Isaiah 11:6 The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid. Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them. (The Message Bible)
The painting below was done by Edward Hicks in 1826. Hicks was a local guy growing up over in Bucks County PA. It is titled The Peaceable Kingdom and is based on this verse. A devout Quaker, Hicks did 62 different versions of this theme. This verse obviously inspired him to a vision of life that was compelling and motivating. Advent is a time of waiting on what God is doing just as people waited for the coming of the messiah throughout history. But it need not be a passive waiting. It can be a time to internalize the visions in scripture and make them our own. What vision of life with God is compelling and motivating for you this Advent?
Isaiah 2:1, 2 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
This is part of the vision Isaiah had concerning what God would do for his people and all people. It brings into perspective the uproar found in John 2:18-21- “They responded to him, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ They replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” Don’t mess with the temple because the future centers around it! But, surprise, the temple is more than the building in Jerusalem- it is also the body of the Messiah- no one saw that coming. There is a whole lot more going on in the birth of the Christmas baby than good times around the tree. How can you look at Christmas differently this year?
Luke 23:33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says a few things from the cross. He utters a prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” The two criminals being crucified with Jesus also speak and he answers one of them. When we read these in the Bible we often voice them as casual conversations, just everyday talk. But, of course, they weren’t that They were the last words of a dying man gasped out in agony. How hard it would have been to say anything in such a condition. Yet that may have made them most memorable. When people speak from their pain we tend to pay more attention and give the words greater consideration. The phrases recorded in Luke spoke of forgiveness and paradise. When you speak from your own personal pain, of what do you speak?
Luke 17:17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
Are you willing to act on your own for God? We know next to nothing about this group of ten lepers but we do know that they were together at the time Jesus went by. We might assume that they stuck together because they were all each other had having been excluded by society because of their common affliction. But when their common thread was broken by their healing, what were they to do. Only one came back to Jesus. We don’t know where the others went but the one that went back to Jesus went alone. It is scary to go alone. To break with any community or affiliation group is a difficult thing. It is much easier, safer, and comfortable to stick with the group. But when Jesus heals you, in whatever way that may be, do you follow the others away or turn back to him? This week, how will you go against the current to return to Jesus and say thank you?
Genesis 1:26, 27 God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” (The Message Bible)
Today is November 11- Veterans Day. Today was chosen because it was the official end of the first World War in 1918. Seventeen million people died in that war. It was thought to be the war to end all wars at that time but that didn’t quite work out. What is worth dying for? There is no honor in dying for greed or because of anger or for more “stuff.” You have to die for something valuable if your death is to have honor. The passage above says that human beings have such value. Created in the image of God and blessed with life they are the “crown of creation”, beloved by God, of infinite worth. That means you and me and the people down the street and the many billions of folks you don’t know. Infinite value because we reflect the image of the infinite God. So, thank you veterans. You too, are of infinite value!
2 Corinthians 5:15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
This is it in a nutshell! If the death and resurrection of Jesus means anything it is this. The idea is that humans, including you and I, were created to be in relationship with God or, if you prefer, loving children of God. The big statement of faith in the Old Testament comes in Deuteronomy 6:4 & 5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus was in some unfathomable way this holy, creator God coming to us as a person. Because of what he is and did we should no longer see ourselves as the center of our lives but learn day by day to give our lives over to him. This is a big step but we are offered help. We only get it right seldom and partially, but even at that it is wonderful. This week, how will you “no longer live for yourself but for him?”
Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Many of you know what a CROP Walk is. For those who don’t, it is one of those fund raising walks where people ask others to sponsor them and the donations go to deal with hunger issues. CROP stands for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty and the relief organization is Church World Service. Most of the people who donate don’t care how far we walk or even if we walk. This year it rained and only a few of us made the trek. Did it matter since people would most likely give their money anyway? I think so. Without the donations it would have been a self-serving activity, a Sunday afternoon walk with friends. But without the walk we would have lost a connection with those who must walk to deal with their daily need for food, water and other necessities. In a very small way it helped us participate, if only symbolically, in carrying someone else’s burden. This week, how will you carry a burden and fulfill the law of Christ?