magnet is solid black with small, white block letters that say  “‘DON’T MAKE ME COME DOWN THERE’—GOD.”  Parents used to say that mild threat when children became unruly downstairs, upstairs, wherever. It was given to me by a now-adult daughter who claims to have heard me—and her mother, but mostly me—say that a lot. “Don’t make me come down there.” Or a variation on the theme when driving down the Interstate with five children in the back of a nine-passenger station wagon, in those simple but dangerous days before infant and children’s car seats, which keep them strapped in and safe, looking for all the world like tiny astronauts about to be blasted into space, when instead they were rolling around in the back in unrestrained freedom, playing, wrestling. One time I recall an actual football game played on knees, with them finally protecting their own small turf with ferocity. “He’s touching me”, “She touched me first!” “Don’t make me pull over and come back there.” The one who gave it to me ruefully admits that she has said it herself. It’s my favorite refrigerator magnet. “’Don’t make me come down there.’—God”

And it is, of course, a perfect foil for our text this morning, Isaiah 64:1.

    O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
           so that the mountains would quake at your presence.
 

That text comes around every three years in the Lectionary in Advent, and every time I read it I think about my good friend, Walter Bouman, Professor of Theology at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.  Walt, a big jolly bear of a man with a wonderful wit, introduced a sermon on Isaiah 64 with a selection from a little book, Children’s Letter to God. So every few Advents or so I read Isaiah 64, think about Walt, go to the shelf, and pull down Children’s Letters to God and get hooked.

Dear God,
Are you really invisible or is that just a trick?
Lucy
 
Dear God,
Is Reverend Coe a friend of yours or do you just know him through business?
Dorothy
 
Dear God,
Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.
Joyce
 
Dear God,
Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each (other)so much if they had their own room.
It works with my brother.
Larry
 

These are from a new collection; Walt’s is from the original:

Dear God,
Are you real? Some people don’t believe it. If you are, you’d better do something
quick.
Love, Harriet Anne
 

It’s the oldest, most authentic, truest prayer in human history:

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence…
–to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
 

“If you are real, you’d better do something quick,” Harriet Anne put it.

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