Wolves and lambs

(A reflection on the pray-as-you-go podcast for 12/5/2006, based on Isaiah 11:1-9. A little late because of a late event last night.)

I've always loved Edward Hicks' paintings on the theme of "The Peaceable Kingdom" taken from Isaiah 11. (Experts surmise that Hicks, a Quaker, painted this theme about 100 times!) The odd juxtaposition of the wolf and the lamb lying down together -- resting, almost snuggling, rather than in a kill or be-killed fight to the finish -- points out just how odd the kingdom of God really is!

This text is about God's promise that the world one day will be the way it was created to be. Not only will the endless contending to survive at the expense of others be over -- contention that manifests itself in war, in greed, in econcomic survival of the fittest and social Darwinism, and in the narrowness and self-focus that it is so easy to slip into (I know it is for me!). In its place will be not just the absense of contention but the Presence of Peace, the ultimate reality that the poor, marginalized and non-conformists truly are blessed, that life can come out of loss and death, that God is doing a new thing!

Our world cries out for justice, and Isaiah tells us it is coming...but not in the way we expect. I often want the world to be much as it is but a little more fair or calm. But God's peace and justice turns our understandings on their heads. Our world is not just off the mark, it is upside down. Our task is not to refocus a bit or amp up our efforts, but to learn to see the world as God made it: A place where those who think they have nothing in common are truly sisters and brothers; a world where wealth is not ultimate value but just another kind of value, like creativity, the created value of each person, and the value of those who lack to tweak those of us who have.

The question for those of us who follow the one who said that God's kingdom is at hand is: If God's reality is better than "all of us are created equal, but some are more equal than others," if lambs and wolves can lie down, if children can lead us, if a righteous leader will enter a verdict for the poor, how do we live in this reality and not the one we see around us?

I can think of no better prayer than to be shaped to the point where the fear of the Lord is our breath.

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