Advent Week Two: The Wolf Shall Lie With the Lamb
Isaiah 11:1-10 (NRSV)
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. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live 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 cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall like down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 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. On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Sermon Starter 1:
So often Christians are challenged to interpret the Good News as that which brings about equality. For example, we’ve all been created in the image of God, equally. God loves each of us, equally. We’ve each got purpose in this world and it is important, equally. But in the text for today, the language is of equity (v4: but with righteousness, he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth…). Equality and equity are not the same. Equality ensures each person receives the same amount, treatment, opportunities, resources, etc. Equity, on the other hand, requires distribution based on righting past or present inequality. Equity sees how there hasn’t been an equal distribution up until this point, and rectifies it. For example, let’s say one person makes $10/hour and another makes $20/hour for the same job. If we apply equality, we add the same amount to each person’s pay at the same time. If we have $10 to offer, one person receives $5 and now makes $15/hour and the other receives $5 and now makes $25/hour. If we apply equity, the $10 goes to the first person and they now make $20/hour. The second person receives nothing extra and remains at $20/hour. Sermons might consider how the Church (or your church) follows the equality model when equity is actually called for. In what specific ways could the Church enact equity in the Church, schools, or the community? What resistance do you think you might encounter within your church to the idea that this text is calling us to enact equity in order to work toward equality?
Sermon Starter 2:
Verse 6 begins that “the wolf shall live with the lamb.” Many sermons highlight how the surprise of God and the kin-dom allows for such an unlikely pairing. How is it that a wolf and a lamb could live with one another in harmony? Surely this must be the work of the miraculous! Wolves are predators and lambs are vulnerable. Wolves eat lambs, for goodness sakes. In what world, other than the kin-dom of God would wolves not be tempted to hurt lambs and lambs not be afraid of wolves? But there is another aspect of this story that preachers can attend to that might bring more surprise than that. What if, the wolf and the lamb not only live together, but work together to figure out why there’s such an unequal power differential between them in the first place? The first paragraph highlights how lambs and wolves could live together at all because of the power differential. This option highlights interrupting and dismantling the power differential so that justice is done as well as relationships built. Similarly, work to “deal with” racism and other isms often focus on individual or interpersonal dynamics – i.e., how can we build relationships across racial difference. But the surprise of God this Advent could lead us toward interrupting and dismantling the structures and practices that sustain and protect the isms in the first place. Might it be that sermons could get at the institutional and structural aspects of isms to interrupt and dismantle them from the ground up? Then lambs and wolves will not only be in relationship – but they’ll be in just relationship as well.