Devotional for November 17, 2013
Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
It is difficult to listen to today’s lesson and not be transported to a Christmas Eve service with candles and carols. The text has become so attached to the Messianic promise that it is hard to disentangle it. But let’s try.
This is the beginning of our readings from the books of the prophets. We’ve finally finished with the historical and law books of the Old Testament (thank you Jesus!) I love the prophets and especially Isaiah. I love them, and they haunt me. The NRSV has some great insight into the lives of the prophets: They were deeply engaged in the socio-economic, political issues of their day . . . they are often unpopular.” They are also forced to address the issues of their day in imaginative, poetic and artistic ways. They, “re-describe reality, with images often couched in metaphors that require imaginative reception. And they are primarily concerned about two things. One: care for the poorest of the poor, and right worship of God. And, according to Isaiah, it is impossible to worship God unless you work for justice for the poorest of the poor. In chapter one, Isaiah tells his listeners to, “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)
Some of the poetic images used in the first few chapters include, refining gold and silver, beating swords into plowshares, and, my favorite, a vineyard. In chapter five we learn that God has planted Israel like a beautiful vineyard, blessed them with everything they need, only to return and find that they’ve gone wild. God planted Pinot Noir, and went out at harvest to find Concords! I’m getting the willies just thinking about it.
In today’s lesson Isaiah paints his most preposterous picture yet— a world at peace, without war, and without oppression. Can we even imagine that? Perhaps we need to spend a Sunday talking about images of peace, of justice, of a world where everybody has enough, where women are not exploited, where the weakest have a voice and there is extreme joy.
I confess I have a hard time seeing it happen. That is because I am human. This is not a human endeavor. The reference to the rod being broken as on the day of Midian is a reference to Judges 7, where an improbable general, (Gideon) takes a rag tag army of 20,000 and watches as God whittles them down to a few hundred. It is not human might that will win the day, it is God. And our job is not to lead the way, but to find the places where God is already at work, and to join in the song.
And unless we miss the point, we are directed to a baby. A baby will lead us. Is this solely a reference to Jesus? It might make sense to think about it as another metaphor. Perhaps the only way we can imagine the world beautiful and made new is in the birth of a baby. Every baby is a symbol of a life that can start over–all new and at peace. We might even have a new granddaughter this week, so let’s go hold babies!
Quotes for the Week
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Happy World Peace Day! (November 17th) Here is how you can get involved:
a. Engage in dialogue with someone from a different country or nationality than your own.
b. Let go of the past and renounce vendettas, denounce revenge, and live for the future.
c. Contemplate your life and find the areas that you are in conflict. Work towards solving the conflicts by defusing them through communication or dis-engaging so that the conflicts whither away. Understand the conflict from the viewpoint of your opponent and do not think of winning. Think of co-existing.
d. Close your eyes and breath deeply while clearing your mind of all your troubles. Repeat as needed.
e. Volunteer for a peace organization
f. Read a book on conflict resolution” ― Kambiz Mostofizadeh
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.
“Imagine” by John Lennon
Lesson Isaiah 9:1-7 (NRSV)
But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness– on them light has shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Questions for the Week
What activity helps you to find peace?
What is one activity we could do this week to promote peace right where we are?