In our house, there are at least 5 and sometimes 15 different views of what would be a Perfect Day.
This is true for all of us--if pressed, we would likely all have different ideas of what would make the Perfect Day.
And this is true if we were to poll folks about a Perfect Meal or a Perfect Home or a Perfect Mate or a Perfect President.
We all come to this current moment with different experiences and different preferences and different needs and desires and hopes and dreams. And when faced with the same problem or event we would all likely have at least a slightly different solution or view of what happened.
This week's lectionary passages give us four different views of what a Savior might be or do.
The passage from Isaiah 11 is familiar to most of us. Many are familiar with Edward Hick's painting, "Peaceable Kingdom", that shows the wolf and the lamb and the baby and the snake all playing together. The words of Isaiah are a prophecy spoken / written to an oppressed and defeated people who have primarily known pain and suffering. This passage is written from the perspective of people who are dreaming and hoping about how things might be better one day. Isaiah is drawing a vision of the Perfect Day. And for these Israelites, the hope is that things will be better when one of their own (a shoot from the stump of Jesse) raises up who has all the right looks and knows all the right moves. He will judge against the oppressor, he will be righteous and faithful. And perhaps most importantly, he will bring Peace to the Israelites, to all of nature, and to all nations. When we look at other parts of scripture we are able to piece together that this was their expectation of a Messiah...this was a sketch of their Perfect Savior.
In the section we get from Psalm 72 we see another idyllic vision of a leader. This description is of a King that existed in real time...not the dream of a future leader. Read the passage. It is ideal. It is everything you could want in a King, or a President, or a mate.
In the passage from Matthew we see a different expectation set out by Saint John the Forerunner. Remember, he is under a different set of oppressors than those in Isaiah's day were. And not only was he bothered by Roman occupation and rule, he was obviously also upset by the hypocrisy of the keepers of the Jewish law at that time. As he stood there under the trees baptizing people in the Jordan river, he described a dangerous leader that was coming. John has his own view of what was needed in a Savior. Someone that would bring a kind of other-worldly and fiery judgment. John does not comfort folks with talk of a Bringer of Peace here. John warns them of a Bringer of Judgment.
And then in Romans Paul offers us one more perspective. When he is writing this letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome, Jesus had already lived, taught, been killed, and resurrected. By this time Paul had already been a vehement persecutor of followers of Jesus and then was dramatically converted to being a vehement evangelist in the name of Jesus. Paul had a lot of perspective of what a Savior might be and do. Paul was also among the first to be able to reflect on who Jesus really was and what Jesus really did. And what was his take? In this particular passage he does not focus on the need of the Savior to bring judgment. Paul talks about how Jesus brought reconciliation and Peace. He talks about how Jesus came to serve Jew and Gentile alike. Paul talks about how Jesus...the Savior...came so all might live in harmony.
We all come at this from our own places.
For some of us, our Savior is a long haired blonde man.
For some, our Savior is a diminutive Macedonian woman.
For some, our Savior is a healthy bank account.
For some, our Savior is perfection.
For some, Peace must come through force.
For some, Peace can only come through love.
Dear God, please don't let us choose.
Help us to quiet our judgment-biased and category-creating minds
and seek Peace in any way we can find it.
© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
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May Grace & Peace be with you.