Powered by Blogger.

Follow by Email


Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Hope, like God who offers it, can be shocking. Dead stumps send out live shoots. Spirit-led leaders rule for the poor. The overturning of enmities in the natural order breaks ground for a wilderness prophet who shakes up privileged orders with calls to repentance. Isaiah 11:1–10 This passage begins and ends with references to “Jesse.” Jesse was King David’s father. The use of that name implies a reference to kings who followed David. To call that line a “stump” might have come as a shock to those who thought the Davidic line would continue. Some take the “stump” reference as a clue that this passage comes from Judah’s time of exile in Babylon during the sixth century bce. The Davidic dynasty had ended in that national disaster. Hope and judgment, warning and invitation, can be difficult to separate in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah is clear, though, that hope resides in the power of God’s Spirit. Verse 2 promises that God’s Spirit will equip the “shoot” from Jesse’s stump with qualities needed for just rule. The Hebrew Scriptures often link Spirit and community leadership. God’s Spirit possessed Saul on the day of his anointing (1 Samuel 10:10). When Samuel anointed David, “the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13). God’s Spirit was present in the creation of the natural order (Genesis 1:2). Now, God’s Spirit is promised in the transformation of the social order envisioned in a righteous ruler and a peaceable kingdom. Verse 3 poses a potentially confusing statement. The new leader will “not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear.” The meaning is not that justice can be done by avoiding the sight and sounds of the real world. Rather, the verse affirms that leadership will not be swayed by appearances. The prophets condemned the leaders of Israel and Judah for bias toward the rich and privileged. They promised, as Isaiah does here, a new day. The mention of “equity” strongly implies that a situation of inequity existed and that this would be no more. One striking feature of this passage is its imaginative use of animal imagery. The importance of this imagery goes back to the creation and re-creation theme mentioned earlier. Dramatic change is promised. How can we trust that God has the power to effect such change? For Isaiah, God’s power in creation serves as the reason to hope in creation’s transformation. God, whose power made all things, is the God whose power can renew all things. The pairing of predator and prey in a peaceable world is a parable-like word of God’s power to renew. Imagination becomes the prophet’s means to raise that word and inspire hope. Hope and repentance form recurring themes in the other texts. Hope in Psalm 72 takes form in the expectation of a just ruler. In Matthew 3:1–12, John the Baptizer testifies to the nearness of God’s coming realm. That hope accompanies John’s call to repent. John’s repentance insists on integrity between faith and living. Such integrity is also sounded in Romans 15:4–13. Our welcome of one another is to mirror Christ’s welcome of us. Paul stresses that the stories of faith invite our hope, even as they are to shape how we conduct our lives and community. This second Sunday of Advent presents us with texts that abound, and surprise, with hope. Such hope invites turning and changing on our part. In what ways does hope remain a shocking and daring message for us; for our community? Where, and through whom, do we see God’s Spirit summoning hope and repentance in our day? How might we open ourselves to the leading that children provide in the ways of God?


Post a Comment

Blog Description

Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

Subscribe Now: RSS Feed

Blog Archive