Isaiah 65:17-25 Luke 21:5-19
How many of you can wink? Would you turn to your neighbors on each side and give them a wink? Thanks! A wink is a special thing. I didn’t learn how to do it until I was in college—AFTER a disastrous loss in a ping-pong tournament. I was facing a pretty blonde who winked at me just before she served the ball—and I was unable to return her serves! So, I set myself to learn how to wink, and it’s come in pretty handy!
A wink can say volumes, and it does it silently. It conveys to the receiver an instant connection—and says to them, “You and I have a secret understanding.” A wink can diffuse tension when communication is getting bogged down, or when a bit of teasing has gone on long enough. Only a nanosecond is required to convey goodwill and good humor with a wink. I like winks!
There’s a book entitled When God Winks at You, written by SQuire Rushnell. It’s filled with amazing coincidences–what he calls “Godwinks.” The story I’m going to tell you came from the October 2006 issue of Guideposts Magazine. I think you’ll see that this one’s definitely a “Godwink”!
Stasia Kelly was the daughter of a famous clown, Emmett Kelly. He was famous for his character, Weary Willie, the first clown who always wore a frown! He is described as “a rumpled, sad-sack figure, beaten down by the world; Everyman on a life-long losing streak.” In the 1940’s, the sad clown had become a big hit in the Ringling Brothers Circus. People cared about Willie and his struggles. They saw that no matter how hard he took it on the chin, Willie never gave up. And, even though he never smiled, he brought smiles to many thousands of people!
Stasia Kelly had boarded a plane to go to her father’s funeral. She sat, staring out the window, grateful for her dad but crushed by grief. She couldn’t resist pulling an old newspaper clipping out of her purse. The photo was captioned, “The Day Weary Willie Smiled,” and it shows him on a pay phone with a big grin on his face. He was smiling because he had just received news that Stasia had been born, and a photographer happened to catch that smile! As Stasia wiped away a tear, the man sitting next to her said, “Excuse me…that photo.” “My dad, Emmett Kelly. He died today. But this is from the day I was born…” He replied, “I know, Stasia. I know. I was there. I’ve never seen a man so happy. I just had to snap that picture!”
The photographer, Frank Beatty, the one who took the photo of her father on that happy day, became a friend and mentor to Stasia. He even took the photographs at her wedding! Can’t you see God winking as he set up that “coincidence” of these two sitting next to each other on the plane?!
When my dad was still painting, he did a watercolor for me, and my mom wrote these words on it with her calligraphy pen: “Be at peace and see a clear Pattern and Plan running through all your life. Nothing is by chance.” In other words, God is at work. Open your eyes to God’s work! Friends, as we get ourselves ready for Thanksgiving, we would do well to focus our attention, to develop an eye for God’s work.
Our Scriptures for today make reference to the fact that God is at work. In Isaiah, we hear that God is doing a new thing, creating a new world—and Isaiah is calling God’s people to see what God is doing. And in Luke, Jesus tells his disciples that what they see today is not necessarily what will be tomorrow, because God is at work—so Jesus urges us to be ready for the NEW things that God is doing! Let’s take a look.
The New Jerusalem
Through Isaiah, God is telling us that the work of CREATION continues!
In the creation story in Genesis, God does the creating, then finishes, then rests. But God’s creating process is still going! There is an ongoing process of re-creation. Think about what happens with your garden:
- There is planting in the spring;
- There is a season of growth;
- There is a time of harvest;
- Then the garden is “put to bed”;
- There is a time of decay and nothing visibly happening;
- Spring returns!
What God says through Isaiah is very similar. “I am about to re-create Jerusalem as a JOY.” “I will rejoice in it.” Isaiah continues the prophecies of Jeremiah, Joel, & Haggai by talking about 1. The former glory; 2. The current devastation; 3. And the future glory. Then, in very poetic terms, the new world is described: The Wolf and the Lamb will get along; the Lion will eat straw like the Ox; the Serpent shall eat dust; “They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.”
In essence, Isaiah is saying, “Be prepared for something different— God is at work!”
The Illusion of Now
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus seems to be challenging our perceptions of reality, trying to get us to see things differently. Keep in mind that most of his Disciples were “country bumpkins” and the Temple was awe-inspiring to them. It was huge and beautiful, and was the symbol of Judaism and of all Israel. It appeared to be solid, invulnerable, and permanent. But Jesus told them, quite matter-of-factly, “The days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” And, just as Jesus prophesied, the Temple was destroyed, torn down stone by stone in 70 AD, in response to a Judean rebellion. Today, all that’s left of the Temple is the foundation, commonly known as “The Wailing Wall.”
What Jesus is trying to say is “Don’t let the illusion of now blind you to what God is doing.” You see, things that seem permanent are not so. Part of the re-creation process is CHAOS, but God will take care of us through the coming chaos. You and I must be aware (and stay aware) that God will guide us. This means that we keep our eyes open for what God is doing in our midst, and not be alarmed by the changes happening around us. You and I can keep our eyes peeled for those “Godwinks” that are simple reminders that 1. God is for us! 2. God has a plan. Of course, there are those who don’t see what God is doing; but others expect God’s action and anticipate benevolent outcomes! These are the folks who “catch the wink!”
November is a month that many folks focus on Giving Thanks. We see reminders from Paul, like “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Giving thanks in all situations is not easy, but in the middle of difficult times, anyone can stop and focus on how God has blessed them. One family was having financial difficulties—groceries were running out—but they decided to simply focus on God’s blessings. No one in their neighborhood knew about their struggles, but some neighbors brought over several packages of beef! A friend of theirs got a huge wheel of cheese from his brother, and gave a large CHUNK of it to them. This was God’s wink to them: “Things are going to be okay!”
Here’s what happens when we decide to give thanks (perhaps in spite of our struggles, our difficulties):
- It takes our focus off what’s missing, or what’s wrong;
- We discover that a thankful heart doesn’t have much room for fear;
- It’s an Act of the Will to thank God for the future that God is in the process of creating, to ask God for guidance into that future.
Eugene Peterson was a well-known pastor, author, and teacher. He confessed that all his messages boiled down to just ONE message:
God loves you.
God is on your side.
He is coming after you.
He is relentless.
Friends, Jesus calls us to follow. He does not promise that life will be easy as we follow, but he DOES promise that life will be GOOD! As we follow, we can keep our eyes peeled for “God’s winks”—perceiving God’s good will and good humor as we see these little reminders of God’s constant care! Maybe you can try this: just close one eye as you look at your situation—and you might just catch a wink yourself.