A Shoot and a Branch

Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, and a branch 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.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious. Isaiah 11:1-10, NRSV

Idyllic: the world of Isaiah’s vision. The meek and poor find justice, and the predator and prey are predator and prey no longer. The wicked are killed – or at least what was wicked in them dies and leaves in its place love. It seems like the chasm between our current world and Isaiah’s peaceful kingdom will never be spanned, no bridge built to take us from here to there. Except that it starts and ends with Jesse, an imperfect and perfectly loved child of God. Just like us.

At its heart, Isaiah’s world is the place where we don’t live at the expense of others. We seek a just world, even when it means we have make sacrifices. Sacrifice expands the heart’s capacity to love and strengthens the spirit within us. When we mean good things for others and sacrifice to bring them to life, we take a step toward Isaiah’s world. Take enough steps, and that chasm just might be spanned.

Riley Anderson’s Stump of Jesse, 2015

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