“The Peaceable Kingdom”
Dear People of St. David’s,
This coming Sunday we will read one of the most beloved texts from the beginning of Isaiah. It probably dates from about the 8th c. BCE. The people Isaiah is speaking to are being bullied by Assyria, a country that took their land and demanded tribute payments. The people long to be free of this oppression and Isaiah promises a liberating king, descended from David. The attributes Isaiah describes are inspiring: his concern is for the marginalized, and he won’t judge by what he hears from others, but with equity. The spirit of the Lord will rest upon him.
Part of this text is often referred to as “The Peaceable Kingdom,” and has been the inspiration of hundreds of artists. What tension and drama arise in our hearts, seeing the wolf and the lamb lying down together, the calf and the lion, (the lion having become instantly vegetarian) feeding on straw, and the little child leading them all! Some of the most memorable images are those painted by Edward Hicks, and Horace Pippin, both local artists: each painting this scene multiple times over their lifetimes. Each artist envisioned the Peaceable Kingdom in his own historical period and reflected his own yearnings. Hicks, a Quaker, longed for peaceful coexistence of all people, respecting the Inner Light in each person. His versions most often depicted the Puritans and indigenous peoples, with William Penn as the symbolic agent of this peace. Pippin struggled to understand his experience in the First World War, and the devastating loss of his comrades in arms. He painted tiny crosses, reminiscent of a military cemetery, to represent his yearning that the Peaceable Kingdom would be a place of reunion and resurrected life for all people. Copyright prohibits me from including any of them in this letter, but you can easily find them in Google images or other sites. I’ll also put some art prints out on the second floor of our building, so come and see them!
This year in Advent, we read these beautiful Isaiah texts each Sunday which envision what the world might be like, and thereby join in the imaginative dreaming which is such an important part of the season of waiting. Imagining, and then living into the Reign of God helps bring it about! As we await the coming of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, what does your Peaceable Kingdom look like? Is it full of unlikely animals, coexisting peacefully? Or perhaps people who may have seemed to be enemies, coexisting in peace? Does the scene include friends or family members from whom you may have been estranged?
I invite you to set aside some time to dream and imagine in these deep blue, velvet days of Advent. The Prince of Peace is coming. How might your imaginings enfold him into your vision of the coming kingdom? You have some time. We’re waiting!
Isaiah 11: 1-10
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see
or decide by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge for the poor
and decide with equity for the oppressed of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
The wolf shall live with the lamb;
the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the lion will feed together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
The Rev. Elizabeth W. Colton
 2 Sam. 7:16