Monday 4 December


Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares. Sculpture by Yevgeny Vuchetich (1959). Garden of the United Nations Headquarters, New York City. (c.f. (Isaiah 2.4)

I was glad when they said to me: 'Let us go to the house of the Lord. ' (Ps. 122.1)

Isaiah 2:1-5

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.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!

Psalm 122

1 I was glad when they said to me:
   'Let us go to the house of the Lord. '
2 And now our feet are standing:
   within your gates, O Jerusalem;
3 Jerusalem which is built as a city:
   where the pilgrims gather in unity.
4 There the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord:
   as he commanded Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
5 There are set thrones of judgement:
   the thrones of the house of David.
6 O pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
   may those who love you prosper.
7 Peace be within your walls:
   and prosperity in your palaces.
8 For the sake of my kindred and companions:
   I will pray that peace be with you.
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God:
   I will seek for your good.

Matthew 8:5-11

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Psalm 122, Sha'alu shelom Yerushalayim,
composed by Raimund Rennebaum and sung by Waltraud Rennebaum.
From the Album Rennebaum: Ma'Alot - The Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120-134, 139), 2007.


Advent / Lent, by Lory Widmer Hess

Two shadow paths, leading toward
two kinds of death, of birth. The difference
is hard to fathom, first, for both
are ways the world begins and ends.

In dark December, a dying sun
buries itself in Mary’s womb.
These are the last days, the end times
of our whole evolution.
This is when the fatal ship
strains to turn and miss the iceberg.
Will it work? We’re not sure, listening
in icy calm for the crash, the hole.
Cover it up if you like with lights
and gifts, determined cheeriness;
this is a shaky time.

The darkness of Lent is different.
The crash has happened, and the hole.
A hole’s been dug in earth for seeds
of future growth. I put my hands
into the ground and feel life stirring.
Not time yet to plant, but soon. Prepare
by thinking of the grain, the seed.

How does a plant encode itself?
How does it pack its leaves and stems,
blossoms and fruit, all formed in the sun,
into a lightless shell?
What concentration does it take
to strip away to essence,
becoming a thought
interred in the brain
that is a tomb,
the stony place
where no sun shines?

He planted himself –
the thought bears life.
He’s in the earth now, and I too
can go there to be born again,
to be an egg waiting to crack,
a seed prepared to sprout.
It only takes the willingness
to die, that’s all. That’s all! Just die
and grow. The world has already ended.

Life is beginning, if you’ll allow it.

Almighty God,
you make us glad with the yearly remembrance
of the birth of your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as we joyfully receive him as our redeemer,
so we may with sure confidence behold him
when he shall come to be our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.