(The people are at risk, scattered in exile in foreign countries, subject to -- and being victimized by, alien laws and powers. Through the prophet, God promises a new leader who will be rooted in the ancient wisdom, and will embody the best essence of their history and tradition, who will gather them again in a kingdom that is safe for all -- safe for all life together -- for the poor, the meek, children, babies, bears, wolves, lions, lambs, asps and adders all dwelling together in peace.)
"The Peaceable Kingdom" by Edward Hicks (1780-1849)
Hicks was an American folk painter and a
religious minister of the Society of Friends (Quakers).
Recently, at a meeting in the Board Room at another Hamilton church, I noticed a wonderful old nativity set sitting atop a cabinet in a corner of the room. From where I was sitting I could see enough of the set to discern a moss-covered stable made of thick bark with a variety of hand-painted figures arranged inside it. And I also noticed something else a little odd, placed at a strange angle at the very front of the set, near where I imagined the holy manger (which I could not see) must have been placed.
Once the meeting was over I went over to the cabinet, stood on a chair to be able to see the whole of the creche, and sure enough ... I was right, there was a lion with fearsome mouth wide open standing just inches from the manger and its precious baby.
I was tickled by the sense of humour someone had to add this lion to the traditional nativity set. I wondered if it was an import from a Lion King set. But the scale of the lion was perfectly matched to that of the other characters; it was as though it had always been meant to be there.
And I was reminded of the prophecy that in the kingdom of the leader who most embodies God's righteousness and justice, the lion and lamb will lie down together, and not even the poorest infant will suffer hurt.
I wonder how we get there, though. The world has known a number of leaders who in their own ways have not only taught but have practiced the vision and hope of the peaceable kingdom -- Jesus among them, but not only Jesus.
So why are we still in a world so much at odds? Part of a race so fearfully at war with itself and with the rest of Earth?
Are we simply to wait for "the end of time"? Is it somehow out of our hands, and out of reach?
Or is it already and always time to be doing something about it? To be discovering, embracing and even creating ways of making the peaceable kingdom come true, at least for some little part of this planet and its life -- whatever little part we can have a hand in helping to arrange in some new, delightfully holy way?