Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Peaceable Kingdom…

When we think of oceans and mountains, forests and deserts, trees, plants and animals, the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the galaxies, as God's creation, waiting eagerly to be “brought into the same glorious freedom as the children of God” (Roman 8:21), we can only stand in awe of God's majesty and God's all- embracing plan of salvation. It is not just we, human beings, who wait for salvation in the midst of our suffering; all of creation groans and moans with us longing to reach its full freedom.

In this way we are indeed brothers and sisters not only of all other men and women in the world but also of all that surrounds us. Yes, we have to love the fields full of wheat, the snow-capped mountains, the roaring seas, the wild and tame animals, the huge redwoods, and the little daisies. Everything in creation belongs, with us, to the large family of God…

All of creation belongs together in the arms of its Creator. The final vision is that not only will all men and women recognise that they are brothers and sisters called to live in unity but all members of God's creation will come together in complete harmony. Jesus the Christ came to realise that vision. Long before he was born, the prophet Isaiah saw it:

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the panther lie down with the kid,
calf, lion and fat-stock beast together,
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear will graze,
their young will lie down together.
The lion will eat hay like the ox.
The infant will play over the den of the adder;
the baby will put his hand into the viper's lair.
No hurt, no harm will be done
on all my holy mountain,
for the country will be full of knowledge of Yahweh
as the waters cover the sea.

(Isaiah 11:6-9)

We must keep this vision alive…

Long before Jesus was born the prophet Isaiah had a vision of Christ’s great unifying work of salvation. Many years after Jesus died, John, the beloved disciple, had another but similar vision: He saw a new heaven and a new earth. All of creation had been transformed, dressed with immortality to be the perfect bride of Christ. In John’s vision the risen Christ speaks from his throne, saying: “Look, I am making the whole of creation new. …. Look, here God lives among human beings. He will make his home among them; they will be his people, and he will be their God, God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain. The world of the past has gone” (Revelation 21:5; 21:3-4).

Both Isaiah and John open our eyes to the all-inclusive nature of Christ’s saving work…

The marvellous vision of the peaceable Kingdom, in which all violence has been overcome and all men, women, and children live in loving unity with nature, calls for its realisation in our day-to-day lives. Instead of being an escapist dream, it challenges us to anticipate what it promises. Every time we forgive our neighbour, every time we make a child smile, every time we show compassion to a suffering person, every time we arrange a bouquet of flowers, offer care to tame or wild animals, prevent pollution, create beauty in our homes and gardens, and work for peace and justice among peoples and nations we are making the vision come true.

We must remind one another constantly of the vision. Whenever it comes alive in us we will find new energy to live it out, right where we are. Instead of making us escape real life, this beautiful vision gets us involved.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

We are all together in this now, we followers of Christ. This is the judgement we await at Advent, a judgement of mercy, of endless grace.

We feel so helpless when we look at the suffering in the world, the misunderstandings, the betrayals, the tragic confusions behind each suicide, the cruelty and rejection faced by those who love and trust, the small, the weak, the dependent—children, animals, the poor.

Nouwen’s words here remind us that there is always something we can do, small as it may seem to us. It is love that matters. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” (1 John 4.16) However poor, however baffled, we can love. This very emptiness, this helplessness we feel may be our greatest asset in the economy of Christ, who said himself that, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…”

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