The Recipe for Peace
Grace United Methodist Church
November 14, 2010
Isaiah 65: 17-25 (NIV)
|“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.
20 “Never again will there be in it
21 They will build houses and dwell in them;
|22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the work of their hands.
23 They will not labor in vain,
nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the LORD,
they and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
and dust will be the serpent’s food.
My Grandmommy was a one of a kind cook. Now, no offense to any of you fine cooks out there, because there are a lot of good cooks in this world, but I’m pretty sure she was the best! There were lots of things that excited me about going to visit my Grandmommy and Granddaddy in Kentucky, but I distinctly remember one of the things I most looked forward to was the buckeyes my grandmother always had prepared for my sister and me. She would make them before we got there, put them in a Tupperware and then freeze them until we arrived. Everyday after lunch, and every evening after dinner, my sister and I would run out to the utility room where the freezer was, and we would pull out that Tupperware and dig in! However, you can probably guess that my grandmother wasn’t known for her cooking just because of those buckeyes. She made a lot of other great stuff as well.
One of my Granddaddy’s favorites was the country ham she would make him for breakfast in the morning. I almost never ate country ham except when I was at her house, and it was so good! Nice and salty, but still moist and tender, not dry at all. Her green beans and chicken were really good too. But what my Grandmommy was known for was her rolls. Oh my goodness, I can guarantee that you’ve never tasted rolls anything like my grandmother’s. Lots of people have tried to re-create those rolls my Grandmommy made, but no one’s quite succeeded. There’s a recipe for them, but I’m pretty sure my grandmother didn’t use it very much. There’s also a special pan she would make them in; her sister took that pan after she died, in the hopes that she’d be able to make those rolls like Grandmommy’s. I know she’s tried lots of times, and she makes some good rolls, but somehow they’re just not as good as my grandmother’s.
As I grew up and began cooking myself, I came to appreciate more and more my grandmother’s cooking, even though she was long gone by then and I wasn’t able to partake of her goodies anymore. You see, I can cook, but unless it’s hot dogs or spaghetti, I have to have a recipe in front of me. I don’t think my Grandmommy ever used a recipe unless she was trying something new. She could cook dinner for a whole week, never repeat a dish, and never open a cookbook. It’s truly remarkable in my mind; because I, along with many others I’m sure, need a recipe in order to have any hope of cooking an even reasonably edible meal! In the same way, we people need some guidance when it comes to understanding God’s kingdom and what it will look like in its fulfillment. And that’s what we have in today’s passage: a word of God, given to the prophet Isaiah, about exactly how all these ingredients of God’s creation are going to mix together to form this perfect, peaceable kingdom; the New Jerusalem, God’s kingdom. And essentially, we are told, it’s going to mean starting from scratch, “a new heavens and a new earth.”
This new kingdom God is establishing is going to be so radically different that God can’t even mix it together with the stuff that’s already there. Isaiah takes us all the way back to creation. God is going to start all over again, and he’s giving us the recipe! First, the slate will be wiped clean, the old things forgotten. Then, no more weeping and crying, only joy! Of course, how could there not be if the old things are forgotten?!? People will live long, healthy lives (as long as the trees!), with houses to dwell in, and vineyards full of fruit! The people of this kingdom will be blessed by the Lord; before they even open their mouths to seek God, God will answer their need. The wolf will lie down by the lamb, and the lion and the ox will eat together.
Does it make your mouth water listening to that? Does it make you long for this kingdom to be ready? The thing about it is, though, these images that Isaiah uses were spoken to the Israelites in exile in Babylon. He was telling them what Jerusalem would be like when they were finally freed from Babylon and able to return home. He was describing for them the home of their dreams, what they have been longing for and missing since they have been away. And the truth is, it doesn’t really sound realistic, it sounds idyllic and utopian. While that may be true in a sense, this is also pretty radical stuff God is talking about here! I mean, think about it in more modern terms. Cancer’s gone; a foreign concept. 100 years old is young; people are living to be 300 or more. Everyone goes to sleep every single night under the shelter of a roof, warm, even on the coldest days of winter. Everyday there is enough food in the field for all people to be satisfied. All those mistakes we’ve made in the past; they’re forgotten, it’s like they never even happened.
