Advent 2020 – November 29

Waiting and Working
Carolyn Matthews
(Rev. Carolyn Matthews is Pastor of Christian Education at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (NRSV)

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.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

In reading the scripture text the song that came to mind was the choral arrangement by Anna Page of the song with lyrics by J. Paul Williams, “Creation will be at Peace.” It was surely inspired by this and other texts that see a future when not only humankind but all of the created order will find its Eden and be at peace.

We each long for something like Eden – a place where all seems to be at rest or as another song says, “the wicked shall cease from troubling/the weary shall be at rest.” Perhaps though care needs to accompany the search for this paradise. In the movie, “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” the antagonist believes that he has found paradise and therefore the place where God (or the alien version thereof) resides. However, the quest becomes more important than the reason it was begun and the antagonist realizes, too late, that ego and self-delusion has replaced the honest search for Eden. In the end (spoiler alert) it (god) turns out to be a disgruntled entity that has been trapped on the planet and needs a way to escape.

The Eden we desire and look and hope for is one that will eventually come to us from God.  The character of the one on whom this divine mission rests will be shaped by the spirit of the Lord.  The text says in verses 3b-5, he will be a fair and equitable judge, whose desire is to establish justice and righteousness for all of the people of the earth and there will be peace in all of the created order.

The world and our individual lives come under stress and strain.  Justice seems to elude us and care for one another and creation gets lost in the noise of many words. It is incumbent upon us to hold on to hope and trust in the promise that God is always with us. The writer of Psalm 139 tells us that there is no place in the created realm that we might go that God is not already there and with us.  Even as we look forward to that future where all are protected by the law or as in the words of Paul Laurence Dunbar, “true justice seeth not the man but only hears his cause,” our call is to work toward that end, to plead the cause of those who cannot do so for themselves.

As we await the coming of our celebrations of Jesus’ birth, may we be reminded that until the day depicted in Isaiah 11 arrives, we have a work to do given to us by God, that we are to love Him, and to love and care for one another and all of creation.