Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls
We are thrilled to welcome the writing of Rev. Dr. B. Kevin Smalls for the Preaching Notes for this worship series. Dr. Smalls is senior pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Michigan, and an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Click here to read more about Dr. Smalls.
We turn to Isaiah this week. He doesn’t waste any time getting right into the matter. Prophecy is one of those preaching styles we want to hear occasionally. There is a fear that we wear the people down with our constant insistence to do good. The consequences are severe, however. There really is no time to waste. Prophecy is urgent. It is disturbing, and it makes no room for devotional coziness. We are thrust in feeling the judgment of God on the one hand and seeing, often against our will, the decay so very much present around us.
The judgment we encounter today is not different from the judgment extended to any other community that forgot God and turned away. This judgment is similar to the others when it comes to injustice, classism, and ill treatment of the poor.
This judgment requires strict notice, for three primary things will take place: The country will lay desolate, the cities will be burned with fire, and strangers will devour the land. To lay desolate is to be void of not just essentials, but of life, joy and peace. The country may be huge, but the common health of its individual citizens is what gives it strength. Once a nation loses its sight of the health and welfare of its inhabitants, the country will run short of its ability to sustain itself. Cities often erupt with protests and/or riots.
To do the prophetic work is to engage in the ministry of warning. Might there be any need of warning today that emerges from pulpits across the world? We can no longer pretend that God is not concerned about the social, political, economic, and theological instability in the world. No longer can we pretend that the gospel is for the individual and not for the community, the city, the nation, and the world. No longer can we pretend that God has turned a blind eye to those who are “the least among us.”
Sometimes, being a prophet in the margins is to be a prophet boldly leading from the center.
What is our warning this day? What has God pushed us into the center to say? If we get stuck answering this question, worry not. There is a prophet who can help us.
“If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (verses 19-20).
And now, so must ours.