Sunday, January 3, 2016
Homily for Pawling Ecumenical Epiphany Walk
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah prophesies the coming of a “shoot from the stump of Jesse.” He sees that time when the axe of enemy nations would chop down the family tree of David so that only the stump of the tree would remain. Isaiah points to a time when the stump of David will be regarded as lost, so that nothing is less hoped for than that a shoot should sprout up from its root. Thus, when Israel had had no Davidic son on the throne for over five hundred years; when a bloodthirsty, half-Jewish, more-than-crazed murderer named Herod was ruler over Israel; when a poor teenager from the backwoods of Judah was spending a cold night in a Bethlehem barn; when nothing less could have been hoped for than for green growth from David’s family stump; when hope was against hope … then, “suddenly, there appeared a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” A Shoot sprang forth from the stump of Jesse! The Son of David was Born! – when the world least expected it.
Yet, there is still more, for this “shoot from the stump of Jesse” is at the same time “the root of Jesse.” How can that be? How can He be both the shoot and the root, both the source and the offspring? There is only one way: He must be both. He must be both divine and human, God and man in one person. He is the Root of Jesse: the Creator, the source of this man’s tribe and family, the One in whom Jesse and David lived and moved and had their being. But he is also the Shoot of Jesse: the One incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, who was descended from David according to the flesh. To use the language of the Athanasian Creed: He is “God of the substance of His Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; perfect God and perfect man….”
And this God-man stands as a signal for the peoples. As the bronze serpent was held up on a pole as the means of healing for those bitten by the venomous serpent, so the “Root of Jesse” will provide a healing from the toil of Adam’s curse, the pain that plagues the world on account of sin. And this healing will be not only for Israel, but also for “the nations,” that is, for the Gentiles, for us who seek Him.
Though when He first arrived He was hidden in obscurity, a tiny green twig on the dead stump of Jesse, who and what He is becomes clear as He grows. He is the Anointed One, David’s son yet David’s Lord, the one in whom sinners find rest and peace and the Kingdom without end.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.