Something about oncoming holidays seems to spur a need for cleaning, clearing out, and pitching out, like when company is coming over for dinner. We want the house to look like the houses in commercials and magazines: lots of bare space, counters and floors guests can see their faces in, and the bathroom that looks like no one has ever used it. The cat litterbox is clean and hidden, the dog’s bed has been vacuumed within an inch of its life, and the carpets and floors have been cleaned until they are spotless and, to quote the old saying, you could eat off them. While cleaning, we run across broken things, catalogs and magazines that are out of date, unused items, replacement pictures, and school art projects. Those things get pitched. Before long, though, the newly claimed space will be the home of something else to occupy the recently emptied place.
I was thinking about how God has done housecleaning. In the time of Noah, God brought a flood covering the whole earth, save Noah, his family, and some of each type of bird, animal, reptile, and other creatures. Unicorns were not mentioned in scripture, nor were the dinosaurs, which asteroids wiped out, or so we postulate. It has long been thought that natural disasters were punishments from God and opportunities to rebuild things, bigger and better than they were before. The Bible often uses dislocation of whole nations or people to punish them only to have them return centuries later, to reclaim and rebuild as God wanted them to do.
In this passage from Isaiah, God is setting out plans for new heavens and earth, places where there will be none of the sins and imperfections of the old ones. They will be happy places, safe for their inhabitants, and where equality will be unilateral. This is the kingdom of God Jesus spoke so often about, with a new earth that would be respected, where people would treat each other as neighbors and siblings, and in which poverty, sickness, crime, hunger, sadness, and negativity would have no place. The third prophet Isaiah wrote this passage to encourage people both exiled in captivity and left behind. The hope is a place of peace and harmony for all, even nature.
We often talk about this kingdom and say we want to create this heaven on earth, but what are we willing to give up to attain it? What do we need to throw out? Perhaps old prejudices, hatreds, feelings of superiority, and entitlements to do what we want and where. What do we need to change? Maybe old beliefs, thoughts, positions, and practices need to be reconciled with what is good for the whole earth, its people, and its diversity. It could be that we need to be less inclined to preach the gospel of the good news and try to live it, thus setting an example of how to attain this kingdom on earth.
God will take care of the creating; we simply have to take care of making things ready. Spring seems an excellent time to start, and, given the state of the world these days, we won’t be starting too soon. People and places desperately need help, and that help is needed now. Pray for peace and healing, but work like he** to bring it about.
Image: Yarn Mop and Plastic Bucket, (2015) Original work by W. Carter. Found at Wikimedia Commons
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.