We enjoy lunch regularly with that guy who bullied us back in middle school. Sharks don’t take bites out of surfers. Dogs don’t chase cats. North and South Korea are a country united in peace and committed to the safety and security of all. Christians and Muslims pray together. Catholics and Protestants take communion together. Israel and Palestine, no problem there, they are neighbors in the best of ways. Republicans and Democrats actually talk to each other and work together for good, and they even enjoy each other’s company! Hate isn’t even a word in the human vocabulary. Instead, all around the world, from the smallest atom of God’s creation to the greatest galaxy there is forgiveness, and hope, and peace, and love. This is God’s kingdom.
I don’t know about you, but I want that. I want it more than my Grandmommy’s buckeyes; a lot more! It all seems really strange. It’s more than difficult for us to imagine that these things are actually possible in this world, but I think we all agree we would like to see God’s reign on earth. And here’s what I know, what all Christians know; when Jesus Christ came to this earth, he gave us a real-life glimpse of what God’s kingdom REALLY looks like and how it will come to be among God’s broken creation. And see, when Jesus got started, he went straight to those places where there was the most brokenness. He healed the people who were sick. He ate with the outcasts. He forgave the prostitutes and tax collectors. Then, once people saw what an amazing thing he was doing and started to flock to him hoping for more, Jesus stepped it up a notch. He went to the people who thought they had it together and he started to turn the tables. “Hey, rich young ruler,” he said, “you’re gonna need to sell your possessions and give everything you have to the poor and then follow me.” And to the lawyer he said, “Look, I know you all have been hating on the Samaritans for years, but they’re your neighbors just like your Jewish brothers and sisters, so why don’t you show them some love.” Finally, in the ultimate statement of what God’s kingdom is about, Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world. The old things are forgotten. Unconditional love is the new order of the day. Peace will reign forever.
God has given us the recipe for his kingdom on earth. Through Isaiah, he told us what it would look like. Then, in Jesus Christ, he gave us the ingredients and started mixing things up. But the thing about God’s kingdom is that if we are going to experience it, we have to LIVE it! And that doesn’t just mean eating the tasty rolls when they pop out of the oven, or waiting patiently on that day when we will walk through the pearly gates. John Wesley said that heaven is something we can experience now. In the same way, God’s kingdom is something we can experience now. Knowing the glories of God’s kingdom is possible even in the present time, but in order to experience it, we have to live our lives as if God’s kingdom has already come, because in Jesus Christ it has!
My Grandmommy was a loving wife, mother, and cook. The work of her hands produced tangible results for her and all she loved. But interestingly, her longtime enjoyment of these accomplishments had nothing to do with the drudgery of work. In her peacefulness, manifest through the tangible experience of housewife, she had time to “enjoy the work of [her] hands.” The peace envisioned by Isaiah involves creating time and space in which to do the things that bring us great joy, and it means doing the same for others as well. It is a time when God’s character will be reflected in all nature’s being completely at peace with itself. It is like that hymn, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” The second verse of that song begins, “Let peace begin with me; let this be the moment now.” Isaiah gave us the first vision for peace in this passage. God’s recipe was then made plain in the person of Jesus Christ. And if we are to see this recipe come to full fruition, it has to begin with us following in Christ’s footsteps.
First, we have to be at peace with ourselves. We have to believe that we are loved and claimed by God and that we are people of sacred worth. Then, we have to model the peace of Isaiah’s vision and God’s kingdom in our church. When we are tempted to put down the work of others; we have to remember that each of us has special gifts and talents that God calls us to use in different ways. Rather than being angered or offended by the views and lifestyles of others, we have to remember that we are all loved and claimed by God. And in those moments when we feel hate creeping in because someone doesn’t share our same beliefs and values, we need to remember that one of the great defining marks of God’s kingdom is that it is diverse; “gentile and Jew, slave and free, woman and man.” And it is that unity in diversity that makes God’s kingdom unique and special.
Finally, once we know peace in our own lives and peace in our Christian communities, we have to take that peace into the world. We have to show Israel and Palestine what it means to live side-by-side in peace. We have to show fundamentalist Christians and radical Muslims what it means to serve God in peace. We have to show Republicans and Democrats what it’s like to sit at the table together in peace. We have to show the Meth addicts what it’s like for God’s love to fill you with joy and peace. And if we are faithful in beginning this work, then the Bible tells us that God will “carry it on to completion.”
I think Martin Luther King, Jr. captured God’s recipe for peace and the essence of Isaiah’s vision well in his “I Have a Dream Speech.” He said this, “And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring…” Or we might say when we allow peace to reign; then, King says, “we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of [that old] spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”
 Philippians 1: 6 (NIV)