Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12
- The peaceable kingdom. This is one of my favorite passages from Isaiah. From the Bible really. We need a vision like this today, don't we? How would you describe your vision of peace? What does God's kingdom look like to you? What is your peace-picture?
- "a should shall come out from the stump" - good imagery. After 9/11, I preached on this passage for my preaching class in seminary and visualized what life might come out of the 'stump' - the wreckage of the twin towers and Pentagon. New life coming out of destruction and wreckage. I think we can ask all the time, not just after disaster - what life can come from the destruction we see?
- "He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth." - another good image. Not with a weapon of pain and physical violence, but with words of judgment, words that bring justice and equity to the meek and the poor.
- "the wolf shall live with the lamb" - this is a vision where what was harmful can live in peace, and where, particularly, the defenseless never need to fear again. a threat-free, fear-free place. Today, when we live with fears on so many levels, from so many areas, isn't it wonderful to think about a place where fear does not exist? And note, fear is eliminated with out eliminating the things that used to cause fear. The wolves aren't all killed - they just have come to be at peace with the lambs. Hm.
- Judgment and Justice - To me the word justice is so powerful because of its double meanings. We want to bring criminals to justice, to make sure they get what they deserve in terms of punishment, but we want to bring the oppressed justice, to make sure they get what they deserve: equality, shelter, food, health, etc. I'm reminded of the Newsboys song with the lyrics, "When you get what you don't deserve, it's a real good thing . . . when you don't get what you deserve, it's a real good thing."
- This psalm is written as a sort of call for blessings on a king, perhaps at the beginning of his reign/coronation/special ceremony.
- In my NRSV translation, some of the phrases sound quite demanding of God. "Give the king your justice, O God." Are we willing to demand of God so boldly when we have wants/needs? When is or isn't this appropriate?
- "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things." (emphasis mine) God alone does wondrous things. Surely the psalmist meant his God over other gods of other people. But I read it as God does good wondrous things, not humans. Remember who Creator and who is creation! The good we can do we can do because of God.
- "live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus." Ah, we're not so good with this one, are we?
- and like it, "welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you." How is it that so many perceive the church as so unwelcoming? How can we close so many people out of our walls and not see our behaviors as directly in conflict with the scriptures and with Christ's desires for us? We should be ashamed of ourselves!
- note "the root of Jesse" theme here and in the Isaiah reading.
- John is such a fiery character. His energy, his righteous anger is infectious. Jesus' style is so different, but sometimes I think he need John's anger too - we need to be angered and upset about hypocrisy and false behavior. Jesus and John were family, and their bond is evidenced elsewhere in scripture. I wish we knew more about their relationship. I'm intrigued.
- "God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham." God is God - we can't rest on our claims of connections and heritage. We need to be tied in our own way to God - no excuses will get us around needing to bear our own good fruit.
- Some of these images of the threshing floor, the granary, etc., lose their meaning for us if we don’t understand these processes ourselves. A winnowing fork, for example, was used to toss wheat into the air, where the wind would separate the wheat grain from the light chaff. See this article for more details.