Nov. 30: Turned on their head
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Today’s Scripture passage – a description of the coming kingdom of God – sets power on its head with unusual language. The nouns of God’s righteousness are wisdom, equity, a belt around one’s waist, a shoot growing from a stump. Fantastical images are suggested: wolves and leopards lying down with young lambs, a lion eating straw, and unbelievably, a child playing over the hole of a deadly serpent. Does God really mean all this?
Today’s meditation includes a painting by Whitney Philipps, a 2009 graduate of Goshen College. It shows Mary’s encounter with Gabriel, and her reaction to the impossible task she is being asked to undertake.
I am drawn to this image of Mary because she is not like most images of the Virgin Mother. I like it when art turns our ideas on their heads. I like it when artists take something we think we know, and show us different ways of looking at it. God is that kind of artist.
Mary raises her hand in this picture, perhaps as a greeting. Or is it? What if Mary is really saying, “Not yet. I’m not ready.” How often has God come to us, in unimaginable ways, to tell us that something truly momentous will happen – something earth shattering, life changing – and we have thought we were too small to contain it?
Mary took a grand step. In her unexpected hour, when God offered, she said “yes.” And the earth became full of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
SCRIPTURE: 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 lie 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.