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July 2, 2023

Seeing a New Forest Beyond the Stump of Jesse

Pastor KJ Kim

Isaiah 11: 1-10

In today’s passage, Isaiah’s vision is charged with the hope and goodness he received while standing in a wasteland, a field of stumps—the exile period in Babylon.

Isaiah knew what was wrong with the world and about the painful details of human suffering and Assyrian brutality. However, the prophet was not stuck there. He was not reduced to the conditions he experienced. Yes, within the emptiness and across the wasteland, he saw what God was already doing and would complete, which is something that the physical eyes cannot see.

About twenty-five hundred years after Isaiah, the whole prophecy in today’s passage has been embedded into the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus, just like the stump of Jesse, came to the earth in a manger, not a splendid palace; rode a donkey, not a white horse. And Jesus challenged the established order—There is a clear line between Jews and Gentiles, between chosen and sinner, between clean and unclean—just like the wolf eats and kills the lamb, which sounds like a very obvious, rational, and natural fact.

How many stories can we accept if we choose only stories that are rational and natural facts? Think of the Exodus story—falling manna and quail from the sky, getting water from the rock, and crossing the Red Sea on a walk.

How about Jesus’s life and his teachings from the sermon on the Mountain that seems to be obviously irrational and unnatural—If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. When people wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. When people force you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Such teaching reaches its peak—“love your enemy.”

Isaiah’s prophecy in today’s passage is all about the world that Jesus dreamed of and died for. We all know Isaiah’s prophecy still looks like a dream or a fantasy. Maybe, we all might have a hard time seeing the kingdom of heaven on Earth through our physical eyes as we often face unspeakable tragedy, accident, war, disaster, illness, and so on.

That is why we still gather here this morning to listen to Isaiah’s prophecy, as we all seek traces and marks of possible new and greenish forest within a seemingly wasteland-like world.

Perhaps, our small gestures, our genuine smile and words, and action, and our authentic fellowship and worship in the name of Christ, no matter how many, might bring a new forest to this community and the world, even though those seem like the little sprout from the stump. So that people might see what is true and be encouraged and helped to see the truth that God is with us and still waits and calls us to be a greenish sprout from the stump.

Thanks be to God.

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