Reflection 120819 (Advent 2) by Rev Sun-Young (Sunny) Kim
Isaiah 11:1-10/ Romans 15:7-13/ Matthew 3:1-12
Righteousness and Peace Will Kiss
I think I’ve already told you this, but Doctor Who is my favorite TV show of all times. The protagonist of the show who is simply called “the Doctor” travels in space and time in his space and time machine that looks like an old English police phone box. Because he travels in the universe, he meets all kinds of alien races, promoting open-mindedness and the idea that diversity is beautiful. One of the alien races the Doctor meets along the journey is the most invaded species in the universe. The people of that planet who look like the Whoville people from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, whenever there is a foreign invasion, receive the invaders without fighting. Their motto is “Resistance is futile”, and their national anthem is “Glory to (blank),” to insert the name of their invaders. They don’t resist, so there is no bloodshed to crush the rebels, but is this peace really peace? Not doing anything when one is oppressed and mistreated, is this peace?
The scriptural lesson on peace that we already learned so far is that peace should be based on justice. We examined the image of life-destroying weapons turning into life-giving farming tools as an analogy for peace. Today, we read about another image of peace from the Book of Isaiah. In this image, the wolf is with the lamb, the leopard is with the young goat, the cow is with the bear, and a baby plays with a dangerous snake. The cow and the bear graze together, and the lion eats straw; although, no, this text is not a justifiable proof for vegans to argue that we were created to be vegans. We should not take this “carnivores-eating-plants” thing literally. This text is an analogy, a vision of what peace worthy of God’s kingdom looks like. It’s about a world where there are no predators and victims, where no one dominates others. This understanding is compatible with other scriptural texts that talk about peace; In God’s eyes, peace is not possible without justice. That is why we read the word “righteousness” a lot of times.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we met John the Baptist urging his people to get ready for God’s reign by repenting their wrongdoings and shortcomings (which is what sin is), and to lead a transformed life as a result; “Bear fruit worthy of repentance,” he said. The Israelites understood the long-term foreign oppression they were experiencing as the result of their failing as God’s chosen people, so, repenting and turning away from their sins was essential in preparing for the coming Chosen One of God. But what is repentance? A lot of Christians think, as long as they confess their sins to God and receive forgiveness, all is well. But repentance is not about being forgiven so that we can continue committing the same sin over and over again. Repentance is about turning away from our sinful ways and trusting God to transform us into the image of Christ that we profess and follow. Repentance is about righting the relationship that has been wrong and broken; it’s about fixing relationships. To right the wrong, the transformed people of God must live by God’s kingdom values that we learned from Christ Jesus.
In other words, we have to live by God’s vision of peace that is based on equity. We do not try to dominate, and we fight for the marginalized of our society who may not have a voice. Following Apostle Paul’s exhortation in the Book of Romans, we have to welcome EVERYONE as Christ has welcomed us. Welcoming people means treating them with respect and giving them dignity. It means, with our kind and welcoming attitudes, we convey the message that all are precious children of God. We cannot achieve peace without fighting for social justice. The aliens who look like Whoville people don’t achieve peace by not resisting their invaders. An abused person is not maintaining peace in the household by not saying or doing anything to stop their abusive partners. There is no truth and reconciliation without properly making it up to the indigenous nations of Canada and giving them a voice and human dignity. Because true peace is not possible without justice. There is no peace in the society if some of its members are marginalized.
Today’s sermon title comes from Psalm 85, especially verses 10 and 11. “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.” The vision of God’s peace we are learning today is that we are called to seek God’s kingdom where there are no predators or victims, no conqueror or conquered. Peace where some people are oppressed is not compatible with God’s values. The point of Christmas is that God came to our world as the child of lower-class parents, that through the nativity stories from both Matthew and Luke’s gospels, we learn that God favours the “little people” of the society such as the wise men from a foreign country and the shepherds in the field. Let us prepare for the coming of Baby Jesus by learning about God’s peace and seeking this peace in our lives with our words, attitudes, and actions. Let’s go out and share the peace of God’s kingdom.