Peace This week the theme of advent is Peace. The peace that is inherent within the kingdom of God and the peace we are called to have within ourselves.  When we hear the word peace, what we imagine depends on the context in which we find ourselves.  The most common usage being a lack of war, which I fear may be because of the near continual state of war somewhere on this planet. In the past few weeks we have heard a number of readings about the kingdom of God and the vision of Isaiah.  Today we continue to hear of that vision of Isaiah and a fuller, deeper understanding of what peace means in the kingdom of God. A vision of a world at peace in the reality of chaos...a vision of a world where even the most deadly of creatures are harmless, and the most vulnerable among us are safe and confident.   A vision where knowledge is pervasive and willful ignorance none existent.  A vision wherein righteousness, justice, wisdom, faith, truth and peace are the order of the day. Isaiah is envisioning the coming of God’s kingdom, that day of peace so many dream of. Advent is a time to reflect on that anticipation, to think beyond a count down to Christmas and to pray for the advent of the kingdom of God and all the blessings that come with it, including the blessings of peace. The question becomes how are we to achieve peace in the world when, at times, it is hard enough to have peace in your own your own family...even in the church?!  Yet, that is where we start.  peace in the church, peace in your family, peace in your home, Peace in yourself,...a peace you take with you wherever you go. That indeed may be more than enough to start with. In the Isaiah reading we begin  “A shoot shall come out from the stock 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 the poor, and decide with equity for the meek 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.”   When Isaiah talks about the qualities that shall be present in this branch of Jesse we find that the gifts aren’t the gifts the big, bright and beautiful...rather we hear of the gifts of wisdom and understanding, of counsel ie: taking advice as well as of might, the gifts of knowledge and fear of the Lord. We are told that those with these gifts wouldn’t judge people by what they see or what they’ve heard about them...but rather they would make judgements in righteousness, rooted in their relationship with the prayer and discernment.  Which is interesting because if we think back to who Jesse was we find that these qualities are absent in him and even the prophet who came to him.             In the days when the first king of Israel, Saul, turned out to be quite the disappointment, God sent the prophet Samuel to a man called Jesse and his seven sons, to find and anoint a new king.  Samuel found Jesse and had him call his family to him.  When the prophet Samuel saw the eldest of Jesse’s son he was impressed with how tall, and mighty he was, based on that the Prophet Samuel was sure the new king stood before him, but God said ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ In fact, the one who was to be anointed king was the youngest, that is least important son.  The one who left in the fields, deemed unnecessary to the gathering.  Furthermore, we read that he was, shall we say, a pretty boy, not strong and mighty like his brothers…not appearing to be a man who could rule nations and lead armies.  The name of Jesse’s youngest son was David.  David who slayed Goliath, David who ruled Israel, David a King after God’s own heart.  Not to mention a man who made many, many mistakes.             Yet, from his genetic tree, would, in time come Mary, and then Jesus to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah, and set in motion the coming of God’s kingdom. A kingdom we are supposed to be trying to live into here and now.  A kingdom of justice, and as we discuss today, undiscriminating peace.  Peace, not only in terms of a lack of war, but in terms of harmony, equity and love, of self and others. This is proves to be harder than it sounds, because much like Jesse we tend to judge people by what they look like or even smell like.  We judge people we haven’t met based on rumour and report, and I think we have all had times when we’ve judged wrongly and started off a relationship less than peaceably.   We are an independent and self centered society...we have been conditioned to be judgmental and to judge based on outward appearance...rather than see the heart that God sees.  This is why in Romans we hear Paul discussing how difficult it is for the Jewish community to be welcoming to the Gentile community.  A community which provided in some way the negative definition of Judaism… being, stereotypically, everything a good Jew was not. So, Paul prays...he prays that God who gives steadfastness and encouragement may help them, and by extension us, live in harmony, in peace.  A new community learning to live together.  We here at St. Andrew’s are a brothers and sisters together, and have always been so, but now we are sisters and brothers under one roof and that is a very different thing. I’ve heard  that the first real test of any relationship is sharing a bathroom, and with the amount of jokes and indeed fights about which direction a roll of toilet paper should face…it may indeed be true.  In the letter to the romans, we read that Paul spends a lot of time trying to reconcile those two groups coming together.  Jew and Gentile, focusing on what can bring them together and reframing what keeps them apart. For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal.   We are at the beginning of sharing this house together, of learning together what we share and what has made us unique, and how that brings us strength.  However,  in time we will inevitably encounter someone who hangs the toilet paper, heaven forbid, the wrong way. At such times we remember the words of Isaiah who envisioned wolf and lamb living in peace, and we remember the Romans who reconciled Jew and Gentile.  We remember Christ who welcomed all and formed relationship with them where ever they were.             And his is the example we are called to follow.  Knowing that even King David, didn’t always manage to keep the peace and even Paul was rather harsh in his judgements.  Likewise, I know that I have not got the qualities that Christ calls us to and that I need help, just like all who have gone before me. Help to be at peace with those in my family who from time to time drive me nuts.  Help to be at peace in myself when depression rears it’s ugly, deceiptive head.  Even peace in the church when things are moving slower than I would like, when I cannot see the way God is calling us to go, or when needing to reconcile a variety of opinions and desires. At these times when I need to find God’s peace, I pray...Like Isaiah, like the psalmist, like Paul and like the author of Matthew: Give me judgments based on righteousness...God,  may I have the wisdom and understanding that only you can give...Christ Jesus bless me with your counsel and may the Holy Spirit fill me with knowledge and the fear of the lord that I may not judge by what my eyes see or ears hear, but with God foremost in mind.    That can be all of our prayer as individuals and as a church, so that we can be not only at peace within ourselves and our community; but so that we can demonstrate in our own contexts how righteous people live in harmony with one another.  Advent is a time of waiting for Christ’s coming, a time of waiting for the Peace Christ brings.... not the kind of waiting that has you sitting back and twiddling your thumbs, but it’s an active waiting.  Just like we heard last week...we don’t know the time or day that Christ will return, but we do know what we have to do until then.  So, in our daily home, at play, at work and in ourselves we work at establishing peace...knowing that its tough, but following the examples set before us and praying for the Spirits gifts to empower us that we might judge in righteousness and live in peace. amen