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PEACE. How do you define it? As a verb?; a noun? Is it a state that is, or something that we receive or is it something that we make? For you is peace the absence of hardship and death….such as war, oppression, marginalization….or is it the presence of goodness and the right way of being – in community, equality, filled stomachs, healed bodies, wholeness? Or is it both?
Isaiah talks of a hope-full future. Writing in 733 at a time in which Assyria (aka the prelude to Babylon) is emerging as the world power. King Ahaz enticed to rebel against the Assyrians, wavers, and then he and the Northern Kingdom (Israel) are destroyed in their vengeance. Hezekiah becomes king. Will he be wiser?; is he the one that will redeem the line of David and save the people? The first six verses talk of a new ruler to come, one from the root of Jesse (the father of King David). The monarchy will be restored with a righteous messiah (or anointed one in a literal translation of the Hebrew). This one will be right, delighting in and from the fear (or respect) of the LORD YHWH. Verses 6-10 tell of a peaceful kingdom to come – the way in which God will make the world. What strikes you in this vision? The future will grow from a stump, new life will issue forth from what seems finishes and lifeless. There is a paradox. God brings a new future out of an impasse past, which is collapsing in on itself. The Spirit is moving.
Matthew 3 tells of us of the ministry of John the Baptizer. In the ancient world (and even today) it’s usually in the big cities that BIG things happen. The place to be is the center of power. Yet here John is the thing, and he goes to the margins, the wilderness, instead. It’s not the same old thing. Recognized as a prophet with spiritual authority the story unfolds with hyperbole – seemingly all the people go out of the city (even the leaders) to gather close to John. He dresses eats like the poor, not the powerful. He calls the crowds to repentance – a word which literally means to turn 180, to turn and go in a new direction.
Questions for Going Deeper