Weekly worship: 1 December
Isaiah 2:1-5 and Matthew 24: 36-44
Reading verse 4 from Isaiah 2 at the beginning of Advent draws us anticipate the coming of the Prince of Peace. In these times of polarisation and uncertainty, close to home as well as the protracted and devastating conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and South Sudan, our longing and yearning for the Prince of Peace has perhaps never been greater.
Isaiah reminds us that the work of forging peace takes grit and determination. To hammer swords so they become plowshares and to wrought spears into pruning hooks takes a determined will, strong arm and a willingness to withstand the heat of hard work.
We witness this tenacity through the work of our partners who are engaged in peacebuilding around the world, they are determined to move towards conflict than avoid it and do the deep and difficult work of conflict transformation.
Some of these stories are told in our new theology resource, Siblings of shalom. It reflects on the biblical stories of violence and reconciliation between siblings and on the peacebuilding work our partners are committed to.
The South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) are one such example. The churches, like the rest of South Sudan, had been deeply affected, traumatised and, in some local areas, divided by the 2013 war, and have sought to create reconciliation among themselves as well as others.
The SSCC has been given a central role in national level negotiations because of their unique strengths – a combination of moral authority and deep connectedness with communities on both sides of the front lines.
The SSCC’s key messages around peace and justice, and the authentic processes of representation it has sought to lead, continue to play an important role in the search for peace with justice in South Sudan.
The Matthew passage invites us to a wakeful waiting this Advent, not being passively oblivious to the signs of the times. A waiting that makes us realise business as usual, as in the time of Noah, is not an option.
It is a particularly pertinent passage to be reading on the threshold of the United Nations COP Climate talks which were due to be in Chile this week but have had to be relocated due to the violence in Santiago.
Never has there been a greater need to be awake and alert to what is happening in the world; the droughts, storms and floods that are being experienced by many communities along with the mass extinction of species are confirmation and warning that urgent action needs to be taken.
The reference to the floods during the time of Noah in this passage offer both warning and hope. The warning to wake up from our wayward practices of overconsumption and greed that have caused and accelerated climate change such that life on earth is under threat. This warning is also shot through with the promise of God’s covenant with all of creation, a hope that we might draw on to avoid being overwhelmed by the enormity of the task in hand.
Advent week 1 prayer
God of all
wake us up
to be alert
to the signs
of the times
to the groans
the labour pains
of another world
coming into view
may we do
all we can
as image bearers
of the divine
to build peace
and restore creation
In your name
we pray, Amen.
This week pray for:
The United Nations Climate Change talks which start on the 2 December and that decision makers would be alert to the urgent need for climate justice for those communities suffering most and yet are least responsible.
Pray for World Aids Day (1 December) and for Christian Aid partners working to support those who are living with HIV to live a full and abundant life.