The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:1-3)
By Laurel Dykstra
It is hard to be hopeful in the Anthropocene, in the days when the destructive human impact on climate, individuals and communities, creatures, waterways and ecosystems is unprecedented. The lectionary passages this week have a fierce and compelling urgency but they seem far from the Advent theme of hope and further still from this lectionary project’s focus on Creation. Just what should we be awake to? Why the urban emphasis the focus on judgment?
In the midst of these clamoring contradictions, an image from Isaiah’s prophecy, the Word that he sees, emerges as hopeful for me. From a bleak context of displacement Isaiah holds the vision of an alternate reality: Jerusalem the capital of Judah, and the temple, the centre of Jerusalem, is a mountain destination for all nations who flow like rivers to learn goodness there. While on the one hand this seems to elevate religious and political heart of the nation, it does so in language that is untamed, broadly accessible and has non-violence and abundance at its core.
Over and over in scripture encounters with the holy happen on mountain-tops and in high places. The gospel writers adopted the concrete image of ways and paths as a robust symbol for discipleship. So at this time of Advent when many of us in North America are caught the usual seasonal stress and push toward frenzied consumption and a new and frightening climate reality for which we are woefully unprepared, I pray that we hold Isaiah’s vision not as a hoped for future but a possible alternative that we have a part in. And that with our own real feet on real paths on mountains, hillsides, and even city parks, we find that wild encounter with the Holy One.
Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in the revised common lectionary, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory. An edited version of this reflection will appear in an Advent reflection for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.