- Date: Sunday, November 21, 2021
- Bible Reading: Isaiah 9:1-7
- Free Resource: Light in the Darkness (Cross+Gen Education, NL)
- Unit Theme (November 14—November 21): Promises of Hope
- The Point: The prophet promises a new king who will be the presence of God’s light in the world.
God uses imperfect people, even kings, to bring about wholeness and shalom to God’s people. Isaiah’s hopeful prophecy can inspire us all to follow God’s invitation.
A Coming King
Isaiah hasn’t lost hope. Despite the earlier failures of kings to follow God’s instructions, the prophet Isaiah still offers good news to Israel: God is sending a king, a newborn child in fact, who will bring prosperity, justice, and peace to God’s people. On Reign of Christ Sunday (the end of the liturgical year), this story rekindles our hope for God’s promised reign to be made tangible for all of God’s people.
From Critique to Promise
Given the harsh words of judgment from the prophet Amos in last week’s lectionary passage, it’s hard to believe that anyone, let alone a prophet of God, could keep faith in an institution as broken as kingship. If Amos and Isaiah’s (such as in chapter five) critiques of Israel’s leaders are true, how could we possibly hope for deliverance and restoration through the hands of a monarch? And yet, in our story today, God continues to choose the broken systems and people of this world to live into the calling of God’s covenant: to be a blessing to all peoples and places.
Good News for Very Human Humans
This is good news for all of us working within imperfect and hurting institutions, denominations, and churches. Given the combination of hope and realism, Isaiah’s passage today is an opportunity to talk about leadership and humility. Kids of all ages are smart enough for us to be honest with them: Are the leaders in our churches perfect? No. Do we need to be perfect to serve God? Not at all.
What Makes a Leader?
We’ve focused on call stories over the past several weeks of the Narrative Lectionary (Samuel and David, to be specific). This week, we have the chance to discuss what makes a great Christian leader like the one Isaiah describes. Are they born that way? Are they superhuman? Can we learn to be leaders? Can we recognize the traits of leadership in ourselves?
God Promises Shalom
Attention can also be paid to the repeated word for peace near the end of our passage. The new ruler from God will be called a Prince of Peace (v. 6) and their reign will be marked by an “endless peace” (v. 7, NRSV). Both words are translations of the Hebrew word shalom (שָׁלוֹם). Preaching and teaching on this passage can emphasize the breadth of this word, meaning not just peace, but completion or wholeness.
Shalom and Negative/Positive Peace
One way to communicate this richer meaning of shalom is through outlining Johan Galtung’s concepts of negative peace (freedom from violence/war) and positive peace (a restoration of relationships and holistic wellbeing). Here’s a helpful website connecting conceptions of peace from different cultures, such as shalom, ubuntu, and shanti. What might the shalom that never ends look like for your congregation? In the schools your younger parishioners attend? In your neighborhood?
One way to reinforce the concept of shalom with children of any age is through song. One song I love that features both the English, Arabic, and Hebrew words for peace is “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” by Pat Humphries and Sandy Opatow. This song was written following the September 11, 2001, attacks as a prophetic message for peace in the midst of violence. You can learn the song and share it with your congregation through Music that Makes Community’s free website. In teaching the song, you might also write out the words for peace from these three languages (peace, سلام , שָׁלוֹם) and discuss the different cultures, countries, and religions they represent.
Pray for Peace
This song also works well as a prayer refrain. In worship or outside of it, children, families, and individuals can share a concern or celebration and the community can sing the refrain as a collective response. Likewise, the song can be used in a “prayer mapping” exercise in which children take turns choosing parts of the globe to pray for and the song is sung as the classroom prays for whichever area has been chosen that round.
May the peace of Jesus Christ that surpasses understanding and overcomes all the rulers of this world continue to be with you all this week and every week.
Rev. Billy Kluttz serves as Associate Pastor at Govans Presbyterian Church (USA) in Baltimore, Maryland where he focuses on children and family ministries, community engagement, and communications. He is also co-host of the TLDR Bible Show, a humorous Bible summary and discussion podcast, and a Doctor of Ministry candidate at Wesley Theological Seminary.
During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free activity download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download “Light in the Darkness,” an activity that helps intergenerational groups discuss the darkness and light in our lives from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education (NL) family, home-based curriculum, though this can be used with many ages in many contexts!
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