December 8, 2019
By Tammy Lindle Lewis
The Netflix series The Crown follows Queen Elizabeth II’s reign (1952) and events that shaped the second half of the 20th century. She is guided by expectation and tradition in a fast-changing world. Also, shehas difficulty being a ceremonial figure and not interfering with government. Sometimes she doesn’t immediately see it as her duty to take a stand with another leader or group or to provide comfort and inspiration to her people beyond the traditional ceremonial ways. In the episodes of this series, we watch her grow and learn to use her power and her voice. She clearly is finding her way. How would you describe the qualities of a king or leader of a country? Some possible words: powerful, rich, living in luxury, smart, busy, glamorous, inspiring, brave, out of touch with regular people.
Today’s scripture Isaiah 11:1–10 presents two pictures of a king: “A righteous leader (king) will emerge from the line of King David” and “Life in God’s kingdom is different.”
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.
Now, we put up Christmas trees as part of our decoration while we await Christ’s birth, but the prophet Isaiah didn’t have a Christmas tree. He had a stump, a stump with a single shoot growing from it. This growing tree is the house of David. It is literally a family tree.
It’s a metaphor of the promised Messiah, a savior who will be the king. He is a shoot coming from the stump of Jesse. Jesse is the father of King David, and the stump is all that’s left of David’s glorious kingdom.
In this scripture, the people have turned away from God. Yet, God promises to raise up a deliverer from this bleak, desperate situation. He will be like a vulnerable new shoot growing on the forest floor. Now, God’s promised redeemer appears at first to be weak and vulnerable, but his character and reign will be majestic.
God’s Spirit will empower him. This king will have gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear or awe of the Lord. The king will bring justice to the poor, equality for the oppressed, and faithfulness to God. This is a leader after God’s own heart.
Finally, a new age of peace will restore balance and nonviolence to all of creation. The peace will include humans, animals, and the land. The promise is reconciliation and restoration for all of God’s creation.
Animals will no longer kill one another. Helpless babies and toddlers will be safe from harm.
The lion, lamb, and child of our church symbol are represented in a multitude of ways. Here are a few art pieces depicting this unusual description of peace on Earth: https://www.google.com/search?q=peaceable+kingdom+free+images&rlz=1C1SQJL_enUS869US869&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=XXsbJw63QngLkM%253A%252CSutpHz_8pvK7-M%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kQAW39TqCEWRlyDCzoQUpVNhH8KPA&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi17vDMw6nmAhVKKawKHfVIDMgQ9QEwAHoECAoQBg#imgrc=XXsbJw63QngLkM:
The first is by Edward Hicks, a Quaker minister—“The Peaceable Kingdom” , a 1826 painting of animals/children in foreground, English settlers and natives together in the back. The second is by John Swanson, a child holding a candle in the center, other people carrying lights in the forest. We also have a painting by Gregory Perillo—“Peaceable Kingdom Nations at Rest” , a child alone in the woods surrounded by animal friends, in a peaceful setting.
In this scripture passage we find the basis of our church emblem and our continued focus on peace.
Our Mission Statement: We proclaim Jesus Christ, and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.
Our Mission Initiative: Pursue Peace on Earth (Christ’s mission of justice and peace) An Enduring Principle: Pursuit of Peace (Shalom) Our Basic Beliefs statement: The Reign of God and Peace. And finally, our Mission Prayer: we ask to be led by God’s Spirit and to become a blessing of God’s love and peace.
We’re also moved by videos and images of strange pairings or unusual friendships in nature, creatures snuggling up together in odd pairings. We are drawn to these oddities that, in a way, signify hope. If even animals can override bloody instincts, can we do the same?
The vision of God’s kingdom loses its meaning if it is only an abstract ideal, with no basis in the real world.
When we strive to live the teachings of Christ, the kingdom of God comes near. For the peaceful reign of God to be ushered in, we must see, think, speak, and behave differently, and approach our relationships with God, each other, and the whole of creation differently.
Doctrine and Covenants 164:9 b-d b. When your willingness to live in
sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of
spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to
be. The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your
whole-hearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s
covenant of peace in Jesus Christ. c. This covenant entails sacramental living that
respects and reveals God’s presence and reconciling activity in creation. It
requires whole-life stewardship dedicated to expanding the church’s restoring
ministries, especially those devoted to asserting the worth of persons,
protecting the sacredness of creation, and relieving physical and spiritual
suffering. d. If you truly would be Community of Christ, then
embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.
Today we encounter fear and violence, terror and brutality. The person in the top leadership position of our country finds himself in trouble with the other branches of our government. What we have come to trust, honor, and treasure in our top leader is being violated and broken by corruption. News of terrorism, war, corruption, greed, economic collapse, climate catastrophe, etc. instills a deep sense of anxiety in us.
Some are predicting the end of our democracy and freedom. We find ourselves divided and skeptical of each other’s motives. We call each other names, shake our heads in dismay. Many of us have become meanspirited. Social media allows us to be brutal to each other.
The many stresses of the holiday season may make this worse. Let’s take a breath, close our eyes, role our shoulders, stretch, relax, and just be for a moment. According to Isaiah, the transformation from a culture of fear to a world at peace begins with a stump. Out of something that appears finished, lifeless, left behind, comes the sign of new life—a green sprig. This is how hope gets its start—it emerges as a tiny tendril in an unexpected place. Isaiah’s promise is not just a future hope. Right now there are tiny signs of hope and life in places that look dead and discarded. Can we see them? This promise is not meant as a merely personal one.
Isaiah proclaims the coming reign of God for creation. The little shoot will rise to be a new kind of king, one who judges with righteousness and brings justice for the poor and the meek. He manifests a power unlike any other king. His power is from the weak. This is a compelling portrayal of both aggression and weakness overturned.
Let’s reflect, then. Where are the stumps in our own lives? Where do we feel cut off? What is dead in us?
Can you imagine that even now God might be nurturing the growth of something new and good from the old, dead stump? What areas of your life most need the promise of new life? How can you become open to such newness? As we await the unusual arrival of the baby Jesus into the world, may we see signs of hope and new life around us. May we find ways to be still and breathe deeply in anticipation for this season and for the promises of God’s future as we seek to live in peace.