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       Sermons | Passionate worship

      This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

      Dec. 5, 2021 | Second Sunday of Advent

      Speak to us, Lord. Speak to us in the waiting, the watching, the hoping, the longing, the sorrow, the sighing, the rejoicing. Speak to us by your Word in these Advent days, and walk with us until the day of your coming. Amen.


       

      The Advent of Peace
      Isaiah 11:1–9

       I SAIAH DREAMS OF A DAY when peace comes and stays. For Isaiah:
           ■ cows and bears graze together
           ■ wolves and lambs, leopards share a meal
           ■ children and snakes play.

      † † †

      WHAT DOES PEACE look like to you?
           ■ the quiet that comes after a shouting match?
           ■ weapons being melted down into agricultural tools?
           ■ getting ruffians off the street?
           ■ drinking a cup of hot chocolate by the fire after your rowdy angelic children go to bed?.
           ■ metal detectors at schools?
           ■ a Smith & Wesson in every home?

      † † †

      ON THE 11TH HOUR of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the incessant boom of artillery abruptly went silent along the Western Front in France. American medical officer Stanhope Bayne-Jones recalled the moment. “It seemed mysterious … unbelievable.” Suddenly, he could hear water dripping off a bush next to him.

      It took hours for the reality to sink in. World War I — the bloodiest conflict so far in human history, with more than 8.5 million military casualties — had finally ended.

      This vision is not merely “somewhere over the rainbow” images of another time and another place; this vision is included for the eighth-century B.C. hearers and for us because they tell us who God is and where God is taking God’s people. This is a promise. This is a vision of security. How and when do we get to Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom?

      ►Peace is restitution.
      In Hebrew, the word we often translate as “peace” is shalom. That word carries much more meaning. It means “well-being,” and “in good health.” In Exodus 21 and 22, a form of shalom is used 14 times. Here, Moses gives instructions to the people about what to do when a loss or injury occurs. The owner is considered lacking or not complete. The one responsible is to make things right. In these verses shalom is translated as “make it good,” “make full restitution” or to “restore.” The ancient Hebrew meaning is “to make something/someone whole.” Not just regarding practical restoration of things that were lost or stolen. But with an overall sense of fullness and completeness in mind, body, and estate.

      ►Peace is wholeness and well-being.
      In Genesis 43:27–28, Joseph, still unrecognized by his brothers, is asking about their health and his father’s health. He inquired about their welfare, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” They said, “Your servant, our father is well; he is still alive.” True biblical peace refers to an inward sense of completeness or wholeness, and tranquility.

      ►Wishing peacefulness to each other
      While the modern understanding of peace is looking for a break from life’s turmoil, a biblical peace addresses our hearts. If this is the way we understand biblical peace, then suddenly many verses take on a whole new meaning. God told Aaron to bless Israel with peace while they were getting ready to go conquer the Promised Land. If peace means “the absence of war,” then this doesn’t make sense, since they would soon be destroying cities. A familiar benediction from the Book of Numbers:

      The Lord bless you
           and keep you;
      the Lord make his face shine on you
           and be gracious to you;
      the Lord turn his face toward you
           and give you peace.

      † † †

      IN MODERN-DAY ISRAEL, there is a phrase that roughly means “sabbath peace” — Shabbat shalom. Shabbat shalom is saying despite all the craziness throughout the week, “may you end the week with a rest that brings that inner peace that re-centers you on the One who gives it.” And also: “May your next week begin with that sense of inner rest and completeness, where nothing is lacking.”

      Angels are messengers of God. The night of Jesus’ birth, angels appear to shepherds and shout, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to all! (Luke 2:14)

      The angels were not saying “OK, Jesus has come, so you can stop fighting.” That isn’t the peace they sing about. It is a proclamation, a promise, that Jesus brings fullness, wholeness, completeness, rest for all people — Jesus brings Shabbat shalom.

      † † †

      AND OF COURSE, we can help bring about this peaceable kingdom. Jesus called peacemakers “blessed” and proclaimed, “they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

      Jesus is not referring to mediators or political negotiators, but to those who carry an inward sense of the fullness and safety that is only available through a relationship with God.

      In the biblical Hebrew understanding of shalom, there is a point at which you have so much shalom that it spills out from you and is repaid or rendered to others. And so, as you make others peaceful and inwardly complete, that makes you a peacemaker.

      Jesus said these peacemakers will be called children of God. Jesus was called the Son of God. By sharing God’s uncontainable peace with others, we become just like Jesus.

      † † †

      HOW DOES THIS understanding alter your vision of peace?

      What if we chose to live now in the freedom of the promise, in accord with its pictures of God’s future kingdom?

      God keeps showing us a world of peace where rulers and people care for one another, for the poor and the needy, for the creation and all its creatures. What if we moved into that world even now?

      Yes, it’s true — our world remains compromised and dangerous, and we will have to deal with that in appropriate ways. But, to the degree we are given the courage, we can invite God’s future into the present and practice it even now.

      And then the world of nature can be tempered by a new vision of a creation that sings God’s praise because all are fed and all are loved.

      — Keith Cardwell   


      «God keeps showing us a world of peace where rulers and people care for one another, for the poor and the needy, for the creation and all its creatures. What if we moved into that world even now?»

      SCRIPTURE FOR THE DAY

      This is the Word of God for the people of God:


      Isaiah 11:1–9
      Holy Bible, New International Version


      The Branch from Jesse
      11 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 L
      ORD

      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 lamb,
           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 L
      ORD
           as the waters cover the sea.

      — This is the Word of the Lord.
      — Thanks be to God.



      Footnote:
           Isaiah 11:6  Hebrew; Septuagint  lion will feed


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