The Scripture Readings this week are:
From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72 (VU p.790)
From the Gospel: Luke 3:7-18
The sermon title is Be Not Afraid, Prophetic peace be with You
Early Thoughts: What is this peace for which we pray? Prophetic passages often seem wrathful and angry, not peaceful. But is there peace to be found there?
Every parent wonders about it at one time or another. What sort of world will my children grow up in? Will it be better or will it fall apart? Will my children and their friends know peace or conflict, prosperity or poverty, contentment or anxiety, hope or despair?
The Scripture promise is that of a world of peace. But this peace is a differenrt vision than the peace of empire (be it Davidic/Judean, or Babylonian, or Roman or American). Imperial peace is based on crushing the opposition. Imperial peace is based not the iron fist keeping the "rabble" in their place. The books we call Scripture were largely written as a protest against domination and Imperial peace. SCripture's vision of peace is based in justice and abundance for all.
The peace we wish for our children is that broader vision. The peace we are promised is what Isaiah describes often, including the passage we read this week. But how do we get there? How do we prepare the way for the reign of peace?
Biblical prophecy is an interesting animal. It really is not (as many assume) about predicting the future. More it is about truth-telling, calling people to account, naming the consequences of behaviour. Andso a lot of prophetic language appears wrathful and mean. John the Baptist is an excellent example. Apparently John is unfamiliar with diplomatic niceties and gentle language. Instead he calls the powerful in his world a brood of vipers and talks about an axe that will cut them down. Little wonder that John's career came to an untimely and bloody end.
But if we are serious about working towards the peace promised by scripture we need to pay heed to the role of the prophet. Only when we listen to the voices that name our reality for what it is can we see what might need to be changed. Only when we are willing to have our own culpability in the world's disfunction brought to light are we able to move forward. The prophets have a key role in preparing the way for God's work to happen.
What needs to happen to pass on true peace to our children? What preparations do we need to make? In three weeks we celebrate the birth of one who was called the Prince of Peace. At Christmas we remind ourselves that God breaks into the world to try and create the world God envisions. As we prepare for that in-breaking, how do we prepare for the vision?