Isaiah 11:1-10, Matthew 3:1-12
This week we celebrate the Advent theme of peace. In the famous words from Isaiah, “They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9). This is a precious promise to embrace in these days when actual shooting wars have displaced millions, and other millions are casualties of the war that our insatiable production/consumption global economy has unleashed on the home planet´s web of life.
The dawning of God´s righteous Reign of justice and peace is an act of sovereign grace. God´s Anointed One comes bearing “the spirit of wisdom and understanding . . . He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his eats hear, / but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and with equity decide for the meek of the earth” (Isaiah 11:2-4).
But in reading these words of Isaiah´s in juxtaposition with John the Baptist´s inaugural preaching in Matthew´s gospel, we see that there are some conditions we must observe to be beneficiaries of the divine promise of peace. “Repent,” declares John, “for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2). God is doing a sovereign work of grace, but we must turn around and pursue a new way of living in response. “Bear fruit worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8).
What will that “fruit” look like? Jesus himself gives us some clues with his stern admonition: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal. . .” (Matthew 6:19). Since the Industrial Revolution the global economy has been based on the premise that the earth is a repository of resources which are ours to use as we please for our comfort and security. They have only use value, no intrinsic value of their own. In this model we stand over against these resources as sovereign other.
It is exactly at this point that the Advent theme of peace today must become peace for God’s Creation. The wolf and the lamb and the calf and the lion of Isaiah´s vision, and the innocent children who move serenely and safely among them are not simply prophetic metaphors or idealized images as, in the “Peaceable Kingdom” paintings of the 19th century Quaker Edward Hicks. These images reflect not only God´s sovereign will but a mandate for our obedience.
Images of God´s just and righteous Reign wherever they appear, from hymns celebrating God´s manifold creation, such as Psalm 104, to prophetic new creation texts such as Isaiah 11, to the new Jerusalem of Revelation 22 with a river running through it, describe a green peace where God´s entire creation is renewed and transformed. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in labor pains until now . . . (Romans 8:22).
God´s human children are embedded in ecosystem; our peace now and forever can only be the peace of the new creation in its totality. We anticipate this peace in the midst of the global economy of creation exploitation by imagining and living – in so much as it lies within us — an alternative economy of simplicity and generosity, based on what we grow, cook, weave, dance, sing, nurture and share, not only in reciprocity with the poor among us, but with the winged ones, the rooted ones, the finned ones, the four-footed ones and the tiny ones who – together with us – comprise God´s beloved community.
Dr. David L. Wheeler
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American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) has long heard God’s call to tend, love and care for God’s creation and all people. We have understood that ecological care and human justice are one, two sides of the same coin. So what can we do as American Baptists and as congregations to address one of the greatest moral imperatives of our time – climate change? Join us in a conversation with our partners at Blessed Tomorrow on how to move forward on action and advocacy, rooted in our faith values and our authentic voices. We will discuss concrete ways illustrated in Blessed Tomorrow’s “Moving Forward” guide to reduce energy use, move toward clean energy sources like wind and solar, prepare for climate impacts, and most importantly how to talk to others and advocate for solutions that better care for God’s creation. Click here to register.