By Gary Hoover
Isaiah gives us a poetic image of a peaceful future that contrasts sharply with our own violent present.
“The wolf shall lie down 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.”
The people of Israel were like many people in the world of Isaiah’s time and in our world today. They experienced wars and violence and oppression. Isaiah called the people of Israel beck into a loving relationship with God.
Isaiah describes that relationship as including a peaceful relationship connecting “all our relations” in creation. The animals are no longer predator and prey. Here they are not something to be feared or something to be devoured. Rather, they lie down together without any fear.
At the heart of this vision of peace, Isaiah says: “and a little child shall lead them.”
A little child leads with wonder and curiosity. Children learn best by playing.
Isaiah boldly describes this even further:
“The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 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.”
(Isaiah 11:8 and 9)
Here again, we find an impossibly peaceful scene where there is no fear.
I think that we have a hard time even imagining a world that is peaceful, but here it is. Isaiah connects this peace to knowledge of the Lord covering the earth like the waters of the sea. The knowledge of the Lord is a living presence, including all of the earth. In this living knowledge or awareness children can play without fear, and show us who we are meant to be.
Jesus tells us that the only way for us to enter into God’s presence is to become like little children again. The Kingdom of Heaven is precisely this state of mind, and we enter into it here and now.
Jesus tells us this in Matthew, when his disciples come and ask who will be the greatest among them “in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus had them bring a little child and stood that child in front of them as an example of what it means to follow Jesus, and also as an example of what it means to lead like Jesus. I like the First Nations Version way of telling this story.
The ones who walked the road with Creator Sets Free (Jesus) came to him. “Who is the greatest one on Creator’s good road from above?” They asked.
He had a small child come to him and stood the child in front of them.
“I speak from my heart,” he said to them, “unless you become like a little child, you will not find the pathway onto the good road. The ones who humble themselves, like this little child, will become great ones in the Land of Creator’s good road.”
(Matthew, or “Gift from Creator Tells the Good Story” 18: 1-4)
As we look at our world filled with war, mass shootings, heat waves, drought, floods, storms, famine and other kinds of violence, I am aware that we need more than ever to be like Jesus, to live like Jesus, and to see the world through the eyes of Jesus.
Across time and space I shout out to Isaiah to say that “The knowledge of the Lord” is the living presence of Jesus in our hearts and in our world.
When we become as little children we let go of our unexamined presuppositions our culture provides and we let go of the expectations that actually pull us into the increasing violence of our world.
When we accept that “the good road” and “the Kingdom of Heaven” is not bound to the ecocidal global civilization that will inevitably collapse under its own weight, we lose the spiritual blindness that we carry around as fully-formed adult members of the empire of our own time and place.
Whether we look at world events or the intensifying crises near us, we can accept that nearly all of these problems are the self-inflicted wounds of “Homo Colossus” – that is, of a species grown proud and vain and indifferent to the sacred body of Creation through which God still breaths life into us.
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God….God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
James here refers to “the world” as the empire of our own time and place. Too often the church has become the friend of whatever empire holds sway at the time, and so becomes an enemy of God.
God is calling the church to repent.
The debacle of Red Hill looms over Honolulu and Oahu like an idol to a false and vain god. The same false god has caused the unraveling of earth’s ecology and with it the unbearable weather chaos and war.
This false god feeds on war, as Ike Eisenhower predicted it would. It is not only the “military-industrial complex” that Eisenhower stated would crucify humanity “upon a cross of iron” but also our global civilization, which sees the
Creation as a thing to be devoured.
Friendship with this predatory “world” is enmity with God.
President Eisenhower warned that the greatest evil would be done by men in suits, carving up the planet and its peoples.
C.S. Lewis warned us of exactly this in writing the “Screwtape Letters”: the “greatest evil” is conceived and ordered by men in suits working in clean, quiet, comfortable offices.
God is calling the church to repent.
Only when we let go of the false narratives of the empire of our time and place, we are freed up to speak the truth to power in love – as did Isaiah and as did Jesus and Matthew and James.
And only then do we have the vision to set right what ever wrongs we can set right. And only then do we have the vision to make a way for life the the little ones in our care.
These are dangerous and violent times.
They promise to become more so.
Do you want to have peace in these times?
Do you want to make peace in these times?
Do you want to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven?
Do you want to follow Creator’s good road?
Jesus Christ calls us immediately and without reservation to become as little children, and to lead with vulnerability, wonder, curiosity and compassion.
This is the way of peace even in a world that continues to collapse around us.
This is the way of Jesus Christ.