As I found myself preparing my sermon for the second Sunday of Advent, with the focus on the theme of peace, I couldn’t help but think about what peace would look like if it was truly for everyone, not just those in power. The image that kept creating to mind was the imagery from Isaiah 11:6-9; “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the falling 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 adders 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.”
I have seen paintings of this passage that reflect this lovely hillside where all of these animals are living together in peace without fear of being consumed by the predator. But over the past week as the country continues to be faced with headlines regarding the non-indictment of two police officers now who were directly responsible for the death of an unarmed African American male. I hear the need for peace and justice for all. But how do we go about achieving that goal when it seems that the system for justice seems to be flawed and biases to the point that race has become a factor that warrants harsher treatment. Where race coupled with a minor offense negates the value of that person’s life. Or even to a larger degree the value of a person’s life is still dependent on their race. As a person of faith who seeks to lead a faith community in living into the mission God has called us to work for the Kingdom of God, I am appalled at how easily those with the social power, as it is provided by the systemic racism that prevails our country, justify the death of an individual because of the color of their skin. It is far too easy for us as a society to value one person’s right to live in this world than another based on the color of their skin.
There is a system that provides more power to some while taking it from others. This system has to change if we are truly going to achieve true peace and justice. I say true peace and justice with a focus on the peace of God. A peace that is not brought about by violence or requires one group to be subservient to another. A peace that flies in the face of the PAX Romana, the peace of Rome, that was brought about through military conquest and remained in place through fear and the presence of the military force. Individuals had to become subservient to the Roman Empire in order to enjoy the peace that Rome offered. Peace brought about through fear is no peace at all.
Instead I look to the imagery from Isaiah where all these creatures are able to live together without fear of harm. But in order for this to happen change has to happens or it to be possible. Consider for a moment what has to be given up and by whom in the imagery provided by the text…
We have two groups represented in the imagery from the book of Isaiah, the predator and the prey, the powerful and the vulnerable. The predators had to change their manner of sustenance in order to be able to provide a safe space for the prey to live without the fear of being eaten.those who have the power and the strength must be willing to concede the essence of who they are that causes the vulnerable to remain subservient.
This begins with those who have the power, I am included in this as a Caucasian male, to recognize how we have benefited from this system and call attention to this imbalance in power. Recognizing that as we receive these benefits others are being oppressed because the balance of power and justice is not equal. Justice as defined by human beings is in no way treated equally across the board because of the systematic racism within our society.
There is still much work to be done as we seek to live in peace with all of God’s people. It will make some uncomfortable, especially those who have benefited from this unjust system. But if we are to ever make this a better world those with the power have be willing to become uncomfortable so that we can all work towards reconciliation.