Wednesday, November 30, 2016
by Allysen Schaaf
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Recently I visited a friend and colleague’s home for a gathering of a group of youth pastors of Greater Atlanta Presbytery. I had been to my colleague’s house once before after his family had moved in but I had not been back in over a year. I was amazed at the transformation that had taken place in their backyard. What was once a tangled jungle of overgrown brush, weeds, trees and vines was now a beautiful backyard where their child and their dogs could run and play and where friends and family could gather around a fire pit or at the long dinner table in the new screened-in porch. When I talked to my colleague about the astounding transformation of their house and backyard he told me about all of the hard work he had put in to make it happen. We had a wonderful afternoon of fellowship, prayer and reflection that was unlike any of our previous meetings.
As I read Isaiah’s vision in chapter 2 my mind was filled with many images: people from all nations flooding to God’s mountain, of disagreements and factions being reconciled, of tools being used to provide for the nourishment of all people and to prune away what holds them back. This passage exudes enthusiasm and eagerness. It gives a vision of people excited to be together in God’s presence. It’s an image of a people who long to live in unity and peace and who long for wrongs to be made right. It’s an image of a people who are ready to get their hands dirty and get to work at being the people God made them to be.
There are many powerful images in this passage that exude hope and joy but alongside it also are the yearnings of the world which we still WAIT for today: togetherness; the end of warfare; tools and skills being used for the nourishment of all, not just some; the time and diligence to eagerly rush to God but also to stop, breathe and be filled with the light of God; the feeling of hope that comes from knowing and SEEING that what God has promised is becoming reality right here and now. Our world is waiting for so much!
So as I read of Isaiah’s vision of the hope God promises and the work the people would engage in while they waited for these promises to be fulfilled, my mind went back to the jungle in my friend’s backyard that had once been filled with darkness and the unknown and was now pruned away to reveal the sun-filled grassy hill. My mind envisioned the tools, labor, furniture and vision that were used to create an inviting space for not only his family but for our group (and countless others) to gather together and be nourished in body and in spirit. That day and space provided a place for our group to share in the blessings and trials of life and ministry and renewed us through fellowship, laughter, prayer and reflection. Sure, there was still more work to be done, trials to face, and programs to plan, but that time together is not one we will not be forgotten and that will continue to influence our lives.
So what are we to do while we wait?
Stream to God’s house for worship.
Gather together with people from all nations and walks of life.
Instead of fighting and holding grudges, let your actions be plowshares of peace
and nourishment for others.
Instead of maintaining divisions and barriers, bring people together.
Prune away those things in your life that hold you in the darkness or distract you from walking in