A Little Child
In our world of war and destruction...in a world where the news only seems to contain enough to frighten us and to destroy us...
How can we live with hope?
A Little Child
December 8, 2013
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church
Some days, I realize more than others just how much of a product of my generation I am. Generation X, often referred to as the “slacker” generation, really got this reputation because we, in our younger years, were disillusioned...disillusioned about whether or not there is really hope for our future. I often wonder about this, especially in our modern world and culture, with the never ending news that rolls towards us by television, computer, phone, and other people...well, a sense of hopelessness can be overwhelming, and it seems like the only possible solution is to just give up and enjoy today.
However, as we read Isaiah this morning...it’s a wake up call...because it appears that this feeling of hopelessness, that there can and will be no future is not so new or unique to modern times.
At the time of this writing in Isaiah, the people of Israel and Judah were facing a terrible nightmare: the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians were truly the big dogs of the time, the largest empire in the region: strong and powerful, especially in terms of their military.
When Israel attempted to stand up against the Assyrians? The country was destroyed.
As a result, Ahaz, the King of Judah, decided to sign on Judah as essentially a territory of Assyria. But, after his death, his son, Hezekiah, rebelled against that relationship with the Assyrians…which the Assyrians didn’t take well to, and it resulted in the ravaging of the land of Judah by the Assyrians.
These were dire, frightening times for the people of Israel, whether they were in Israel itself or in Judah. Bit by bit, their nations were being destroyed by a seemingly unstoppable enemy.
Their people were being slaughtered or forced into servitude and exile under the Assyrians....I can only imagine that it was really hard to see any hope for the people after this.
But here, the prophet Isaiah lifts up a vision of hope for the people. Yes, the land has been ravaged by the Assyrians, he says. Yes, it may feel as if we have been cut down and cleared away, much like a forest that has been completely harvested of all it’s resources, leaving nothing behind but the stumps. But, he says...and this is a HUGE BUT...this is not the end for our people. There is hope yet for us!
He tells the people of Israel to take a look at the stump of their nations that was left behind after the strength of the Assyrian army came through…and he promised that from that stump, a new shoot would grow. Not from the ground, not a new shoot altogether, but a new growth from the stump. At the heart of his message, he is promising the people that the people of Israel are not dead, but can, and will, rise again. And what’s more, they won’t rise as a new people, but as the people of Israel, the children of God, who, like a phoenix, have risen from the ashes of war and destruction to stand and grow strong again in the life and the light of the Lord…with the spirit of the Lord resting on them as a people.
He is giving them a vision of the hope that they have, should and do have, for their future. That they shall overcome death and destruction to rise again.
And, as with all scripture, it speaks not just to that time and the people to whom this message was written, but it speaks to us, here and now, in the world that we live in, in our circumstances and situations…and this passage to us, too, promises that we as a people, the children of God, shall not be destroyed, but will be able to rise above and beyond whatever it is that befalls us…no matter what we face, we will be able to live and become again, and we will be once again given the opportunity to allow the spirit of the Lord to rest upon us, and allow God to guide us with all wisdom and mercy.
It tells us that there is hope for us, for our future...for our world.
But, you know, Isaiah’s vision of the future that they should have hope for has more than just rising to be a people again.
It was more than just overcoming the destruction and the death that they faced and experienced.
The future that they should be hopeful for goes way beyond that to a future where they won’t have to worry about war and death and destruction anymore. To a future where they will live peacefully with their former enemies, to a future where they will live without fear, where justice will reign, where righteousness will prevail, where all will be as it should be.
It’s a fantastic vision, and one that certainly does inspire all people, both in the time of Isaiah and here today, with hope.
But, you know what I think that the most powerful part of that vision of hope is?
That one little phrase, “and a little child shall lead them.”
All of these former enemies will walk and eat and live together in peace and harmony…and a little child shall lead them.
Really, is there any greater symbol of hope for the world than a little child? So full of innocence and wonder in their eyes…with little children, anything is possible. Anything. Not yet corrupted by the world, little children don’t hate or plot or plan or seek power or influence or…they just live and love wholeheartedly with joy and reckless abandon.
It takes that kind of loving, wholeheartedly with joy and reckless abandon, on the part of all that are involved, to achieve the kind of world that Isaiah has visioned out for us.
It takes that kind of loving to live into the hope that Isaiah has spoken to us.
And, to be quite truthful, I think that that is why we have not yet achieved that vision of hope and peace yet in our world. We, as a people, are not ready or willing yet to live and love with reckless joy. We are comfortable in our ways of seeing the world, of being in the world, of acting in the world...because it’s what we’ve always known.
We see the child-like way of seeing the world as just that, child-like, and something that they will grow out of as they get older and experience the world for themselves...when they know what the world is really like. And so we hold on to them: these things, these attitudes, these hates, fears, wants, and so on, as they are comfortable and warm to us, and both consciously and subconsciously teach them to our children as they grow, so that it becomes all that they’ve ever known.
But, if we were to allow a child, or one who is child-like in their attitude and actions towards living and loving, to lead us, to show us how to be in that loving, wholeheartedly loving, way? If we were to allow a child, or one who is child-like in their attitude and actions towards living and loving, to guide us, to change how and who we are?
Then, and only then, we would be able to get beyond the anger and the fear and the anxiety and the desires for power and influence and wealth and all that drives us to not live in peace and harmony with our brothers and sisters.
It is fortunate for us, then, isn’t it, that there has been a child who has come into our midst who maintained that child-like way of living and loving even into adulthood, who can show us and teach us how to be...Who can guide us in how we should live and love in such a way that it removes all those old fears and doubts and worries and hatreds and wants that drive us to hurt and destroy others.
There is one who has come among us that can show us how to be that regrowth of life in the world, led only by the spirit of God in how we are and how we are in relationship to others in the world.
Jesus was a man who, throughout his life, and into his death, lived and loved in such a child-like manner. He loved all whom he encountered; recklessly loved them, giving his whole heart and even his body and his life in the end to them…caring for them, being with them, helping them, loving them…
Jesus truly is the little child that will lead us into the peaceable kingdom that Isaiah foretold with hope so long ago
The question today is: will you allow him to show you how to be, how to live, and how to love, so that we may enter into that peaceable kingdom that Isaiah laid out for us?