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#Advent16 – A New King

A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah:

There’s a day coming when the mountain of GOD’s House will be The Mountain—solid, towering over all other mountains. All nations will river toward it, people from all over set out for it. They’ll say, “Come, let’s climb GOD’s Mountain, go to the House of the God of Jacob. He’ll show us the way he works so we can live the way we’re made.”

Zion’s the source of revelation. GOD’s Message comes from Jerusalem. He’ll settle things fairly between nations. He’ll make things right between many peoples. They’ll turn their swords into shovels, their spears into hoes. No more will nation fight nation; they won’t play war anymore.

Come, family of Jacob, let’s live in the light of God.

Isaiah 2:2-5 (The Message)

This is the Word of the Lord.

I heard it said the other day, that the church calendar is oriented so that the last Sunday of the church year (which occurred last week) announces that Christ is indeed King. All of Sundays in the church year point us toward this one Sunday. It struck me that Christ the King Sunday (this last Sunday in the church year) is followed by the first of the four Sundays that we call Advent. So, we end the church year proclaiming that this man—Jesus—is indeed the Christ. He is indeed the world’s one true King. From there, we reenter the cycle of the church calendar.

We enter at Advent.

Advent.

Longing.

Waiting.

Hoping.

Yearning.

Listening as the Scriptures proclaim to us that a new kind of King—and Kingdom—is on the way. It will upset the empires of the world. It will change everything about the way we do things. It will change everything about the way we live.

“There is a day coming,” the prophet tells us.

A day where all nations will long to enter His Kingdom and find out how life was meant to work. Where all nations will learn to “live the way we were made.”

But, a new Kingdom requires a new King. And in this season of Advent—these 28 long nights of longing—we yearn for that new King to come. Because only a new King can usher in a new Kingdom. Only a new King can truly change the way that our lives are arranged and governed.

Only a new King.

Mosaic of Christ the King in the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey.

Mosaic of Christ the King in the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey.

This new King rules with justice—settling things fairly between nations. The new King changes the dynamics of power. Not favoring one group over another. Justice. All are truly created equal in the eyes of this new King. No one is less than. No one is better than.

This new King makes things right between peoples. He teaches us to forgive as we have been forgiven. To lay aside the things that weigh us down about another. To not wait to be apologized to before we offer forgiveness. He even goes a step further and urges us to go beyond what is required. To serve others before we serve ourselves. He teaches us that life is better when lived in a way to orients us to serve and not to be served.

This new King positions us to turn the tools of destruction and death into tools of construction and life. He challenges the empire to lay aside it’s weapons and seek first to build up. Take the things that cause pain and use them to bring healing. Take the things of despair and turn them into things of hope.

There will be no need to play war any longer.

See, when we seek to serve before being served…

…when we seek to bring life instead of death…

…to build schools instead of air bases…

…to bring bread instead of bombs….

…to provide for equal education opportunities for all…

…to pay equal wages regardless of gender or skin color…

…to insure that all have equal access to clean water, and shelter, and food, and healthcare…

…the world works better.

It works in the way of the Kingdom. The way that the new King desires it to work.

The message of the new King is there is good news even for the poor. There is healing for the broken. There is liberty for the captives. There is redemption for the prisoner. There is favor available for all. There is comfort for those in mourning. There is joy even in sorrow. There is a rebuilding of ruins.

That is the good news that the new King brings. That is the Gospel of the Kingdom!

And, that is the message of the King that is coming. In just a few short nights, we will announce the arrival of this King. We will proclaim that He is here. And, we will begin the walk to proclaiming again that this man, Jesus, is indeed the Christ. And, in His being the Christ, He is the King of Kings. He is the world’s one true King! And of his reign there will be no end.

#Advent13: Swords, Plows, and Kingdoms

As we have done in years past, we are again blogging our way through the Advent Lectionary readings.  We love this season as it allows us to take time to slow ourselves down and walk between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is time for us to live in full knowledge of the “Now” of the Kingdom without rushing the “Not Yet” of the Kingdom.  Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.  Our prayer is that these posts will serve as devotional meditations to focus your heart and mind on the imminent coming of our King!

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

This is a vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all–the most important place on earth.  It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.  People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God.  There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”  For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.  The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes.  They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

— Isaiah 2:1-5 (NLT)

The Word of God for the people of God.

In the midst of a nation that is about to be attacked, then occupied, and finally exiled, we find a prophet.  Yet, this message isn’t a message of war.  It’s one of peace.  It’s one that speaks to something bigger than the reality of the situation.

And, it is this passage that we find us kicking off #Advent13.

The world is a much different place than 2800 years ago when Isaiah was penning these words, yet some realities remain.  Much of the world is in war, occupation, or exile.  Millions of people around the globe go to bed every night wondering if they will die during the night by gunshot, bomb, or some other senseless attack.

Yet, we hear the voice of Isaiah calling us to beat our swords and spears (or our guns and drones as they would be better recognized in modern times) to plowshares and pruning hooks.

We often read this passage and think that Isaiah is talking about some grandiose world-wide absence of war.  While that is a part of what he is prophesying, there is a much larger message to be heard.  It is a message of peace in the now.

It is the message of the Kingdom of God.

It is the message of shalom–nothing missing, nothing broken.

Shalom.  That word that we often just translate as “peace” means so much more than that.  Shalom is not the absence of conflict.  Shalom is the knowledge that even in the midst of our conflict (be it within us or external to us), God is working to ensure that that which is broken will be repair and that which is missing will be found.

And, in this passage, we hear Isaiah’s admonition to be bringers of Shalom.  To cease the warring (both within our own self and also within the world).

To cease the struggle.

To cease the battle.

To cease the “must win” attitudes.

To settle into the Kingdom reality of nothing missing and nothing broken.

It is in this place of shalom–Kingdom–that the Lord’s mountain–Kingdom–rises up and beckons for the nations (read people-groups) to come.

And, so we begin our walk to Christmas.  Knowing that in just a few short nights, the King will be born.  And, this promise of peace…

…this promise of shalom…

…this promise of nothing missing…

…this promise of nothing broken…

…this promise of Messiah…

…this promise of Immanuel–God WITH us…

…will come to be.

This promise will move from being words proclaimed by a prophet to words walked out by a King.

AND, by His followers.

See, here’s where we often miss Isaiah’s point.  We view this prophecy as an “end of the world” kind of thing.  We interpret it to be specific to a plot of land along the Mediterranean Sea.  And, in doing so, we miss the blessing.  We miss the beauty of the Kingdom.

While the Kingdom does indeed have an element of “not yet” to it, it also is a Kingdom of now.  A Kingdom lived into by all of the followers of the King.

So, as we walk to the manager, let’s not get so wrapped up in the “not yet” that we miss the beauty of the “now”.  Let’s not miss the beauty of the ability for us to beat swords and spears into plows and pruning hooks now.

And, as we walk, we proclaim that the KING is coming.  And, when the KING comes, so does the KINGDOM!

Walk with us to the mountain–KINGDOM–of the LORD!

A Drone in Central Asia.

A Drone in Central Asia.