Messages of Hope
A life like a shoot of hope and peace
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of the roots....
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on this One, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might...
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.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain...
--excerpts from Isaiah 11
There is hope, proclaims the prophet. Out of the stump will come a shoot. There will be a fresh start, a spark of hope, a new branch. There will be peace.
It has been the Christian practice for centuries to identify this hoped-for-one, this shoot of Jesse, singularly and uniquely with Jesus. One can see how natural it would have been for early followers to make these associations between the spark of hope that the prophets proclaimed and the spark of hope that Jesus embodied.
What is completely unacceptable, however, is for followers of Jesus in any era to hold such a narrow association as to proclaim that Isaiah was speaking prophetically specifically and singularly about Jesus. To claim that Isaiah was foretelling the specific coming of Jesus and only the specific coming of Jesus; to claim that only Jesus fulfills this prophecy – to use a portrait of hope as a photograph of singular identity – is a taproot of Christian imperialism, directly responsible for the genocidal persecution of the very people from whom the prophecy arose. It is a terrible irony.
This week has given us a reminder that the process of hope is on-going; it did not lead to Jesus alone and stop there, but rather the hope for a peaceable kingdom of humanity lives on and keeps on emerging in particular people in particular times. This week we have been reminded that shoots arise out of stumps even in our own time.
Like a shoot from a stump…Mandela leaving the rock quarry of Robbin Island was like one of those flowers that grows up through a crack in otherwise barren rock. Here was a leader of the soul of his nation. A great man of peace for the world.
Are any more Mandelas waiting in the wings? Can we hope for this caliber of leadership again in our lifetime?
Some point to the young woman who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out for the education of girls in Afghanistan, Malala Yousafzai. Aung San Suu Kyi’s release has literally allowed her new freedom to act on behalf of her country.
To be a person of this faith, Isaiah’s faith that Jesus – for one – embodied, is to keep alive the hope for a just and peaceful society, where the strong no longer prey on the weak. How that hope will be embodied into the future is anybody’s guess. Maybe another anointed one will arise, such as one of these two women, or maybe it truly is our turn. All of us. Perhaps the enormous, unprecedented power we regular people have to connect with one another and to collect ourselves around our best hopes, our greatest wisdom, our most humble strivings towards true understanding...maybe this is the way forward into that peaceable kingdom. We cannot foretell the future, but we can go there together in hope.
posted 09 Dec 2013 by Jana