5th December 2010. Advent 2. St Tim’s 10.15 only.
A CITY UNDER SIEGE
Imagine a city surrounded by armies. Cut off from supplies except a treacherous route through the mountains. For 4 long years no way in or out of the city except a series of underground tunnels. 10,000 people killed in the siege, including many women and children.
Is this a piece of ancient history, biblical times, far removed from our day?
No, 15 years ago, Europe, European capital city.
The name of the city: Sarajevo. Bosnian war.
World stood by watching from a distance.
The voice of ordinary Bosnians was taken up in an unlikely way. Music video, U2 and Pavarotti.
“Miss Sarajevo”, the song is about a Beauty Pageant that took place in 1993 during the war, while the shells and bombs fell all around – juxtaposed are images of Bosnian resistance fleeing through city streets and the almost surreal images of the beauty queen being crowned.
Most shocking of all is the sign held up by the contestants for all the world to see: “Don’t let them kill us”.
All the time Bono sings, asking us as series of questions,
“Is there a time?”
WATCH VIDEO - harrowing
A SIEGE AVERTED
Not from biblical times.
Background to our Isaiah reading, period of history when Jerusalem was surrounded by armies. What happened to Sarajevo almost happened to Jerusalem. .
701BC King Hezekiah. Assyrian armies under the command of Sennacherib have swept through the land of Israel, destroyed most of the cities, and conquered the land belonging to the northern kingdom 10 of the 12 tribes.
Hezekiah praying to the Lord and the prophet Isaiah prophesying Assyrian armies on Jerusalem’s doorstep will be turned around.
That is what happens [2 Kings 19]. Disaster is averted, but all that is left of the kingdom of Israel is the stump of a tree.
The great kingdom that David, the son of Jesse ruled over 300 years previously has been cut down almost to nothing – stump and roots alone remain.
Into that context, Isaiah proclaims the message of the first verse of this morning’s reading (p702):-
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” v1
David’s kingdom will again grow and bear fruit. And a new king will be crowned on whom God’s spirit will rest.
Music video we see 17 year old Inela Nogic crowned beauty queen. Bono’s very clever in the way he uses words – here it’s almost as if she is a parody of the world leaders of our age. Do we crown someone because of something on the surface (beauty) or of something much deeper (integrity)? Bono sings:
Here she comes, beauty plays the clown
Here she comes, surreal in her crown.
WHAT KIND OF CROWN?
In a time of crisis, what kind of leader do we need? What kind of king or queen? What kind of crown?
Answer Isaiah gives – crown with 6 jewels, set not in precious metal, but in the Spirit of God.
v 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 fear of the Lord.”
Of course this verse has come to be applied to Jesus, and rightly so, he is the king descended from David on in whom the fullness of God dwelt.
But in 700BC, as these words are written down, they also apply to the situation in Jerusalem. The Assyrian forces were not turned away by military might, but only by prayer and trust in the Lord. For Jerusalem and Judah to remain secure, a king who is needed who will display these crown jewels: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge of the Lord and fear of the Lord.
This is often the nature of OT prophecy. What is spoken is first of all God’s message for the prophet’s own time, but also a looking forward to Jesus, in whom all God’s promises are a “Yes”.
What does it mean for us in 2010?
We lived in troubled times. Not war in our own land, but a nation struggling with grief, recession, and a city wholesale rebuilding.
In our world, massive changes: trading alliances, population distribution, way we communicate, climate.
We pray that our leaders – community, industry, school, politicians - too would display those characterisitics.
wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge of the Lord and fear of the Lord
Notice too the next verse,
v4 “He shall not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”
When I was reading that on Monday I thought, “How can you do anything but judge by what your eyes seem, or ears hear?” But then as I was praying over this passage I was reminded that so often we choose what we want to see, choose who we hear. We choose when to turn off the TV, we choose who we listen to. Bono reminds that in the opening lines of the song:
Is there a time for keeping your distance
A time to turn your eyes away?
Is there a time for keeping your head down
For getting on with your day?
The new king - the shoot from the stump of Jesse - promised by Isaiah would be someone who makes decisions with righteousness and justice. Who chooses to listen to the poor and the needy, who doesn’t use his words to butter up the powerful, but who rather “with the breath of his lips will slay the wicked.”
How we need a king like this in our world of spin and sleaze. Where politicians get rich on business deals at the nations expense. Where our prison and justice system is more about grabbing votes and headlines than helping the needy.
NOT WASTING ADVENT
The last verse of Miss Sarajevo Bono asks us:
Is there a time for tying ribbons
A time for Christmas trees?
Is there a time for laying tables
When the night is set to freeze?
Vicar’s letter. There will soon be a time. We’re not quite ready to celebrate.
Let’s get the decorations up. Christmas can’t come soon enough. Let’s get it all behind us.
Let’s not waste Advent. To yearn and long and pray for the return of the King. But also to do all we can NOW to work for the kingdom values of righteousness and justice.
Crown jewels wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge of the Lord and fear of the Lord
A VISION OF HARMONY
Eschatological vision v6ff:
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard lying down with the goat” Predator and prey living alongside each other.
Vegetarian lion. Picture of HARMONY. In a world that was broken. I a world that lived close to nature – wolves often stole lambs from the fold.
Maybe we need to recast it in contemporary language. My own version.
The Bosnian will live with the Serb,
Israeli and Palestinian will lie down together
Pakeha, Maori and Pacifica together,
and a little child shall lead them.
Residents of Pyongyang and Seoul will eat together,
their children will play together.
Infants will play in the palaces of Baghdad
and young children will throng the streets of Basra.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
How will this happen?
Because v10 “In that day the ROOT OF JESSE, !King Jesus! will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.”
Now that’s a vision worth longing, and praying and working for. O come, O come Emmanuel.