Joe Pennel is a retired bishop of The United Methodist Church; Professor of Pastoral Leadership at Vanderbilt Divinity School, living in Brentwood, Tennessee.
Disciplines: A Book of Daily Devotions is a longstanding—and beloved—resource published by Upper Room Books every year. Each week’s readings reflect on scripture passages in the lectionary for that period.
In 2013 you can not only read these daily devotions but also comment on them, ask the writer a question, and respond to others who are reading the same material each day. We are looking forward to building a community of Disciplines readers! Just sign in and add your comment in the Comments section following the Monday blog post.
Each Monday an introduction and the initial reading for the week will be posted. Come back to this Monday post throughout the week to continue the conversation about the week’s readings and prayers.
Read Isaiah 2:1-5
Visions pull us forward, opening us to new ways of seeing and living. They help us to see new possibilities. Isaiah had a vision for the possibility of peace, a time when people would cease to learn about war. He dreamed of a time of leveling of national distinctions. He longed for a time when God’s ways would become the ways for all nations. That vision still beats in the hearts of those who believe that peace is a real possibility.
Many people believe that the nations can “walk in God’s paths.” We have a hard time conceiving of Isaiah’s vision for peace because members of the human family have not learned how to live together. For example, thousands of Americans and Vietnamese died in the Vietnam War. Those who perished were not numbers on a page. They were someone’s child, someone’s roommate, someone’s tennis partner, and someone who came to the table for Holy Communion. Isaiah’s vision entailed a day when nations would no longer “learn war anymore.”
God’s promise to Isaiah makes clear the difference between what is and what will be. Persons are to move beyond hopeful intention to action: beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.
Like Isaiah, Jesus calls his followers to live by a higher righteousness. In Jesus’ day the law stated clearly that people should not murder one another. But Jesus called people to a higher standard by teaching that it is not only wrong to murder, it is also morally wrong to hate. For Jesus, the inward disposition becomes more important than the overt act. The motive becomes more important than the deed. Who we are becomes more important than what we do. This is the better way. This is the vision of Jesus, and it was rooted in the vision of Isaiah.
God of peace, help me to live as if love already reigns. May the day come when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation.” Amen.