On Sunday I was using part of the lectionary reading from Philippians as a focus for some reflections on how we might prepare ourselves spiritually for the 'Day of Christ.' Using Paul's prayer for the people at Philippi, part of that reflection was about 'growing in knowledge and insight' and I commented on the danger of a stagnant understanding of scripture, fixed firmly in the way we heard stories as children, and the risk of not really reading or engaging with scripture afresh. It seemed to resonate with (at least) some people. I also commented that Jesus injunction to 'become like a child' was not about a kind of Peter Pan refusal to grow up, rather about a curiosity and openness to discover truth through the whole of life.
This morning I was reading the lectionary readings for today and was left discomfitted by the Isaiah 30:19 to end passage which was, crudely, God blessing Israel and God punishing Assyria. Not that God is not free to punish those who deserve punishment, or to bless those whom God so chooses, just I find the whole national level blessing and cursing hard to handle. As it happened, I also checked out NBLCs Advent reflection for today which was using a different Isaiah passage, Isaiah 19: 18 - 25 which, in the CEV is labelled up as 'The LORD will bless Egypt, Assyria and Israel'. A contrast, and a more hope-filled passage... yet still part of the greater whole. I can't just ignore chapter 30 in favour of chapter 19, rather I must try to find the signs of hope, the good news in the greater whole, the bigger picture. Not sure that's easy, not sure I'll ever quite get there, but a challenge to keep seeking the new insights, to keep learning and growing.
The 'thought for the day' bit on NBLC's website (which will have vanished tomorrow) seemed very apposite:
Egypt and Assyria were the opposing superpowers in Isaiah’s time. Israel was the corridor connecting them – a dangerous place to be. Yet Isaiah speaks of a time when these three enemies would be at one, each blessed by God, each known as the people of God. It’s an amazing vision of peace. As we await to celebrate the prince of peace, are we working and praying for the Taliban to be at one with the USA, for India to be at one with Pakistan, for Israel to be at one with the Palestinians?
I wonder who the communities or people groups either (or all) side(s) of us are? How is our place a dangerous palce to be? Who is it we need to be praying for locally as well as internationally?
Come now O Prince of Peace, make us one body... come now Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.