Sunday, December 3, 2022
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Isaiah's timeless scripture heard round the world during Sunday worship this morning. These ancient words that some of us know by heart. And this morning some heard it for the first time. The wolf and the lamb, the calf and lion…and a little child shall lead them.
My sisters and I grew up in Mattoon, Illinois going to the First United Methodist Church on the corner of 16th and Charleston. Now remembering one of Candler’s lessons was the value of coming to know and understand place and time, of being dated and located and how that matters to our faith journey. Younger sister, Bets would have been 3 months old and probably in our maternal grandmother’s arms the first time she heard these words read. Ageless words, passed down from mother to son and father to daughter. Words that echo down from ages past to today.
And now decades later, this past Friday and Saturday nights in Emory’s United Methodist Church my son, Sam sang bass in the University Choir for The Nine Lessons and Carols. When I asked him what his favorite piece was, he said “The Dream Isaiah Saw.” Not familiar with it, I googled it after our conversation. It’s beautiful. I understand why Sam would love singing it. The song’s haunting melody and the words by Glenn Randolph are the kind you carry with you for a while after hearing them.
Nature reordered to match God’s intent,
Nations obeying the call to repent,
All of creation completely restored,
Filled with the knowledge and love of the Lord.
Little child whose bed is straw,
Take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
Knowledge, wisdom, worship, awe.
Faith is a practice shared. It is so often passed one to another. My Christian faith holds the singing of hymns and the reading of ancient scripture. It is the dreaming of dreams and the seeing of visions. It is language of incarnation and healing, of transformation and second chances of grace upon grace. It’s so painful to see how so many practices of faith have been hijacked by small-minded bullies. But I believe that light is greater than darkness and that love stronger than hate.
From generation to generation, we take on and then sometime later pass on our matters of faith. I don’t know what faith my two sons will carry with them after I’m gone. I do know and cherish my parents’ favorite scripture verses. I have my paternal grandmother’s red-lettered KJV of the New Testament. Her bookmark rests in the pages of St. John 14 and I knew the words marked there before I even read them: “Let not your heart be troubled…in my Father’s house there are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you.”
Especially in this season of leaning in, may Isaiah’s words come true. May all of our Sams, all our children seek the dream Isaiah saw. May there be reconciliations. May the wolf live side-by-side with the lamb. May there be no more pain or killing or needless suffering throughout God’s creation. May songs continue to be written and soon after hearts touched in unique and precious ways. May our hearts be broken open to possibilities of something greater, something more just and more loving. May we not settle for what is around us but strive for what is not yet here. And I believe with all my heart – that a child shall lead us.
Let’s venture on to Bethlehem.
God of each moment, sing in us a new song. Sing in us words that awaken and renew our spirits so that we’d might follow you this day. We give thanks for the generations who have come before and who lead us on. We give thanks for those who are learning this day words and practices for the first time. Holy One, gather us in, your children and renew your Promise of YES in us. And we are grateful. Amen