Isaiah 40:1-11/ Psalm 85/ Mark 1:1-8
Proclaim God’s Kingdom of Peace
Lesson from Women’s Studies Class
Whenever I think of the word ‘peace,’ I think of my college Women’s Studies class in which we discussed women who are victims of domestic violence. Just because they don’t make noise about their oppression and look peaceful on the outside, that doesn’t mean they or their relationship are at peace. I learned from that class that true peace cannot be achieved without justice.
Peace Based on Justice
This is exactly what we learn about God’s idea on peace from Psalm 85. Verse 10 says, “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” I love how the psalmist says, “righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” (Okay, I know that is not what our responsive reading said, but this is what it says in the NRSV Bible.) Then, paraphrasing the psalmist, we could say that peace is not truly peace without justice.
The overall message of Advent and Christmas is giving hope to the marginalized and oppressed members of our society. Those with power didn’t need to accept what Jesus was preaching. It was not in their interest, for it involves giving up some of their privilege to share God’s blessing with those without it. It is quite ironic how a lot of Christians today are drowning in their sense of entitlement, which is the opposite of what Jesus stood for. Both today’s Old Testament and gospel messages offer hope for the marginalized.
“Comfort, O comfort my people,” says Isaiah. People of Israel needed comfort and hope for the restoration for their nation for they were under constant foreign occupation until after Jesus came. However, I find it hard to digest the hopeful message of the Hebrew Bible while witnessing what they have been doing to the Palestinians. It is now the Palestinians who need this message of comfort and hope. To be fair, this bitterness is mostly directed at the state of Israel, not the average Jewish people either in Israel or in other parts of the world. I am saddened at how the people who perceive themselves as God’s chosen ones, who have suffered so much oppression in their history, can do the same to others. That is why, as we read the comforting message of the Old Testament, let us take it with a pinch of salt and focus on the suffering members of our local and global communities.
The people of Israel in exile and under foreign oppression heard messages of hope from the prophets about God’s chosen one who would save them. By the time John the Baptist came and proclaimed God’s kingdom, the time was nigh. He was the “voice in the wilderness,” the messenger sent to prepare God’s people for the way of the Lord. What did he do to prepare his people for the messiah? He offered a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It is like when we expect an important guest. We clean the house. Likewise, before receiving the messiah, God’s people should cleanse their souls. In some other gospel books, John starts his ministry by urging people to repent because God’s kingdom has come near. Interestingly, when Jesus starts his ministry, he starts with the same message.
Peace of God’s Reign
The Christian message is about God’s kingdom (or “reign”). All teachings of Jesus are about God’s kingdom. I often use the word “reign” instead of “kingdom” because it is a more accurate translation of the Greek word basileia. It is not about a physical realm. Rather, it is an abstract political concept, like during the reign of Henry VIII, England broke up with the Roman Catholic Church. God’s reign is based on the principles of compassionate love and justice, as I often say. Therefore, the peace of God is based on compassionate love and justice. The peace that kisses righteousness is the peace of God’s kingdom.
The theme for the second Sunday in Advent is peace. Now that we know what the peace in God’s kingdom is about, we should strive to, not only pray for peace in the world, but also do what we can to contribute to it. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to offer God’s peace based on justice. During this Advent and Christmas seasons, and every day of our lives, let us do God’s work as the disciples of Jesus to bring peace and justice to all suffering and marginalized people in our world. This year, we especially think of the Palestinian and Israeli civilians who were killed in the conflict, as well as every victim of conflicts around the world and refugees. This is how we both prepare for the coming of Christ and be his disciples. Let us go in peace to work for peace. Amen.