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“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide by what his ears hear;

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,

and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,

the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy

on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11.1-9 (NRSV)

Peace on earth and goodwill to men is not just what the world needs, it is what each of us need. The famous poet Longfellow wrote a poem about this, which he called “Christmas Bells”. After losing his wife and a son, Christmas was not a joyful occasion for him, yet upon hearing the bells chime on Christmas Day, he reflected that his own sorrow was shared by the world. He was also reminded that God’s grace speaks to our sorrow in the gift of his only Son, Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate this weekend.

You cannot bring this peace about with force. Does scripture tell of violence? Yes, most assuredly… but every battle is followed by another. Every conquest is followed by a loss to a bigger, badder army. God’s creation in Genesis and the redemption of the world in Revelation are not marked by violence – indeed it is quite the opposite. They are instead marked by submission to Him, and God gets that submission through invitation and offer of a relationship, not through brute force or clever tactics.

The apostles Paul and John perhaps write about it best in their description of God’s primary means of transforming the world. It is, in a word: Love. Not romantic love or any other kind of self-serving emotion… God’s love is self-sacrificial by definition. God, in so many ways wins the war by giving up. He surrenders His only Son to death at our hands and the world is transformed in a moment. Victory is guaranteed. To a worldly way of thinking, this is absolute madness. You cannot gain, let alone protect yourself by giving up… yet this is exactly what God does, and it works far better than anything He might accomplish by force.

Isaiah reminds us that from beginning to end, from Eden to New Jerusalem, God’s desire for our world is peace on earth; goodwill to men. God is willing to surrender anything for that peace to cover us all. What are you willing to surrender for peace?

  • What would you be willing to fight to protect in your life?
  • Where do you need peace in your life?
  • What would you be wililng to surrender to invite God’s peace there?

The Cost of Peace

Monday December 19, 2016

All Hallows Eve

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I found my last bed

in the place of the first

lesser my heartbeat

greater my thirst

only my pain can realize

        the silent fear

        that lingers here

among a dozen wetted eyes

and hearts doubled over

to see yellow skin

my last fleshly covering

a sad soul within

whose mate in tears resides beside

        my rock and love

        my precious dove

in whom I hope my fate abides

yet she refers me

toward other things

with halos of light

and feathery wings

but I cannot see the light from here

        with eyes gone grey

        fading away

and filled with cold and bitter tears

for fear and regret

all these chains that I’ve earned

in those toiling days

whose dreams I burned

with tunnel vision and selfish pride

        my fate I chose

        the thorny rose

whose beauty at last has bled me dry

leaving naught but a shell

that cannot receive

a blessing that’s blocked

by anger and grief

but I may have one final gift

        my heart to give

        to one who lives

long after this soul passes through the rift

may he love her with care

for better, for worse

and learn from my death

lest he fall to the curse

that still lingers here within the air

        with brutal eyes

        on new love lies

and fixes them with unmerciful stare

so my final act

will not be a cry

for mercy or peace

I simply will die

an example to a foolish world

        to which I belong

        a son of its song

        its promises lies

        when everyone dies

but lives like their lives cannot be unfurled

so breathe like it matters

live without regret

and love while you live

and never forget.