04 December 2022

This second week in Advent draws us into the possibilities of real peace for us and our world – God’s Shalom realm. Ironically, there is so much in this time of year that works against a sense of peace – and much of it is the product of misguided faith and exclusivist religion. What would it mean if we really began to embrace the peace, the mutuality, the community and the enemy-love of the Gospel? These are the very powerful and practical challenges of the Lectionary this week.

May our worship lead us into God’s Shalom and transforms us into agents of Shalom in every moment, every situation and every interaction.

Isaiah 11:1-10: Isaiah proclaims the coming of the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” who, through God’s Spirit resting on him, will bring peace, justice, righteousness and equity to the earth.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19: A prayer for the King to rule wisely and justly, protecting the weak and vulnerable and refreshing the world and the godly who live in it.

Romans 15:4-13: Paul’s prayer that God may empower the Church to live in harmony, since Christ came for both Jew and Gentile, and together they form one voice of praise to God.

Matthew 3:1-12: John the Baptist preaches in the wilderness, baptising those who repent, speaking out against the corrupt religious leaders, and challenging people to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah.

From the dream of the future world where God’s reign is actively and visibly manifest, the Lectionary now moves to the promise of the Messiah, and the harmony and justice he will bring. Both dreams are essentially one – that God’s Reign will take root among us bringing in a world in which the weak and vulnerable are cared for, in which justice prevails and in which all people live in harmony in spite of (or maybe even because of) their differences. Perhaps the word that best sums up the Messianic dream of this week, and which John proclaimed, is the word “shalom” – well-being, peace, salvation, harmony, goodness, justice are all implied in this word. Isaiah proclaims it in the image of predators living in harmony with their prey. The Psalmist uses the word ‘shalom’ in describing the peaceful refreshed world for which he prays. Paul pictures Jew and Gentile as one celebratory voice offered to God in worship, and John the Baptist, while speaking of judgement, which may seem to be the opposite of shalom, invites people to be ready for the coming of the Messiah who will immerse people in God’s Holy Spirit. God’s presence and power are available to all, irrespective of title, position or background – this is, perhaps the ultimate shalom!

GLOBAL APPLICATION: The dream of shalom may seem like a fantasy in a world at war, a world in which so many issues divide us so strongly – “pro-life” or “pro-choice”, “liberal” or “conservative”, “creationist” or “evolutionist”, “capitalist” or “sociaist”, “pro-gay” or “anti-gay”, “rich” or “poor”. It’s tempting to define the world in clear terms like this, but when we do so, all we do is deepen the enmity between us, and keep us all from knowing and living God’s shalom. Ultimately justice is not something that can be achieved by alienation and by taking sides. While there are real evils in the world that must be resisted, it is wise to remember Paul’s words that it’s not the people we fight so much as the “principalities and powers”, and as we embrace a shalom way of being – which includes loving even those we consider to be our enemies – we reflect the light of God’s grace and love, and we begin to bring God’s shalom into our world as a lived reality. In what ways can you opt out of the polarising habits of your society and embrace a shalom-bringing inclusiveness that welcomes all and that seeks and celebrates common ground wherever it may be found?

LOCAL APPLICATION: In so many ways we attempt to create shalom for ourselves. Unfortunately, though, our attempts are often the exact opposite of what God shows us is the real route to shalom. We think we can find security by preemptive attacks on our enemies, and then we find ourselves more at risk. We think we can find peace by excluding those who challenge and disagree with us, only to find our safe community growing smaller and smaller, until we only have ourselves to agree with (and even that fails sometimes!). We think we can find joy and abundance by amassing money and stuff, only to discover scarcity growing around us, and our planet dying, and the reality of losing it all robs us of any joy we might have known. We think we can find love by turning inward and making our own needs, potential and purpose more important than relationships, or the service of others – even those closest to us – only to find that our self-absorption leaves us alone and empty. We think we can find God by ignoring the realities of our world and escaping to an other-worldly faith, while waiting for a heavenly bliss after death, only to discover that our souls remain dissatisfied and God feels distant and unattainable. If we are to know shalom, we need to change how we do things. We must allow ourselves to be driven to the risky acts of listening, dialogue, hospitality, service, justice and compassion. Then, as we give ourselves to create shalom not just for ourselves but for others, we discover that shalom finds us, and God’s reign is truly within us.

Preparing The Way

Hymn Suggestions:
Hail To The Lord’s Anointed
Jesus Messiah (Link to YouTube video)
Mighty To Save (Link to YouTube video)
Consuming Fire (Link to YouTube video)
God With Us (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for Advent & Christmas
A Liturgy for the Agape

Video Suggestions
Child Of Hope
A Voice In The Wilderness