Friday, December 14, 2007

God's Salvation

This week's text from Isaiah paints a picture of God's vision of peace and justice, salvation.

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. 7The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.”

In this vision salvation comes to all Creation...even those we demonize as dangerous, evil or bad. Here, those long associated with wickedness and evil no longer pose a threat. The sinful snakes of Eden, John's "brood of vipers," become playmates for babes, predators and prey snuggle together, and there is unimaginable peace on all God’s holy mountain.

God has already declared there will come a day when the pain-filled vipers of loneliness, isolation, discrimination, injustice, oppression, hate, greed, and inhumanity will have no bite. There will come a day when all sit together: wolves and lambs, leopards and kids, bears and cows. This is God’s understanding of salvation as a way of life that breaks down human hostilities and initiates an everlasting reign of peace. No kingly monarch need sit in judgment, for Creation itself will be at peace. There is no need to get right or get saved for a a future cosmic apocalypse of hellfire and brimstone. No, the salvation of which Isaiah foretells will usher forth a life of renewed peace. No longer will there be categories of "saved" and "unsaved," for God will redeem all of Creation.

Let’s be clear, the kin-dom is not fully here. The viper’s venom is still dangerously poisonous. The divisions and distinctions of our church and world still have the power to harm. But what if, what if we began to take seriously the invitation to seek reconciliation, to break down barriers that keep us separated, barriers of all kinds…not just the political divisions, but the social, religious, personal, and familial divisions?

What if we began to seek peace as a concrete way of being in the world even in the face of discrimination, rejection, pain and division?

What would it look like if we began by offering one another a place where salvation becomes real in concrete acts of compassion, love, tenderness, and care?

What if we began by stopping the name-calling, back-biting gossip?

What if we began to live our lives as if the kin-dom were already here?

Martin Luther King Jr. often talked about non-violence in three parts. The non-violent way of being is not just about non-violence of the fist…though it begins there. It is also about non-violence of the tongue. Words can be just as violent as actions after all. Added to these notions of non-violence of the fist and tongue is the idea of non-violence of the heart. That is, to be fully non-violent, we must not even harbor ill thoughts towards those who mistreat and malign us and others.

When we give in to violence whether it be in our actions, words or heart, we cut ourselves off from God and turn away from God’s vision of the kin-dom. We cannot live into the vision of the peaceable kin-dom when we harbor fear, resentment, and hatred for ourselves or for others. This type of violence is what is truly incompatible with Christian teaching. If we truly yearn for salvation, the type of salvation we know through Isaiah and the prophets visions, then we must prepare the way for its coming not just in the world but in our own hearts as well.

Non violence of the fist, heart and tongue. This is the order of salvation.

In this season of advent we are called to prepare ourselves, our actions, our words, and our hearts for the coming reign of peace where we no longer fear the sting of the viper nor lash out with poisonous words or thoughts of our own. Saved. Unsaved. Neither hold meaning in God’s vision of the future for salvation will be entirely irresistible!! We can’t help but be saved!

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