A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
We are in an age of transformation. Of this, there is little doubt. Let’s say it more starkly: we are in a moment shaped by death and dying which is the only real way to new life. So much that we have known about our institutions, our systems of governance and stability, our frames of reference and understanding, about gender and sexuality and racial privilege, the basis for knowledge and confidence, even, and perhaps acutely, the church(!) are failing us.
This is not easy territory for those who liked what was, who benefitted from it. The dying of something is a painful, wrenching process. It is journey filled with heartbreak and it often fills us with shame for our perceived failure and impotence. This too needs to die. Navigating such landscapes is a slog; it requires incredible effort for little immediate reward. And, yet, astonishingly, this is the place where our faith is made known, where the Holy appears.
Clear-cut landscapes and wilderness, fire, and flood. God is found in these places, of all places. Shoots of newness from an old stump. A voice of truth—of judgment and promise—in the wilderness. Do you perceive it? Do you hear the good news in it?
Apocalyptic texts like these we encounter in early Advent are not about the end of the world. They are about its transformation. It’s renewal. It’s redeemed future, and ours. They point the way where God’s creation is bubbling, is blooming, is bursting with new life.
From the nurse log of Isaiah sprouts shoots of growth: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord. These are the seven Spirit gifts derived from this Isaiah text. They lay the foundation for what is coming and is indeed here.
Readings for Sunday: Isaiah 11:1-10 † Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 † Romans 15:4-13 † Matthew 3:1-12
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