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The Peaceful Kingdom
11 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 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.
3 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;
4 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.
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5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6 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.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 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.
Dear Disciples –
A new decade dawns and new possibilities are shooting up all over the Church. Like the stump of Jesse in Isaiah 11 above, we are seeing new energy as Disciples find ways to show up in the world.
This passage from the Christmas lectionary is a model for our “movement for wholeness.” The Spirit of the Lord is the driver, teaching us not to judge by appearances but rather to live in righteousness. Natural enemies of all stripes will live together. This is not accomplished by human means, but by the Spirit of the Lord.
The idea of showing up in and for the world has been on my mind and heart lately. This past fall I had the opportunity to be in two locations where we Disciples are showing up. The first was Venezuela, where our Global Ministries partners are outward facing. These ecumenical partners were not raising money for church buildings, but instead uniting for justice in housing and jobs. Their people are being negatively impacted by changes in trade embargos since much of their social safety net is funded by oil revenue. These Christians were not silent. Their willingness to speak up and speak out was inspiring.
I also visited the U.S./Mexico border near San Diego where local Disciples on both sides of the line have been caring for those caught in immigration nightmares for many years. Disciples from the National Benevolent Association’s activist peer group, a group of regional ministers, and Disciples from Obra Hispana and from Global Ministries showed up to give support to those doing the work. We learned about both the humanitarian crisis there, but also the root causes of migration such as drought and violence.
These experiences and many others over the past two and a half years have shown me the importance of turning our eyes to mission for the sake of the world. Showing up FOR the world means we are WITH the world and doing the work, building a movement, not just our own institutions.
In revisiting the history of the Design and Merger Agreement, it is clear that we must return to a deep theological understanding of covenant, and of the ways in which we are church together. The work of being church together is spiritual work, not just organizational work.
In Isaiah 11, we read about how natural enemies will live in the peace the Spirit of the Lord will bring often interpreted as prophecy of the coming of Christ. If we can truly embrace the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study so that the Spirit can have her way, we will be able to see that differences are not deficiencies. We are called to both the tasks (and tension) of unity and freedom together, walking together when we disagree as only truly spiritual people can.
Disciples, I call you to a season of prayer for our Church. The presidents and leaders of the general ministries are in prayer for you. You can be in prayer for our regions and our general ministries as all three of our expressions of “church” work together to show up in God’s world to fulfill our vision “to be a faithful, growing church, that demonstrates true community, deep Christian spirituality and a passion for justice.”
Thank you for the way you make a difference in your communities. Thank you for showing up for God’s children. I am looking forward to another year of ministry with you as we pray our way through 2020.
Text of full letter to share in congregation bulletin/newsletter