31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
December 4, 2022
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Visualization is big these days. You know, see your success; ace that test. Vision your dreams to make them come true. Manifest your destiny; be the ball.
Long before modern psychology taught people to vision their future, the prophet Isaiah shared with God’s people God’s vision of what God’s community and world should look like.
Enemies, like the wolf and the lamb, shall all live together in peace. So too shall the calf and the lion, the cow and bear. Even little children shall have no fear of the snake and shall freely play around the home of the asp. All the world shall be a peaceable kingdom, as Bible translators entitle this passage from Isaiah.
What does peace look like to you? If you live in Bristol, it might be that the bears that are still roaming around our area live peaceably with your dog or outdoor cats.
For most of us, peace looks different than it did in Isaiah’s time. Peace might be relief from physical pain or relief from an overburdened schedule. Peace in your household might be harmony between families members or it might mean connection with someone, anyone, and relief from aching loneliness. Is your vision of peace unity in our nation and our world, the end of constant heart breaking news?
What does peace look like to you? Take a quiet moment to visualize what peace looks like to you: in your home, in your community, in your world. What does peace look like to you?
All week, I have had “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me” in my head. It’s a beautiful, wonderful hymn, and yet, peace does not begin with us. Peace begins with God. Peace begins with a promise, God’s promise. Peace begins with a shoot, a branch, a little sign of hope coming out of what looked, to everyone else, like a dead, very dead, long dead stump.
And yet, this new beginning is coming. It’s coming because God promised, and God is a God who keeps God’s promises. God promised that there would be a new beginning, a new branch from the stump of Jesse, from the family of King David.
And that new would not a savior like the warrior poet King David, nor a savior like the wise and wealthy King Solomon. No, God’s Savior is filled with the Spirit of the Lord. God’s Savior embodies God’s spirit of wisdom and understanding, and “shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness [and faithfulness] he shall judge” all. (Isaiah 11:3-4)
A Savior who judges might not sound like good news to you, and yet, over and over again, the Bible tells us that God is judging us. Just not judging us like the world judges us. God is not pondering if we are a useful little train, able to climb tall mountains and haul many burdens. God is not looking at our outsides and deciding if we are tall enough, short enough, big enough, or small enough. The prophet Samuel tells us that God does not see as humans see. God does not look at our outward appearances. God looks at our hearts. (1 Samuel 16:7)
God looks at our hearts. God judges our hearts. Not so we will feel bad though. God looks at our hearts; God judges our hearts; God searches our hearts so God can help us know God’s wisdom, God’s understanding; God’s peace. So we can know God’s peace.
Because while God loves us more than we can ever imagine, God loves us too much to leave us as we are and how we are (based on Leighton Ford quote).
God loves us too much to leave us with anxiety, loneliness, frustration, strife, anger, and resentment. God looks at our hearts, judges our hearts, searches our hearts so God can help us identify which things we should let go of and which parts of us we should nurture and grow – so we can know God’s peace and live more fully in peace.
God loves us so much that God wants us to be a part of God’s peaceable kingdom, God’s peaceable community. God wants God’s vision, God’s dream to become a reality for us. God wants enemies to become companions. God wants all to feel safe and secure and to flourish. God wants a world so connected to God, so in awe of God, that there will not be any hurt or destruction. There will be only peace.
God wants that for us, and that peace begins first with knowing God, knowing God’s promises for you, knowing God’s unconditional love for you. Take a moment to pause in that knowledge. God is promising you love; God is promising you joy; God is promising you hope. Take a deep breath. Maybe close your eyes and repeat that in your head: God promises me love. God promises me joy. God promises me hope.
Do you feel a bit more peaceful than you did a moment ago?
Peace begins with God, with our relationship with God, and it grows out from us. We can only have peace in our homes, peace in our community, peace in our world when we have peace in our hearts, minds, and souls. Peace begins with God and it grows out from each one of us.
Visualize that peace. Dream it, and then live it. Fill yourself with deep moments of God’s peace, fill yourself deeply of God’s love, so you can be God’s instrument of peace and love in all the world, walking in God’s spirit of wisdom and understanding, walking in the light of the Lord.