Sunday, January 13, 2013

Homily for the Pawling Epiphany Walk


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Prophet’s phrase “the stump of Jesse” might cause one to imagine something like a smoldering landscape of toppled trees, charred and dead, the ground hot and burnt so that no seed may sprout. Yes, that is a fitting image to capture Isaiah’s meaning, for such would become the kingdom of David, the children of Israel, by the might and sword of Assyria and Babylon, God’s instruments of judgment upon Israel’s idolatry and apostasy. Israel would be cut down and seemingly without hope of restoration, unable to revive herself.

But, then it happened. When they least expected it. When all hope was vanquished and the strength of men was dried up – a shoot, new and alive, sprung forth from death, not from David, but a new David, from the stump and root of David’s father, Jesse. And, the Spirit of the LORD would rest upon Him, as a man, so that He would have God’s wisdom and understanding, God’s counsel and might, God’s knowledge and the fear of His LORD, as a man. Therefore His reign would be an eternal reign, not like David, but a reign of righteousness and faithfulness and peace.

Peace – that is something our world has known little of, so that our concepts of peace surely fall short of the true peace that our Lord and God desire for us. Therefore, we are tempted to interpret the concluding verses from this reading from Isaiah, about Christ’s peaceable kingdom, as being a picture of heaven to come in the Lord’s parousia. And, surely they do describe that coming kingdom, for they describe a world where there is no evil, a world where we don’t persecute one another, where there is nothing to fear, where nothing kills and nothing dies. It’s a creation without the fall into sin, a world like this one when it was first formed by the Creator’s hand “and God saw that it was good.”

However, Christ’s peaceable kingdom has also come, and it is coming, and it is present amongst you even now. For, the wolves and the lambs, the leopards and the goats, the calves and the lions, the cows and the bears, the little children, the nursing infants, and the venomous cobras, are they not you and I? Does not Christ lead us now to not strike back to those who strike us, to forgive all who trespass against us, and to love all, even our enemies and those who hate us? The way of peace now, as then, is through selflessness and sacrifice. Though we cannot enjoy that peace perfectly now, we can live our lives as in training for it, shouldering the burdens we bear in peace, knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ shares and shoulders the burden with us. More than that, He has borne it all for us upon the cross and has passed through the last enemy, death, into life.

Now He stands before us as a signal for all peoples, and He calls to us, to gather His remnant from all the places they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. He came as a little child. He died as our suffering servant. He is coming as our Lord and King.

The Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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