December 1, 2019 Advent 1

December 1, 2019  

Advent 1 2019

Our Savior’s La Crosse

Isaiah 2:1-5

 

We will never have peace if we cannot imagine what peace looks like.

If we cannot believe peace will come than peace will not come, because peace has not yet been imagined.

We need to be able to articulate—to tell others—what we think peace looks like. If we can imagine what peace looks like, we can take steps that lead toward what it is we see.

Just so, in the 2nd chapter of the book of Isaiah, the writer of the book imagines the house of God. The writer imagines a house high on a mountain where God reigns, where God lives as a teacher.

Imagine this:

People streaming toward the house of God—a pilgrimage of people.

As the people journeyed toward God’s house on a hill, they said:

“Come let us go to the house of God.” (Isaiah 2:3)

Or was it a chant? Or was it a song? Or was it a spoken hope?

“Come let us go to the house of God, that God may teach us God’s ways…” (Isaiah 2:3).

I don’t often imagine God as a teacher. We might imagine God as an old person. We might imagine God as a warrior. We might imagine God as Creator. We might imagine God as a judge. But as a teacher?

In this reading God sounds like a professor of Ethics, God sounds like someone who is teaching the people who come to God’s house how they ought to live. Specifically, God is teaching them God’s ways to live…

And then, the writer says the people said, or they chanted, or they sang:

“Come let us go to the house of God so that we may walk on God’s paths…” (Isaiah 2:3).

The writer of the verses is saying: God will teach us. (Isaiah 2:4).

The writer concludes that the people journeying to the house of God, after learning from God, beat “their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4).

Nation stopped lifting their sword against nation. They learned war no more (Isaiah 2:4).

Their vision of peace: an agrarian society. Farming.

This is what peace looks like, the writer writes. This is what peace looks like.

How do we imagine peace looks?

We cannot have peace if we cannot imagine what peace looks like. If we can imagine what peace looks like, we can take steps that lead toward what it is we see.

James Douglass began the first chapter of his book The Non-Violent Cross (Macmillan Publishing 1966) with these words:

To see reality in our time is to see the world as crucifixion. To see reality is to cut through the blindness of self… To see reality is to be wholly present at the crucifixion of the world; to live reality is to enter into that crucifixion, but to do so, in the phrase of Albert Camus, as neither victim nor executioner. The life of living is a suffering with the world, yet not as a passive victim but  suffering in resistance and in love, experiencing the darkness of crucifixion without surrendering the hope and strength and revolution of resurrection (p. 3).

As Christians, if we want peace to take its place in the reality of our time, we need to root our image of peace in both the crucifixion of Jesus and in his resurrection.

As we say, or chant, or sing our hopes for peace, as we say, or chant, or sing

“Come let us go to the house of God, that God may teach us God’s ways…”

we must listen, we must turn our hopes for peace into a call and response dialog with God.

We call out to God, longing for peace.

God reminds us, God brought Jesus to the world to be our Prince of Peace.

We call out to God, begging for an end to violence and war and suffering; God responds, telling us that in all suffering there is hope. With every death there is resurrection.

God’s responses are not intended to placate us; God’s words are not intended to ignore the pain of the sufferings we see and we experience and we know—

God’s responses are intended to remind us of what peace looks like, so we can begin to imagine peace. Then we can take steps that lead toward what it is we see.

We don’t have to imagine suffering and death, those things surround us.

Our Advent call is to imagine resurrection—to imagine new life.

We imagine new life now, in these moments we are given.

We imagine new life that is eternal, life with God where there is only peace, where there is only love, now and forever.

Amen.