Twila Schock
Twila Schock, Vice President of Church Relations and International Programs

Leaning Into The Vision

“For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”
—Isaiah 65:17, 21, 25

When I was a seminarian, I was taught to preach and teach at a time like this, when everyone knows the Easter story by heart by simply retelling it and getting my “theological car out of the intersection.”  Simply let the good news—sprinkled with some dust from the Holy Spirit—do its magic!

I was taught this because no matter what the contour of current affairs are, Easter is still Easter. We hear, once more, the story of the women arriving at the tomb when it is dark—only to discover it has been emptied of the dead body it was to contain.

We greet one another once more with the words “Christ is Risen!” only to secretly pray (as we reply “He is risen indeed!”) that it’s true.

But this year, I’m hungry for more. This year, I’m really leaning into the wisdom of the prophet Isaiah in a less traditional Easter scripture passage. More than ever, I want to hear God tell me about new heavens and a new earth. More than ever, I want to think of Israeli hostages, starving Gazan children, mass graves outside of Kiev and innocent victims in a Moscow theatre as “the former things.”

More than ever, I want joy restored—as Isaiah writes—in the lives of those for whom Mosaic serves.

More than ever before, I want to see the world as described by the prophet Isaiah. A world in which people build houses and inhabit them; where people plant vineyards and eat their fruits in peace;  where people give birth to children rather than future soldiers who are destined for calamity before they’re even born.

I once had a parishioner who joked, “I’m going to live it up between variants of COVID, so you may not see me at worship while the restaurants are open!”

In many ways, we live as if we are between COVID variants. We are midway between the first and final coming of Christ—caught in some imprecise median between Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection, and at the end, when he is scheduled to make everything right, once and for all.

But how are we, as Easter people, to live in this median time?

Are we really capable of living the idyllic life of which the prophet Isaiah speaks? This pastoral scene of predator and prey, the wolf and the lamb, cuddling one another is unfeasibly serene.

Let’s start with the wolf. He is the game changer. Can you even begin to imagine the wolf’s confusion at that first thought of having a lamb sitting upwind from him at dinner without the lamb being the main course? What else would they possibly consider for dinner that night?

Or, what about the lamb, taught by her shepherds from day one to run like crazy at that first whiff of the wolf? What would the rest of her flock say if it ever knew of the strange desire that occurred to her of inviting the neighborhood wolf over for an afternoon of lounging in the grass, and then, “why not stay for dinner?”

It’s an unsettling image, isn’t it? And yet, that image in our minds holds within itself the very truth and promise that God’s power and grace can transform even our most entrenched ways of being.

But, it could be this optimistic image which lay at the heart of Bethphage (now Mosaic) founder K.G. William Dahl’s vision that persons with cognitive disabilities could live alongside those without … that they could have lives and live them abundantly … that they could find meaningful occupations and advocate for themselves.

That’s not to say these visions take root right away. Transformation of relationships emerge and blossom over time—one glimpse, one perceiving, one opening, one new probability at a time. Often there’s just enough there to give us the grit to take the next step toward trust, faith and new possibilities.

That, friends of Mosaic, is how we join with God in creating a place where all can dwell in the homes they have built, and where all can delight in the fruits of the vineyards they have planted, and where all can live together in peace in wholeness.

Friends, on this Easter Monday, that is the hope I plan on leaning into. What if we were to lean into that hope together?

 

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