Vision of Possibility

Isaiah 11: 1-10

I worry: 

Voice 1:

I worry. I worry about my children.  Did I do a good enough job?”

Voice 2: “I worry.  I worry about being alone.  Is anyone out there?”

Voice 3: “I worry. I worry about the repairs my car needs.  How am I going to pay for it all?” 

Voice 4: “I worry  I worry about our children and our grand children.  So much more to worry about than when I was a kid.” 

As if there is not enough to worry about?  I turn to the news—just this week, and we have priests and children, polarized politicians, people screaming about health care…or no health care…I wonder what Justin Bieber is up to this week? 

We are surrounded by a message of fear.  Economics—will there be enough?  Climate—is it too late?  Food—I worry as we read and watch the Hunger Games, while finding entertainment we are missing the point that we identify more as the Capital than the hero as a real life hunger games is happening in the world.

 And if you want to lose all hope, scan the comments section on any controversial article.  We are more connected than ever, and ironically this also has us more disconnected.  Autonomy and anonymity—it feeds the beast.  The predator in us grows. 

 If we are honest with ourselves, the lion and the lamb reside in each one of us.  When we react and pounce, wish the words didn’t come out the way they did…the lion is fed.  And we know the receiving end, the hurt from another—and we identify with the lamb. 

 There is the old Cherokee story of the two wolves. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

 

We come here—hungry.  Thirsty.  Seeking, longing, and hoping.  We want something different.  In this time of waiting—we anticipate something new.  We sing wanting Holy Nights and Goodwill and Peace for all. 

And may we find comfort.  Comfort in an ancient text—in a time where people said—don’t read the comments section.  And to these people, Isaiah prophesied,A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.” And to us, we receive the good news that a shoo shall call from the stump of Jesse. 

That God’s judgment is not disembodied from God’s righteousness.  Another translation for ‘righteousness’ is restorative justice.  That this stump, this remnant, that what remains from the great oak—receives new life.  That chainsaws—cutting down brings life.  A new shoot-then branches.  Later we find in Isaiah 61 a vision of great oak trees.  Imagine.  New life as promised.  This new live comes to us in an advent tree that has lines that go back through David.  This family tree—this Davidic line—this stump of Jesse is life. 

We wait looking forward to new birth.  As we wrestle with the complexities of the lions and lambs, this new birth is also complex with wisdom paired with understanding, and counsel paired with might, and knowledge paired with reverence. 

It is through this Davidic line that we await the innocence of a child.  When all seems hopeless—long lay the world, in sin and error pining, ‘till he appeared and the soul felt his worth.  May our anticipation only heighten the wonder and surprise in a marvelous story of a little child—you can’t make this stuff up—of God re-interpreting power.  Power where we find wolf and lamb together.  This is hope found in waiting, from God initiated in Christ.  God brings hope. 

Hope that is something to look forward to.  Hope and faith that is from God, and transforms us into something new. 

What are our threats?  Immediate? Personal? 

 A little child shall guide us.

This second week of Advent, as the light continues to grow, may we enter into a time of prayer.  This week, we will be handing out leaves.  These leaves are new life.  May we enter into a time of prayer together seeking areas in our lives that we want to turn to God for new life.  We are a community that is here to support one another, and yet what you share on your leaf is between you and God.  After you have written your prayer, if you would bring your leaf forward to hang on the tree.

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a branch will bear fruit . . . the wolf will live with the lamb . . . and a little child will lead them”
(Isa. 11:1, 6; TNIV).

Isaiah promises things that sound impossible: new life from a dead stump; natural enemies living in harmony; and a child in charge of it all.

Looking at the twigs, think of things in your life and in the world around you that appear impossible. What are the things you barely dare to hope for? Where does newness seem impossible? Where does peace seem far away?

Choose one item to decorate the tree, a sign of one thing that you hope for, even if it seems impossible.[1]

 


[1] Reformed Worship, Erica Schemper, Sept. 2013 issue, Advent Prayer Stations. Advent Week 2.

 

 

 

 

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