Weekly Bible Devotional
“Fear Not: Caring Communities”
October 11, 2020
Scripture for this Sunday: Isaiah 11:1-10
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 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.
3 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;
4 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.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6 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.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 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.
Notes on the Text:
Our scripture for this week presents a vision of a world where love and compassion reign instead of fear and violence. The key to this vision is forming bonds among those who are usually separate or enemies. In this vision, we hear the prophet Isaiah proclaiming a time when the people of Israel would have a leader who would be a representation of God’s will on earth and the sign of that happening will be a reality when the wolf and the lamb would live together in peace, the leopard and the goat will lie down together and even the lion would eat grass.
At first blush we may think that this is an impossible vision, a pipe dream, and certainly something that would never happen in our world today. Yet, as we consider this vision of Isaiah carefully, we see that he is not presenting it as a dream to help people cope with the pain of their daily realities. It is a vision that calls us to change the way we see the world and God’s involvement in it.
Isaiah was a court prophet in the sixth century BCE. He was heavily involved in the politics of his day. Prophets in those days were the people who spoke on behalf of God and faith in the daily affairs of the kingdom. Isaiah saw up close and personal the way kings behaved and how they manipulated the system to their advantage and to the advantage of the powerful and wealthy in the land. Isaiah knew how fear could be used to control and divide people. Yet, Isaiah was gifted with a deeper vision of reality. He did not only see the difficult realities of the world. He also saw life through the eyes of God. He saw that God’s presence permeated all of life, and that a caring community was possible. Where people saw only corruption and fear, Isaiah was able to see God’s caring presence. Where people saw only conflict and divisions, Isaiah saw the potential for wholeness and peace. Where people only saw despair and destruction, Isaiah saw God’s promise for hope and renewal. Where people only saw the law of the jungle, Isaiah saw the potential for harmony and cooperation.
Isaiah saw a world where cooperation was the norm instead of competition. We desperately need this vision today, especially in the year 2020. Despite our divisions and the challenge of the pandemic, I pray that we will realize that the old ways of fear and hate have not served us well. This week Pope Francis released an encyclical about his hopes for people around the world to cooperate instead of separate from each other. Here is a link to an article about this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/pope-franciss-new-encyclical-is-a-papal-warning-about-a-world-going-backward/2020/10/04/c3f89b24-026c-11eb-b92e-029676f9ebec_story.html. Reading the Pope’s call in light of the raging conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and of our struggle with the pandemic gave me hope and renewed commitment to God’s vision for our world.
In his book, Fear Not, Eric Law writes this about the need for creating communities of care, “What I have learned is that using external approaches, such as rules, technologies, and rituals, to deal with our fear is often ineffective. As long as we were buying substitutes for facing our fears, such as using our tax money to wage wars, hiring people in new uniforms to check the passengers and their bags at the airports, and devising color-coded alert systems, that encourage us to be suspicious of our neighbors, we will continue to feel fear’s negative effects in alienating us from ourselves, from others, and from our communities. We have to find other ways to address our fears that will bring people together in a trusting community, so that we can face our fears faithfully and work through our fears constructively.”
“Peace is not absence of strife.
Peace is acceptance
and surrender to that which is.
Peace is the profound awareness of
the one true source
from which all things emerge . . .
and to which all things return.” Gunilla Norris
Prayer by Edward Hays:
“Grant me the grace to look with respect upon all I will meet this day and upon every event I encounter. Mindful that I am a pilgrim, may I treat each and every one with reverence and love, as a manifestation of you to whom I journey. May the work of my hands be part of the redemption of the world and its eternal springtime liberation.” Amen.