What does the image below do for you, emotionally speaking?
Images such as this 12th Century Russian icon, the Vladimirskaya Theotocos, have long endured and taken on cultural lives of their own because of how they affect us. I get a warm and reassuring feeling from it, even if I am not into revering or meditating on icons, or praying to the motherly saint depicted there. Maybe its because I have such a great mother (Hi Mom!). Make that two great moms and a wonderful mother-in-law.
But what about our Hebrew spiritual ancestors who did not pass on such visible and material images? They left us instead with divinely inspired verbal images, word pictures in the Bible, which also have long-lasting, powerfully formative effects, emotionally, spiritually and morally on us, which inspired the famous painting below, by the Quaker, Edward Hicks (1780-1849).
This past Sunday, December 9, the Second Sunday of Advent, I sought to unpack some of the history and the effects of the powerful verbal icons that we find in Isaiah 11: 1-10 (NIV):
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD –
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling [a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.
For more thoughts on the history of the impact and understanding of these verbal icons, and how they speak about the past and the present, as well as the future, click on this link: C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Documents\Sermons\Advent2-07.doc I’d be very interested in reading your thoughts and responses.
Mathew Swora, pastor
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