Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Isaiah 11:1-10

Advent 2 – Year A

Isaiah 11:1-10

What authority will this Shoot of Jesse have when no longer limited by sight and sound? This one with spirit resting upon them will be able to see to the heart of the matter and justice will have some additional meaning than immediate and natural.

For ages the dream of a "peaceable kingdom" has captured our imagination. We yearn for and talk about an idyllic place where hurt is no more. We have all been hurt more than we can sometimes stand and this picture brings our hurt round right. It means those mean old toothy carnivores will find their come-uppance by going hungry tonight and tomorrow night and every night after that. Those meat-eaters, of course, are those who have hurt us. We will be able to keep them by our side and under an unnatural control of their being.

This is a vision of underdogs – an appeal to wisdom stronger than power, gnosis stronger than exile.

In theory this could be the outcome of repentance. A leopard could changes its spots. A sinner could pull themself up by their own bootstraps. I could be in a season other than curmudgeonee.

How long could a G*D within a wolf continue in this picture? Would they periodically stray to a picture down the gallery to feast on some pigs, since sheep are protected in this one?

An Advent question rises to the fore whenever we reach for one of these places of resolution as though it be would the last word. I can't imagine anything more boring and a place less worthy of spending time there than somewhere with no consequences when children do their child thing and stick a fork in a socket or a hand in a snake den. If you stop to consider this passage, is it a comfort or a challenge? A comfort in that all this will happen someday with the energy of someone else, some deus ex machina? A challenge to analyze the present, decide on a course of action to move in the direction of the vision, and to actually do something that will move in the direction of such a vision?

Generally this is seen as a comforting passage, rather than a challenging one.

While the political situation of a given time may be a time to keep quiet in the midst of all the different forces arrayed against one, a dream of Jesse's Shoot allows a certain amount of persistence, but it ultimately fails to drive our behavior to transform evil to good.

If you had to raise a banner these days for yourself and others, what would you raise high? Might it be close to: "I'm not completely dead, only mostly dead." (The wonderful Princes Bride book and movie strike again.) And perhaps we might even raise a second banner, "A green shoot can break cement." (Yea, Malvina Reynolds.) Perhaps a third would come along, "Don't get hung up on the metaphors!" And, since a trinity is usually looking for a stabilizing fourth, "Live the drop of G*D knowledge you have now, don't wait for a sea of it" might flutter forth.

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