Sunday, December 05, 2010
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The Peaceable Kingdom: Fantasy Or For Real?
Pastor Sue Gross' sermon today, titled "The Peaceable Kingdom," was inspired by the Old Testament Scripture of Isaiah 11:1-10 in which the long-ago Hebrew prophet talked of the day when the wolf dwells with the lamb, the leopard lies down with the kid...and a little child leads them. And, oh yes, the lion eats straw like an ox!
That same Scripture inspired the now-famous painting of the same name, The Peaceable Kingdom, by Edward Hicks (1780-1849), himself a Quaker who was also commemorating the signing of a treaty during the 1600s between Native Americans and Colonists led by William Penn, also a Quaker, a religious faith with strong ties to the promotion of peace on earth.
The Pastor passed out copies of this painting, shown in the photos above (which may also be accessed by clicking on the title of this Weblog post at the top of the page, itself a live link providing more background on the art and the artist).
Pastor Sue made it clear that she doesn't think the world is any closer today to the ideal suggested by Hicks' painting than it was in any of the past centuries, which raises the question of the motivation behind both the Hebrew prophet and the Quaker artist: Will mankind ever experience such an idealized version of peace on earth?
Are we instead to assume that such a scene might actually materialize during the Second Coming of Jesus? Is the reality, if such is ever to exist, limited to what some call the millennial kingdom?
The strong sense that such an ideal is out of reach for humankind was emphasized by one of the Pastor's anecdotes about kids playing a game called "war," when an adult suggested they instead play a game called "peace," a concept so foreign to the kids that none of them had any idea how to go about "playing peace."
The Pastor also mentioned the degree to which modern war has progressed, with drone weapons able to kill unseen enemies simply with GPS guidance systems combined with bombs: No need ever even to see the face of a war victim! This technology, with wars being waged on several fronts of the world today.
No one actually feels completely safe anymore, even during peacetime, especially not children, said Pastor Sue, as if to emphasize how far the world is from being a peaceable kingdom, or anything close to it.
Still, the Pastor emphasized that she does not like to think of an End Time that involves a worldwide Armageddon. Rather, she prefers to think of the Second Coming of Jesus as a time when He will judge, not with such Armageddon-like violence, but with righteousness, grace and mercy.
Thus, in that scenario, we might visualize the wonderful arrival of the Prince of Peace as a true harbinger of The Peaceable Kingdom.
With some effort and deep faith, we might even begin to try to create our own Peaceable Kingdom in our homes, our churches and our work places, with the intention of spreading the notion, much like a viral video on the Internet.
Truly, suggested the Pastor, if we start living the spirit of The Peaceable Kingdom, and do so in a fear (awe) of God, then we stand a chance of becoming living examples of the disciples of Jesus The Christ, especially as others start to notice our examples.
Why do they seem so "at peace," others might wonder about us, and ask, she suggested.
Over time, what if our own local version of a Peaceable Kingdom truly "went viral," with others witnessing to having seen us live out the noble concept of a Peaceable Kingdom? Going viral means inspiring others to the same worthy goals.
It could happen, could it not?