Do you remember playing that game as a child where you lineup and whisper into the 1st person’s ear some little secret? You might start by whispering in someone’s ear that I prefer vanilla Ice cream to chocolate. And by the time it gets through 10 kids of any age or adults, They’re either gonna be aghast because who prefers vanilla to chocolate or they’ve decided you said I like to write with a green Crayon. It’s a wild game.
It teaches us to be suspicious of the things that we hear sometimes, even the things that others say. It teaches us how quickly the truth can be lost in the middle of a story. And you might hear that I draw with a green Crayon and you’re like that must be true.
Stories have been passed down through us to us through years and centuries and languages. News comes to us through layers and layers of people trying to understand what is happening in the world around them through people and time and distance. And we know that people tell stories from perspectives with opinions and ideas. If it comes from a position of political or military power we call it propaganda, Stories and rumors meant to convince a population to have a particular idea or to make them respond in a particular way.
This part of Isaiah is written about the same time as Micah last week: before the fall of Jerusalem, the 4 their exile into Babylon but after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. Assyria has destroyed the northern kingdom, has marched down and around into Judah Destroying cities and towns and villages along the way and it’s trying to figure out how not to have to go into a battle with the city of.
The king of Assyria sent from their latest conquest his commander to speak to the people in their own language. Because if you don’t want to go to war with a particular city you convince them to surrender or you find a way to tear them apart from the inside and to tell them what they should believe about their God, their king, and Assyria.
He said, “Your God can’t save you because your God couldn’t save Israel and no God seemed to be able to compete against Our king. Your king Hezakiah can’t save you, There’s nothing he can do to fix this. The land of Assyria will be just like the land here. Just give up.” And I have to imagine that there were some who were saying I heard what happened down the road and I don’t want to give them what they want. There are some who are saying maybe it’s true what they’re saying about God. And there are some who are saying our kings have not really been the best. they have broken the law, they have forgotten about the people, they’ve let all of these other people suffer Well they maintained their wealth and power and privilege. Maybe they said these things to each other, whispered them in the market, debated them in their homes. Maybe these ideas were actually beginning to spread.
In another time, there was a man in a small town who went around slandering a minister. One day, feeling bad about what he had done and wanting to make things right, he went to the minister to ask for forgiveness.
“Take a pillow to the centre of the town square,” said the minister, “cut it up and shake out the feathers.”
The man did as he was told and then he returned to the minister hoping to now be forgiven.
“First,” said the minister, “go collect all the feathers.”
“But that’s impossible,” said the man. “They’ve gone everywhere, all over the town.”
“It is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover all the feathers,” said the minister.
And if someone says those things enough and if you hear them from enough places you start to think that they are true. When it spreads, nothing can be put back as it once had been.
We see on a national level propaganda from within and from without, to tell us we’ve never been more divided or that this group of people hates them or this group of people hates them and it just gets repeated and repeated We sit on a national level when there are voices coming from the outside to tell us we’ve never been more divided or that this group of people hates them or this group of people hates them and it just gets repeated and repeated. And it’s online and on the Internet and on the news so it must be true. And over time their voices, their opinions, tend to come out of our voices and our mouths too.
We can see it at a church community level: There are rumors of what it means to be church. There are voices that tell folks to be church or a Christian, you must believe in these 15 things, exactly. To be the right kind of Church we have to have the “right” music or wear you a fancy hat church or never wear jeans or only wear casual clothes.
And there are voices that come in from the outside and try to tell us who we are as small communities or families or individuals. Did you know that there is a 5 to 1 ratio for negative words or experiences? For every one negative experience or negative words it takes 5 positive ones to negate that one. It’s what matters so much how we speak to our children because you know you’ve experienced it. When someone says something negative to you and how it rolls around in your head for days or weeks maybe years. And until their voice becomes your voice.
There is a musical called [title of show]. It is about the creative process of putting together a Broadway show. One of the songs is called die vampire die. In it they talk about the vampires that come into your life While you’re working on your creative process. The 1st type of vampire is the one that tells you you’re not really good enough that other people have written better musicals long before you and they just pick away at your Confidence. But those people that come into your life and tell you that you can tell him to Die Vampire Die and to just send them away sometimes It’s that easy. The 2nd type of vampire is the one that just wants to clean up all of your work so that it’s just really nice and has no bad language in it which is exactly the reason why I’m not gonna play the whole song for you.
As always there is a distinction of voices that repeat in our heads and despair that are diagnosable and need to be cared for by professionals and the ones that are part of our lives. How often is there some voice that tells us we aren’t good enough, we aren’t worthy, we are unlovable. How often do those words come in the voice of someone who loves us whom we love sometimes even our own. Like a rumor told casually that can wreak havoc in our communities, they can wreak havoc in ourselves, floating around, trying to convince us of who we are.
Today is Christ the King Sunday or the Reign of Christ and it marks the end of the Christian liturgical year as we turn to Advent. But Christ the King is holy day that is not yet 100 years old, named and started by Pope Pius the 11th in 1925. Mussolini had risen to power, the Romanovs had been assassinated, Hitler had published Mein Kampf. He watched as leaders were rising up to put themselves first, to be the ones who defined the narrative of who a nation and who its people were. Christ the King is a response to authoritarians, to fascism, to remind the church that we are to put Christ, listen to Christ first.
The voice of the prophet to the people of Judah was to not believe the rumors and the voices coming from the outside, but to rest in the foundation that God has laid and being called beloved, a light to the nations, to be called peace to be those who beat their swords into plowshares.
God is calling out to you, to me, to all of us, to tell us who we are. Beloved children, Image of God, God bearers. We are loved, made to love and be loved. You are enough, equipped to live into your call, to bring good news, to be love.
We read it in scripture that tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, that we need to love ourselves! We read that we were made good. That even we are called to be people who beat swords into plowshares. We are called to be of the work of caring for each other, of the day to day living of life, gathering food and sharing it. We have enough.
What do you learn in scripture or in prayer about who you are? What do you learn in our songs and in our teaching about who we are? What is our call and purpose in this world? If you have heard, if you believe, if you are being convinced by the rumors of the world, of the voices that speak of failure, worry, anxiety, fear, division, weed through those, and find the voice of God, creator of the universe and maker of you who calls you Beloved. Hold on to that. Repeat that. Let us change the voices to ones of God who calls you love, beloved, enough, who brings peace and purpose. May that give you the courage to be of the living of each day, living in a way that brings life, breaks through the rumors and tells the story of God, of life and belovedness to the world.
When you came in, you were given a feather. Carry your feather with you this week, may it be a reminder of how quickly negativity can spread, and may it be a challenge to change the narrative, to speak hope and life and love into a world filled with other voices.