Friday, December 3, 2010

It Starts with a Stump

I want to remember that.

I've been reading that passage from Isaiah 11 all week, off and on.  It's a wonderful, soaring vision of the Messiah, and also of the new world, the reconciliation he brings:

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.

and then:

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 then:

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid... a little child will lead them..." 

But it begins with a stump.

We read this passage at this time of year because we believe the shoot from the stump is Jesus, our hope and expectation, the one we are waiting for, the one who came, though at the time, hardly anyone noticed.  Can we say that?  He came, but at the time, hardly anyone noticed.    But during this Advent time, waiting is our game, so to speak, and we remember that we aren't just waiting for, and hoping for the baby in the manger.  We aren't just waiting for the presents on Christmas eve, we aren't just waiting for the family to gather for a great feast, we even aren't just waiting for that great Christmas eve services where we light the candles and sing our favorite songs and hear the angels sing.  We are waiting for what God has promised in the end, when the whole world will be set right, and they will not hurt or destroy on God's holy mountain, for the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.

But it begins with a stump.

And that is why today, we have John the Baptist, appearing in the wilderness, shouting out "Repent!" and saying things that are not designed to attract new members, such as "You brood of vipers!" and "Who warned you to flee?" and "Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees."

Because it begins with a stump. 

Which is to say, It begins with repentance.  It begins with turning around.  That's what it means to repent, to turn around.

I don't know about you, but I do feel stumpy right now, and from time to time.  I read these words -- the words of John and the words of Isaiah -- between funerals.  I had one yesterday, and I am preparing for another funeral tomorrow.  I am serving a congregation in transition, which means we are wondering what our direction for the future will be.  And I live in a community in transition, by which I mean a community which is changing, a community which has new challenges as well as new possibilities.

Here's the deal in Advent:  God promises life from the stump.  There's this shoot, Jesus, and the Spirit of the Lord is upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 

And here's another deal in Advent:  God promises this same spirit, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord -- to us, in our baptism.

But it begins with a stump.

Now, I have to go and write a sermon about that.

2 comments:

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

maybe it's the coffee we drink diane... do you drink coffee? anyway having begun on my sermon... then taking a break to read blogs... this is where my sermon is headed. i too am sort of fascinated by the stump... small. incomplete. a remant... because well that's us.

happy writing...

Diane said...

happy writing to you. and yes, I do drink coffee. not alot, but a little every day...